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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Open vs. Closed: It's All About Money by David Kirkpatrick Via Fortune

Open vs. closed—it's one of the oldest battles in the technology industry.Some companies may talk idealistically about 'standards' and 'open' systems. But it's usually because they have lots to gain from interoperability, says David.Technology customers today, both individual and corporate, are begging for more simplicity, ease of use, and seamlessness in entire technology systems. Every tech company wants to convey this message: "We are the ones who will help you achieve the most with the least hassle." Those on both sides of the open vs. closed battle argue that theirs is the way to achieve that.The first of the two alternatives, characterized by the most idealistic-sounding rhetoric, is what companies like to call the "open-systems" approach. These companies build a nice piece or two of software that in itself doesn't solve a full set of user problems. It is incumbent on them to operate as much as possible in a world where things work together like Legos—a world, that is, of "open" systems. They want you to see their stuff as working with products from other companies, often with those managed as open-source development projects. These companies talk a lot about "standards" and openness, but in reality few of their products are ever truly Lego-like.Other companies are fortunate enough to control systems whose software is unitary. It all comes from them, works well together and does, by itself, more or less what customers need. The classic example, of course, is Microsoft—whose Windows, Word, Internet Explorer, Outlook, and other desktop applications work neatly with each other and with its SQL database and other server products. We are seeing mixed trends of companies traditionalyy churning closed source products like IBM are beginning to embrace opensource, open source companies like Redhat trying to churn out closed source products - the key is the companies can't survive for long without standards for interoperability.
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