Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Bad ownership experience Windows provides a better user experience than GNU/Linux for most people trying to get their non-technical work done. This is not to say that the Windows experience is good, Apple OS is better, and even that leaves a lot to be desired, but for the average customer, Windows beats Linux. So it's interesting to see how Microsoft's new anti-piracy measures makes the ownership experience of Windows worse than the ownership experience of Linux: you can't copy software onto other computers, even if they're all yours. With open-source software, people are free to make as many copies as they like. A deteriorating ownership experience reduces some of the experiential advantage Windows currently has over GNU/Linux. Read the discussion on slashdot.

Economists argue that licensing software enables companies to sell it to different groups at different prices. For example, if they gave nonprofits a cheap version, but did not include a restrictive license, the nonprofit could then resell the software to a for-profit company at a discount to the corporate price (but above the nonprofit price). Therefore, the software company would need to sell the software at the same price to everyone, which limits the profits the company can make and reduces the number of customers who can use the software (as some customers are priced out of the market). Both consumers and producers lose. (Drug companies operate under similar economics. -- NY Times, subscription needed).

This argument makes no sense in the open-source development model, where the value-added comes from related services in a secondary market. Complex licensing schemes, when enforced through draconian methods, worsen the quality of the ownership experience, and help level the field between open-source and closed-source software.

Also, note that the school in the article above needed more copies of Windows solely to read word docs sent over from head office. Why should someone have to pay $200 to read word documents? Microsoft's upgrade policy purposefully introduces obsolescence and reduces the quality of software.

You can read more about GNU/Linux in schools here.
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