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Questioning Michael Kay on Open Source

Date: 2002-03-11 12:40:20

Mikael Kay is the father of SAXON, an open-source XSLT Processor and the author of the book "XSLT Programmer's Reference", published by Wrox Press. For details check his website here : http://users.iclway.co.uk/mhkay/.

I asked him some questions on Open Source. Basically : how to work in a commercial company when being avtively involoved in a open source project.

My question

Dear Michael Kay,

As you have been involved in open source AND you work for a commercial company (Software AG) I would have liked to have your point of view on those questions :

- why would or should I buy software if I can have a solution for free

- what would be a decisive factor when choosing for commercial or free software ?

- what about the software retention period, support and evolutivity (if open source communities abandon the project and technology moves forward -Imagine an initial open source project running on Windows3.1 ?)

Michael Kay's Response :

It's an interesting question, and I don't think I know all the answers.

I don't personally believe that free software is here to stay. I think it's a reaction against the absurdly high prices charged for much commercial software in the past, and against the high costs of marketing such software.I would like to think that a lot of mass-market software publishing will become like book or music publishing, with the user typically paying $40 for a copy and the author receiving a 10% royalty. The rest of the revenue will be for services.

Software in some areas - database software in particular, but also commercial applications software - has resisted the downwards trend in prices. This is essentially because the price is still low in relation to the value, and users demand a very high degree of confidence in its reliability; they also want to minimize their exposure to commercial risk. You get the same effect in publishing: you can get today's share prices in any newspaperfor a few cents, but pay $5000 for an analyst's report on the future prospects of different companies in the industry.

"Open source" means several things. It means free or cheap; it means collaborative development; it means that source code is available to users, as protection against the risk of suppliers failing. It's important, I think, to separate these different aspects.

Last edited on Saturday, December 31, 2005 at 13:32:26 pm.