Maddog rails against \'false\' TCO debate

By   |  May 19, 2005

Long-time Linux advocate and a keynote speaker at the first LinuxWorld ZA conference, Jon \”Maddog\” Hall yesterday said the the real value of open source is not captured in a total-cost-of-ownership calculation. He referenced the ongoing campaign by proprietary vendors to convince customers that their solutions had a lower TCO. \”I don\’t care,\” he boomed across the Hall.

\”When I talk about the value of software I talk about empowerment and the quality of the solution.

\”What is the value to the user or the company that is using it?\” he asked.

He said that too often the TCO numbers put forward by proprietary vendors calculate their results based on how much it would cost to migrate from a proprietary solution to an open source one, rather than comparing two brand-new installations. In many of the calculations they are \”comparing apples and oranges\” as they assume that an existing proprietary system is in place. \”If you install a proprietary solution you have all the start up costs associated with any software implementation but they often don\’t count this.\”

\”Outside of the USA we should also talk about the balance of payments and where the money that is spent on software actually goes,\” he said.

\”In Brazil, for example, despite a huge piracy rate the country annually sends US$1 billion in licence fees to the USA. That money is gone from the economy for a long time.\”

\”When a dollar is sent out of a country it is the equivalent of ten dollars being sent out of the country. When you pay a local developer they spend the money locally and the money stays within the economy.\”

One of the easiest things to offshore is proprietary software, said Hall. \”The software is written in in China or India or Eastern Europe and sent electronically back to the US where it is burned to a CD and stamped with a \’Mad in the USA\’ stamp. the good work, however, is done in China, or India.\”

Hall said the solution to this lies in the open source approach to software. \”A day\’s programming in China is equivalent to a day\’s programming in the USA. And a day\’s programming in India is equivalent to a day\’s programming in the USA.\” If developers work on open source projects they contribute to the local economy and the economy benefits from the real value of those skills.

Hall also said that it was important to realise the need for service economy. \”When I want my car fixed I go to the garage I choose based on price and service. The same is true of software. I should be able to get my application extended or get bug fixes when I want them,\” not just when the company that made the software decides to make them.

He said open source software put user and business owners back in control of their businesses. \”They don\’t have to rely on another company to produce bug fixes and upgrades to the software the use to run their business.\” He also said that there is the risk of proprietary vendors going out of business which would leave user of their software stranded. He cited Wang and Digital Equipment Corporation as good examples of how large corporations can suddenly disappear. \”There is no guarantee that the maker of your software will be around when you need them.\” With open source, he said, businesses owned the software code and could turn to others developers for support or continue to develop the software themselves.

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