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Are Bad Economic Times Good for Free Software? 357

Dog's_Breakfast writes "In a declining economy, software licenses become a luxury. Linux and the BSDs offer free alternatives. As the USA toys with the possibility of defaulting on its national debt (and thus risking economic collapse), the author wonders if this might not, at last, lead to 'The Year of the Linux Desktop.'"
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Are Bad Economic Times Good for Free Software?

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  • ...given that the current economic situation is partially due to excessive corporate control of government and as such, the economy itself. Or is it the other way around?

  • Nope, because of Microsoft's monopoly everyone buys a Windows license when they buy a new PC. And since there is zero chance of that changing the economy can fall off a cliff and Linux adoption on the desktop won't budge from the ~1% of people cluefull enough to install it themselves and annoyed enough with Windows infestations and other breakage to go to the bother of being an outcast.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

      Exactly. The cost of Windows or OS X is trivial for users because they basically come with the computer (depending on whether you go PC or Apple, of course). This could make a difference if it was a common occurrence for people to build their own computers (as many of us geeks do) or if computers-sans-OS's were routinely sold at a discount in stores. But the vast majority of people are saving nothing by installing Linux on their computers. In fact, it would actually cost them MORE in time to install it than

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        For the home market? yes.

        For corporations? no.

        That Sticker means nothing at all to a corporation. It's why we buy volume licenses. Because Microsoft EULA has provisions that large corporations really need to use the VL model. Most of the time corporations not only buy 2X the OS licenses they need, but many time 2X the client licenses as well.

  • I mean, you're this close to going bankrupt.

    You need to cut costs in every area.

    -No more Aeron chairs.
    -No more leather recliners in the break room.
    -No more M$ software for the sake of it.

    But if you've been brainwashed by Microsoft's dorky ads (remember the ones comparing an old version of Office to dinosaurs?), you'll never consider it.

    If you're serious about cutting costs, you'll just move to Ubuntu^H^H^H Mint, and use OpenOffice. ("Get used to the icons, already!")

    But if you're not, you won't because you

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      I mean, you're this close to going bankrupt.

      But corporations are FAR from close to going bankrupt. The recession has had a much larger effect on workers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You implicitly assume the cost of switching is zero. It's very much not in any business of moderate or greater size, even if you assume the time of your employees doesn't cost you anything (which it does). It's not even low.

      • ...then again, you usually have to pay those costs anyway (in money or time) every time a new edition of MS Office comes out. This is especially true with MS Office 2003 -> 2007, and is still true enough to count if you go from 2007 -> 2010.

        The only real difference is that you pay them in smaller increments more frequently.

    • If you are close to bankrupt you, maybe, can switch to FreeOffice. What you can't do include the following:

      1 - Switching desktops to Linux. That means extra costs and no actual economy at the short term. You aren't buying new licenses of Windows anyway, nor new machines. You are near bankrupt, remember?

      2 - Swithcing to Apache (or to a free DBMS). That implies you'd switch all that old .asp (or sql) codebase. Yeah, it would bring some economies at the short term but also a big spending. No deal.

      3 - Switching

  • The cost of switching to Linux will be far more expensive than the cost of Windows/MacOS licenses. I had worked as a sysadmin before. No one pays sticker prices for Windows, not OEMs and not the enterprise users. The license cost is cheaper than you think. At the same time, Linux does not come entirely free. First is the cost of transition and retraining users. Next, a lot of enterprise users want an "enterprise" OS with associated support, and this stuff does not come free. (Take a look at support contract

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      and what happens when that 1 mission critical software package will not run in linux, fail

      • At most of my employer's clients, usually its the Windows that fails, the mission critical app can't run on windows server but can run on four or more other OS. The client could be anything. I'm talking about DBMS, MRP, ERP, Insurance payment and adjudication, trading, banking. No windows required.
    • From a licensing perspective RHEL is much cheaper than Windows. Not in the base cost, which is close to the same for Windows Server and RHEL, but Red Hat doesn't ask for seat licenses. That's where Microsoft gets you. If you setup an AD server you need a seat license for every single account (you can go with concurrent use licenses, but you risk someone not being able to get in if you have more users than licenses). That's no biggie with 10 users, but steadily increases, while the cost of RHEL stays the

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      Yes and then you have the Virus that is Visual Basic. There are so many programs written in VB that people depend on. If those don't run you are in deep trouble. Now if you look at the server side then yes you could see even more Linux and frankly MySQL and Postgres deployed.. I tired to get one person to move to Linux. I had an old box and I set it for the person at the Church Library to use. All they did was us it to look up videos from a list. I set up everything for them but they stopped using it. Why?

    • No place I worked at ever had Windows training. Techs might occasionally come by and show the user how to do something. It takes much longer to install windows than Linux in a corporate environment, by a factor of four in places I've worked (yes, those were automated install-reboot-installMore-reboot-etc). The downtime from the malware is huge with windows, and downtime by Exchange server fuckups and limitations. Windows could be more expensive by the time wasted.
    • There's a saying I've seen on the Internet that is very true to enterprise Linux support "Linux is only free if your time is worthless." I find it to be quite true.

      We do multi-OS support where I work (all integrated) and Linux is one of them. It works fine, we've got it integrated in to our central system along with Windows, Solaris, and OS-X, it is managed all that jazz.

      However what I find is that making Linux work is a lot more labour intensive than Windows or OS-X (don't get me started on the hell that i

  • Seriously Slashdot, like I even need to say this. Most everyone I know uses either Ubuntu or Debian and a few others use Redhat and the like. The rest of the people I know use a Mac. So guess what? We're already there, Debian "just worked" on my netbook. All devices. I don't even have to say "Blah blah Andrioid" because Linux is everywhere. Sometimes I hear about people, usually through the Internet, who use Hotmail and complain about computer viruses all the time. These people shovel money at anythin
  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @02:24PM (#36962712)
    In the midst of an economic crisis the more expensive Mac platform enjoys a sharp increase in market share. I'd say the proposition is false, price is not the primary driver of operating system selection.

    Perhaps FOSS apps have some advantage but Mac OS X is unix based so many run as well on Mac as they do under Linux. Some FOSS apps also have windows ports. So there does not seem to be a real economic driver for Linux on the desktop via FOSS apps either.
    • by E-Rock ( 84950 )

      Where is this sharp increase in Macintosh market share? The latest report (covered here earlier today) puts the Mac at 5.59% compared to 88.29% for Windows. I'd agree that Mac's expensive offerings are still selling well, and Apple is making a lot of money, but not that they're making great increases in market share on the desktop. The iPhone and iPad are their money makers.

  • The powers are going out of their way to reinvent the desktop and fucking it up every chance they get

  • Default (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @02:26PM (#36962754)
    Do we need to carry on that "risk of default"-bullshit? The US never were in any economical risk of default, given their top credit rating. Debt/GDP ratio has been worse in history and is worse in countries working just fine right now. The only risk ever was from the obstruction tactics of the tea party - and even if they kept it up, it would not have lead to a default in the strict sense. It might still lead to a downgrading of credit rating, as they amply demonstrated that a significantly influential group of the US political system can't be expected to act as adults these days - which scares off potential sources of credit.
    • by Arlet ( 29997 )

      Debt/GDP ratio has been worse in history

      Only for a brief period just after WW2, according to this graph: []

      A world war seems like a good excuse, though. What's the excuse this time ?

      • You might have noticed the odd war going on lately? Not like I endorse those, but they are happening. At the arse end of the world, with no trustworthy allies around the theater, and therefore logistics chains from hell. All that while spending an insane amount on defense apart from that wars - for whatever reason. The point still stands, though - the US will not crash from that debt as such. Not saying that it is good to have it, but the only risk of crashing came from political grandstanding of a couple o
    • Do we need to carry on that "risk of default"-bullshit? The US never were in any economical risk of default, given their top credit rating. Debt/GDP ratio has been worse in history and is worse in countries working just fine right now.

      You can go even further. There is never any economical risk of default for a government that issues its own currency and only issues debt that is denominated in that currency. In fact, it is even misleading to think of US government bonds as debt. It's more like a savings account (as opposed to the reserve accounts at the Fed, which are like checking accounts). You can read more about the basic observations of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) here []. Debt/GDP ratios or anything like that really don't matter: the

  • With all of the explosion of micro pc's (aka smartphones and tablets becoming prevalent) I don't see linux as gaining in the desktop arena much. But handhelds based upon linux hold great promise. They will come to dominate most of the market I believe. Android phones and tablets will become a large chunk of the tech people use and not desktops. Many of the older people I know are going for a tablet and a smartphone and not bothering with the whole PC upgrade anymore. Most of what they need to do can easily

  • If most companies weren't already exclusively Windows. A wholesale replacement of all Windows computers with Linux computers would be a lengthy and hugely disruptive process, not to mention the costs of retraining and the risks of finding you can't run some enterprise critical software or piece of hardware. A phased replacement isn't much better either as you still need to train people, some of the risk may be offset, but having an IT department need to support two OS's instead of one increases costs.

    So in

  • Software License Costs are least of a companies concerns. And if you look in terms of IT Spending you actually see Closed Source Apple and Cloud services coming in full force.

    Linux and Free BDS may be cheap in terms of License cost... However if you are going to invest in a business level production system, The difference between $2k for Windows Servers and 0 For Linux is a line item when you are dealing with 30-50k systems. Then it comes down to your current employees skill sets... Besides the popular op

  • According to this news story [], Windows Vista has 10x the desktop users that Linux does, yet I don't hear anyone talking about "the Year of the Vista Desktop."

    Windows XP, that 10 year-old behemoth has nearly 1/2 of all user desktops around the world, Windows 7 on about 1/4th of all desktops and Windows Vista on about 1/10th - Linux is struggling to make one out of every 100 desktops world-wide.

  • Trying to argue that people will switch to open-source solutions in large numbers because of the economic crisis is futile. For the typical home user, a computer system purchase revolves around getting the best deal they can find on something (typically via a local retailer), and chances are very good those machines are still bundled with Microsoft Windows. Alternately, a growing minority of users are making the trek to an Apple store, where they can buy a commercial alternative to Windows with a new mach

  • This isn't because Linux is technically a bad choice, and definitely not because it's more expensive (TCO arguments were pretty close to bogus when they first came out, and have become steadily more bogus as more techies have become familiar with Linux). It's because markets for operating systems don't operate in the way that standard microeconomics tells you it ought to.

    The 2 big reasons are:
    1. The person making the decision about which OS to install typically is not the person using the computer.
    2. Apple,

  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @02:43PM (#36962982)

    A) Those licenses for commercial software are paid for, and if a company doesn't have the money to purchase new software licenses they probably don't have the money for new hardware.

    B) Most of the licenses that I've dealt with allow the license to be transfered from one machine to another, at least within an organization and particularly for the types of software that FLOSS can replace. So if a new machine is purchased and an old one is retired, the license is still paid for.

    C) If there is an economic crunch, chances are that the businesses are retaining current staffing levels (if they aren't actually going down). So the number of licenses required will stay the same, if not decline. Again, everything is paid for.

    D) Retraining and rolling out an entirely different system will cost money. I highly doubt that they would save any money on managing their systems either, since Microsoft provides fairly extensive management tools (many of which I haven't seen the likes of under Linux).

    For consumers, (A) and (B) still apply.

  • Is there any way to redirect this whole thread into /dev/null? We've been through all this so many times before.

    Systems theory defines information as data that causes one to change one's mind about something (it's a surprisingly useful definition). So, since no one on this thread is going to change their mind on account of the arguments presented here, the entire thread is information free.
  • It ain't never gonna happen. Linux is too fractured for the mass-market. I know the Linux supporters see the proliferation of versions as A Good Thing. Unfortunately, the mass marketplace does not. Unless and until the Linux supporters face the reality of the mass marketplace, there will never be the Year of the Linux Desktop.
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @03:40PM (#36963756) Homepage

      Fanboys like to brag about 10% marketshare and they have a platform that was fully formed 7 years before the first line of the Linux kernel was written. Apple also effectively had a 10 year head start on Microsoft in terms of ease of use technology. Apple was competing against MS-DOS with a far better system.

      "fracturing" has nothing to do with anything. PCs and Android phones are a great counterexample.

      Market success is about marketing success. You have superbowl ads, effective TV ads, and your own stores.

      Despite all of this, the best that Apple fanboys can brag about is finally breaking the 10% mark and how it's been 20 years coming.

      Torpedoed by what Microsoft had to offer in 1991...

  • Uh-huh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Carik ( 205890 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @02:56PM (#36963164)


    When the economy collapses, the first thing everyone will do is run out to become a computer expert so they can install and run linux. Corporations will replace their entire IT staff with people who know linux, and the average person on the street will suddenly realize that what they really need to do to cope with a failed economy is LEARN A NEW OPERATING SYSTEM!

    Or, you know, people might just keep using what they're using while they hope things get better. Because that will leave them time to work enough jobs to buy food.

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @03:07PM (#36963292)
    ignorant. Really, you can't because they don't want to listen to something which says they've been doing it wrong all these years. And then there is the "nobody ever gets fired for choosing Microsoft" mantra and the desire to blend in so you're not a target for the layoff. So no, you'll only see a small uptick in OSS in a down economy and what you'll probably see is more piracy and/or longer refresh cycles. IMO


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