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Disadvantages of Open Source Software

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There is a very good reason for almost all businesses to change at least a portion of their software to Open Source.

In my last blogpost, I mentioned the advantages of using Open Source Software (OSS). So when there are so many advantages, why do people shy away from Open Source?

Let's look into a few reasons and see if anything can be done to overcome them:

No / very less advertising
When software is created for free, the revenue is not present from the sales but only from the support. This results in a weakness in advertising which push the products to the face and nil salesmen to sell it. The software has to sell on its own merit. This requires the category managers to know about the various OSS substitutes without depending on the sales people to give it on a platter

Inertia
Not many people like change when there are no particular benefits to them. After all if a business has to pay for a software, why should they bother? It does not affect their salaries, right?

Compatibility with existing software
This is a particularly important issue which causes hesitancy among businesses to incorporate OSS. Take the example of Windows. Because a majority of the users uses this Operating System (OS), most of the software created are compatible with this OS. Hence a switch over to another OS would entail looking around for alternatives to the software that is being used. Instead of Internet Explorer, Firefox will have to be used, instead of MS Office, Libreoffice will have to be used, instead of Citrix, NoMachine or FreeNX (This would require changes from the server end as well). Obviously there will be differences in the software, else they will be hit by patent lawsuits but those differences are generally negligible. Other issues of compatibility would arise in cases if customized software is created for the closed source product such as macro's in MS Office which are different from the macro's created for LibreOffice (though the new versions of LibreOffice now supports Access2Base which is almost the same as VBA in programming).

One way to move around this issue is to first start with OSS which requires a limited change to the system (E.g.) instead of moving all systems to Linux immediately, start the movement to LibreOffice first. Then slowly move the other applications towards OSS until the requirement of MS Windows due to compatibility is eliminated.

Human psychology
It has been inculcated into us that if a product is cheaper or free, then the product is not good or as good as the paid or costlier product. Why else would people walk the equivalent of 5 km on an inclined treadmill in a gym after paying some amount and at the same time come in a car or bike when their home is only a couple of kilometers away? We will always be able to give some excuse for taking the costlier product when cold logic would suggest otherwise.

Fear of the unknown
Obviously if you have not experienced something, it is easier to generate Fear, Uncertainity and Doubt (FUD) about it. FUD is also increasingly used by competitors to prevent businesses from using the Open Source software. This affects only those who do not perform their research into the products.

Business pressures
If there is a business relationship between the closed source vendors and the business, there is a real possibility that the relationship could get strained leading to special discounts on the closed source software being pulled. Hence if a part of the business (around 5%) tries out the OSS before considering a full roll-out of the software, the closed source software vendor can easily increase their price of the product by around 20% by removing any discounts present. This can lead to a loss in that quarter for the company. And when businesses are run quarter to quarter, this is a real cause of concern.

Difficulty of avoiding closed source software
Has anyone tried to buy a decent branded laptop/desktop such as Dell or HP without Windows? If you have, then you will know it is impossible to get the computer without Windows. This is due to the hardware vendors having deals with the software vendors to ship the hardware only with the software. If there is an option to give the hardware without the software, there is also a possibility that the prices remain the same or increase.

After going through the pros and cons, it appears to me at least that there is a very good reason for almost all businesses to change at least a portion of their software to Open Source. For e.g. If the movement from Windows to Linux is too difficult, then why not try moving a portion of the people in the business from MS Office to LibreOffice in the beginning?

Your viewpoints are welcome.

Comments

Excellent insight and complete scenario well captured.

Disclaimer - I have not read your earlier blog.
The following comments are based on this blog.

First of all there are a large group of companies that do use some flavour of linux at enterprise level and desktop level. Please refer to the below link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Linux_adopters

The lack of adoption of open source is simply down to two factors:
1) unfamiliarity
2) compatibility with the norm aka MS based systems.

There are brand names that sell linux based systems - Dell, System76 are two examples however with no marketing behind linux it will always be an uphill struggle to popularize it.

Personally I see no disadvantage of using FOSS, it is simply a question of companies and individuals making an effort to adopt and use it. Not only will this lead to a more secure system but will also save on IT costs.
Linux, especially Ubuntu now work out of box with virtually no hardware compatibility issues. Just install and you are good to go. It is also intelligent enough to install itself next to Windows OS and give the user the choice of using either of the OS.

However people will be people - they still use IE, one of the most buggy and vulnerable browsers on the market. Even after having choices like - Opera, FF, Chrome, Chromium.

Some Indian companies have started adopting FOSS. ICICI sales force is exclusively on OpenOffice/LibreOffice.

Progree is slow and adoption is less than impressive but adoption is there, let's hope it reaches critical mass sooner rather than later.

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