Letter: Software that is PC

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The main thrust of Eva Pascoe's article about open source software (Network, 14 December) appears to be a sort of anti-Microsoft crusade. Proponents of the Linux operating system (and for that matter Apple Mac users) seem to be almost fanatical in their devotion. There is a certain cachet in using a product which is non-mainstream. You become the new techno-warrior, and not some Redmond clone.

The main benefits touted by Ms Pascoe for using open source software appear to be that it is a Bill Gates-free desktop; that the "guys from Redmond" won't get their "bounty"; that Microsoft is operating a monopoly from which only cyber-heroes such as the comic-reading ex-hacker, Jamie Zovinsky, and other "legends" can save us.

This all misses the point. People running mission-critical applications in heterogeneous environments buy products which are based on standards and will integrate well with their existing products; which will scale well and support a larger user base; which are reliable and for which there is a high level of skills available to provide support.

The main problem with Linux is just that people do modify it. There is no standard version. Developers need to produce different versions of their applications - one for Linux on a Sun, one for the PC version and so on.

There is nothing wrong with people developing code and distributing it to their friends, colleagues and like-minded folk on the Net and, in all likelihood, this will have a positive effect on the industry; but to state that all such software is inherently better than anything developed by the evil empire in Redmond is nonsense.

Even if open source software were technically better, which in the case of Linux is highly debatable, a product with wider acceptance is more important to corporate users. History is littered with products which were arguably better, but never took off. Anyone got any Betamax movies I can borrow?


Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway