Two questions: Can India lead the world in open source technology? Is it good for the country?
In my last post (link), I talked about how I feel open source is good for the country (perhaps taking a biased view). Let me be more critical now. From an article in Business Standard, "Open source is a profound idea.... The enduring puzzle of India's software companies is their persistent inability to grow from projects to products. Open source is a powerful answer to this problem. Open source reduces the importance of products and raises the importance of services. In the open source world, each programmer builds on the work of others before him. This brings down the cost of development." Our dear President Abdul Kalam says: "The unfortunate thing is that India still seems to believe in proprietary solutions". Companies like Sun and IBM have been active supporters of Open Source since a long time. To some extent, Yahoo! and Google too support open source. But Microsoft has always been against open source. Ravi Venkatesan, chairman of Microsoft India, says it is no longer an either/or option. We firmly believe that multiple platforms can and should co-exist and recognize both the advantages of open source and the fact that platform heterogeneity is a reality in today's environment. Our focus is on enabling our customers to connect to other platforms, applications and data easily." In his view, despite its greater initial cost, Microsoft software is a better value than the open source alternatives. "Versus Linux, we deliver a clear value proposition to our customers. The USP of the Microsoft platform and our range of offerings is our end-to-end stack of offerings and our focus on integrated innovation. Customers, too, have matured in their view and there is almost universal recognition that Linux is not 'free', and that Linux today resembles more a commercially driven technology. Customers are beginning to look at Linux vendors like any other commercial software provider, focusing on the overall business advantage, value for money and the risk associated with making long-term technology investments." But isn't open source better for a "poor" country like India? Not at all, answers Venkatesan. "We should look at technology discussions in perspective, and when we do we will find that it has nothing to do with a country being poor or rich, but more to do with reliability of the framework, affordability and relevance. We should not confuse affordability with 'price' but should look at the TCO or lifecycle cost, including cost of access." Now, since I have put views from both the parties, what we can conclude is that if TCO of open source software is reduced (its not easy to calculate TCO, hence the problem), there is not argument to favour MS Windows over Linux. Expert suggestion from Wharton: "India needs to contribute more aggressively to the process of open source development. We have an opportunity to establish leadership in this space. India has a lot of creativity, and it is just a matter of time before that is reflected through open source software." In other words, the future of open source in India is still an open question.
Best of Luck. :)
(Inspiration and Quotes from Articles on http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu)