European firms understand Open Source better than those in the USA

by Michael Smith

Larry Augustin recently published an overview as to how, according to his experience, Open Source is being treated in the USA and in Europe on a commercial basis, on his Blog. His summary: The Europeans have understood the principle of Open Source better and are using much more efficiently.

“I have said it already often: Europe and the greatest part of the remaining world are well ahead of the USA as regards to the take up and use of Open Source. This is so, ever since I have been observing the numbers of Linux users, distributed according to countries, since about the End of the 90s”, he said in his conclusion of his comparison study

During the Europe Open Source Think Tank, in which Larry Augustin participated, he was hearing again and again about the differences between companies which in Europe and those that in the USA make their money with Open Source Software. Augustin made those findings into a Blog entry and which he compared the different concepts of the two sides with one another. We are not talking here about a predominately scientific study but one that reflects the views which he has heard all the time from all manner of people during this two-day conference.

While companies and organizations in Europe, for instance, go for an Open-Source license model, because of the fact that way they do not tie themselves down to a particular manufacturer, in the USA the choice for Open Source is made because of the fact that if is free and that through use of the free software the investors can achieve higher profit margins.

Many companies in the USA that write Open Source Software are run with risk capital. They have got there a strong and successful Software industry which produces proprietary software. In the USA they are aiming to create a new generation of software companies, which is not the case in Europe. In Europe it is rather the case of developing an independent European software industry and Open Source creates the right chances and conditions for that.

In Europe, furthermore, people in the know as to what it means to actually be able to use the source code and to be able to participate in the further development of this or that software project. In the USA, on the other hand, people just do not seem to be interested in the source code.

GNU and Penguin

It is very common in the USA to work dual-tracked: a program is brought to market under a free licence, often with limitations in what it does, and an expanded version is marketed under a proprietary licence. In the eyes of the Europeans that is no real Open Source but just a PR trick. In all honesty it has to be said that neither of those companies ever states that it is Open Source; far from it. Still, it is a PR gimmick and it is not just software companies from the USA that do this. Grisoft does the same with AVG, for instance.

Larry closes his entry with the conclusion that the European Community of Open Source is much further ahead than it American counterpart (if there in fact is such a thing). In Europe it has become obvious that the openness of the source code really makes the usefulness of a piece of software. Hence is Open Source much more taken up in Europe than it is in the USA. He hopes though that the USA will gain this high standard of the Open Source Community in Europe as well.

Having said all that, however, and this was, in the main, paraphrased at time, what was quoted by Larry Augustin on his Blog, I must add that it would be nice of the European Union and the Council of Europe and the rest of the EU bodies, such as the parliament, would actually take up Open Source themselves and make the websites of the parliament, for instance, usable to people who use, say, web browsers other than those from Microsoft. Time for a real change, also in Europe, and especially the bodies of the European Union.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008