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Embedded Systems September 2000 Vol13_10

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BILL GATLIFF Open Source Point/Counterpoint: Open Source is Already Delivering One need not speculate about the benefits of open source software. Just look to its past accomplishment. The future holds more of the same. wish to provide a counter- point to Niall Murphy's views on the present and future of "open source" soft- ware for embedded systems. Mr. Murphy makes some good poin ts but has overlooked much of the value of the open source move- ment to embedded systems designers. Open source business models The key concern of the open source business model, as I see it, is how to remain profitable when users of your product have significantly more rights than unde r other models. Because th e end use• - can obtain your product or service elsewhere, a revenue stream is not assured unless users find that you are a bette r choice than a competing supplier. The solution: be better, just like a plumber or race car driver has to be better than th e competition if they want to stay in business. Simple enough. Mr. Murphy is correct that thi s model doesn't break any new ground. But the concept clearly hasn 't been practiced in software industry until recently, and its practice still isn 't wide- spread . Howeve r, it's my opinion th at because the open source model wo rks for the good of the end user, and because the alternative is so bad, suc- cess of the ope n source movement is witho ut doubt. As if to help motivate 88 SEPTEMBER 2ooo Embedded Systems Programming us, history provides examples of what the alternative outcome is. And it isn 't pretty. Think back to the late 1970s, before automobiles with computer-controlled engines we•-e po pular. At that time, garages and repair sho ps were almost as frequent as gas sta ti ons, and, thro ugh docume nta ti on and bas ic ingenuity, these shops could accom- plish anything from serious diagnosti cs to complete engine overhauls . .Prices were kept reasonable because competi- tion was everywhere. Today, primary automobile mainte- nance is performed almost exclusively by fac tory-authorized se rvice centers, also known as dealerships, at prices that clearly are not competition-driven.

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