Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Desktop software and services

In Dictatorship of the Minorities Ulrich Drepper argues the point about the distractions caused b y porting to minority platforms. In some ways this mirrors my argument in Open Source - Software or services. However after thinking about the issue for a while I see there being two primary classes of software, software that runs on my desktop and services that run else where. The else where is becoming the major change agent as I do not (and should not) be concerned where the services are run providing they have an acceptable SLA (this includes security, latency, scalability, availability, etc.) for a reasonable cost.

While I am not sure the "dictatorship of the minorities" should or will be solved on the desktop it can certainly be solved by services as they only need to run on a single platform. Putting it another way - the value of desktop software (and I include server software in this group) is measured by the breadth of platform support and deployed seats, and how much it costs the owner of these seats to manage and support them while the value of services are measured by their SLA and it is someone elses problem to manage and support them.

Open source software has tremendous opportunity in the service model as there is no "Dictatorship of the Minorities" and the goals of writing great software can be supported by an economic model based on SLA not supporting software. In a recent article The Open Source Heretic Larry McVoy has a great quote:

"One problem with the services model is that it is based on the idea that you are giving customers crap--because if you give them software that works, what is the point of service?"

Infrastructure is necessary but does not differentiate a company, whether they run Linux or Windows will not materially impact there profitability as they need to have a certain amount of desktops and servers to run their business.

However using subscribing to and using innovative services wisely can transform a company in terms of significant cost reductions, dramatic increases in agility and the ability to quickly adopt innovative technologies that will differentiate them.

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