Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Open source software ...


... is the way to go for developing countries, says this ZDNet story by Ingrid Marson. The story is about an excellent study by Rishab Ghosh of the University of Maastricht, Netherlands.

Ghosh ompared the licence fee for the (Windows XP + Office XP) bundle with the per capita GDP, and got some amazing numbers:

The results, even after software price discounts, showed that the cost of proprietary software for developing markets is "enormous" in terms of relative purchasing power. Buying Windows XP and Office XP on Amazon.com in the US is equal to almost 3 months of GDP per capita in South Africa and over 16 months of GDP per capita in Vietnam. This is equivalent to charging a single–user licence fee in the US of $7,541 and $48,011 respectively.

Even if software is discounted to account for local pricing, it is usually still extremely expensive and there is no guarantee that this discount will be sustained in the long term, says Ghosh.

Let us quickly compare things in India. I checked recently the price of Windows XP - Professional Edition, and it is about 6,000 rupees. This figure, when compared to India's per capita GDP of about 24,000 rupees (about 500 dollars), works out to about 3 months of per capita GDP. This is just for the operating system. [since this comparison is all in rupees, we don't have to worry about PPP adjustment].

We may be able to get PCs at under 10,000 rupees, and perhaps they come with some chopped-up, stripped-down, low-value version of Windows installed in them. Considering the ever-falling price of PCs, it is clear that an increasing fraction of the cost is going to be for the operating system software. If you add the cost of the other pieces of software that one needs, we are definitely racing to reach a stage where the software will cost more than hardware!

ICT for the masses will remain a dream if we insist that it should be Windows-driven and legal. At least one of them has to give. It is better to build our society on Open Source Software -- Linux operating system and all the applications that come bundled with it -- that is completely free and legal.

[lint to the ZDNet story from slashdot]

8 Comments:

  1. Pablo Ares said...

    Hello again,

    both of us seem interested on this topic, and reading similar sources :-) I also linked to the article in one of my recent posts.

    Pablo.

  2. Srijith said...

    While it is one very important reason to sway towards OSS and FS, licence fee is just one aspect. To put it another way, would you be ok with using Microsoft Windows if it was offered for free but with the source still held secret?

  3. Dhar said...

    > To put it another way, would you be ok with using Microsoft Windows if it was offered for free

    Why not?

    While having access to source code is great, most people would just have something that works. If it is MS Windows and closed source, so be it.

    In this connection, I like the comment by Linus on the LKML regarding the use of BitKeeper (a proprietary Source Mangagement Tool):

    I don't _want_ people using Linux for ideological reasons. I think ideology sucks.

    Cheers,
    D.

  4. Abi said...

    Pablo, Srijith, Dhar: Thanks for the comments.

    Srijith: If Windows were free, linux would just be a curiosity that would never have left the techy-geeky circle.

    Even now, and as Dhar pointed out, many people may not care about linux if Windows were free; the calculations mentioned in the study would have to be modified drastically. But, people would still be suspicious, and they should be. We all need to remember the 'epic' battle between IE and Netscape. That's why I will continue support linux, and celebrate the volunteer culture that it is built on.

    Go linux!

  5. random said...

    The arguments are slightly different than they should be. The key point is, does it make sense to keep paying money for software, such basic software as OS and Office Suites, to outside companies. It is exact opposite of my normal pro-globalization stance. The reason is with IT/Computers becoming a commodity it makes no sense for a government to be dependent on anyone for providing it to its own departments or citizens. It is just a drain of wealth. Let the companies compete for higher/enterprise products, desktop novelties and professional programs while keep the OS and basic software suite available free. Any takers?

  6. Srijith said...

    >>comment by Linus on the LKML regarding the use of BitKeeper (a proprietary Source Mangagement Tool)

    Haha, you just had to bring BitKeeper in didn't you :) My statement in return would be 'look what happened to BitKeeper'!

    >>'I think ideology sucks'

    I am no Linus (no surprise there), but I humbly disagree.

    >>most people would just have something that works

    Indeed. While I do not believe that ideology sucks, I am not a complete nut too. I do believe in making pragmatic choices. If a 'free as in beer' Windows works for you, I would day, more power to you. But consider the lock down you are choosing. You are letting youself locked down into a proprietary system with proprietary formats in almost everything. For an ICT I feel that it will not be a wise decision to make.

  7. Abi said...

    random: you certainly have hit upon an important piece of the puzzle. Linux, fireforx, and other such products have already started making an impact, and commoditizing the basic software; they are also doing a wonderful job. The action is now turning to open source projects even for higher level things such as mySQL, etc; the success of Wordpress for blogging software is also noteworthy. It is only a matter of time before that segment also gets commoditized.

    Srijith: Thanks for bringing up the perils being locked into a proprietory system. I too agree that it is an important consideration. One can get really screwed later because of this. I have some personal experience with this problem (it was not Windows, though! It was one of those proprietory Unix systems).

  8. sm said...

    I and my brother have made fools of ourselves by having a legit copy of win98 five years ago when most people around us don't have any qualms about using pirated copies. what really has upset me is that the above mentioned os cannot work on the newer chipsets. so it is better to go for an open source software. but nothing is free since support requires a payment. also the open source advocates should explain the ways in which a lay user can use the 'free' software for everyday computing uses.