Why is this? As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software. Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?
Is this fair? One thing you don't do by stealing software is get back at MITS for some problem you may have had. MITS doesn't make money selling software. The royalty paid to us, the manual, the tape and the overhead make it a break-even operation. One thing you do do is prevent good software from being written. Who can afford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software. We have written 6800 BASIC, and are writing 8080 APL and 6800 APL, but there is very little incentive to make this software available to hobbyists. Most directly, the thing you do is theft.
But with the advent of open source concepts, particularly with the rise of open source software such as Linux Operating System and Mozilla Firefox web browser, this theory is put to test. Some really outstanding open source software are on par of proprietary software in terms of quality. Linux OS is said to be more stable than Microsoft's Windows, and the Microsoft's Internet Explorer is definitely no match for Firefox in terms of stability, security, extensibility and user friendliness. Who said quality software can't be produced by enthusiastic, part-time programmers who are not motivated by monetary rewards!
The success of some open source software proves that there is such a free lunch after all.
And so we see that open source software is promoted as a viable alternative proprietary products, and as a protest against the monopolistic power in software world. IBM scrambled to allied itself with Linux in order to break the Microsoft dominance on Operating System; MySQL is promoted over the MS SQL because it is free and open source. The experience of working with open source projects becomes a shining point in the developer's resume.
Open source software is mostly free, which is why it is so popular. Business exists to make money. If you can save a hefty sum of license fees by simply just switching to open source software, then why not do it?
I think here lies a subtle point that a lot of people tend to-- either conveniently or inconveniently-- overlook: Open source software is not necessarily cheaper, even though you don't have to pay for the tools.
That's right, open source software is not necessarily cheaper. There are hidden costs that are not reported on the book.
First, there is a switching cost if your company is using proprietary software and now you want to switch to open source software. You need to retrain your staffs and redeploy new applications, all of them takes money.
Second, although the open source advocates seldom mention it, but most open source software have a learning curve and require personnel support. Guess what, the big software vendors who promote open source tools rely on that to make money. In order for them to make money, it is necessary that the tools itself are not user friendly so that there is a need to let expert guys to help the average users out. The more money made from support, the more expensive the open source software is.
Third, what about the time taken to learn or use the software? Time is money. Would you rather cling to your open source dogma and let your developers use the free SharpDevelop for C# development instead of the "expensive" Visual Studio 2008? With Visual Studio 2008 comes a lot of plug-ins which, when used properly, will increase drastically the programmers' productivity. Yes, a lot of the plug-ins, such as Visual Assist X, Resharper, TestDriven.Net do command license fees. But I can safely say that the development cost is cheaper if I were to develop in Visual Studio with plug-ins then in SharpDevelop.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't say that Open Source Software is necessarily more expensive. What I am trying to say is that there are times when going for proprietary software makes a lot more business sense than going for open source solution.