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Are Bad Economic Times Good for Free Software?

Unknown Lamer posted more than 3 years ago | from the how-many-gnus-for-a-soda dept.

Linux 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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Why? (1, Interesting)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962528)

I'd actually argue that free software is bad for the state of the economy on the basis that it doesn't increase the velocity of money. Organizations which exist to support FOSS and free technologies encourage the movement of money, sure, but getting money to move from the average consumer is what's needed to drive an economy. FOSS, as advantageous as it is in value (in many cases) contributes against the velocity of money by allowing consumers to pocket money which would otherwise "move" as a result of bundled software licenses.

Bad economic times are good for anything cheap or free, which in turn ever-so-slightly discourage economic recovery by moving less money than would otherwise be spent for a particular good or service.

Re:Why? (5, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962562)

I'd argue against that because most people do not save money. They spend everything they have. If they save $50 on an image editor, that money doesn't go in the bank... It goes to buy something else.

It doesn't restrict the flow or money at all... It only changes which company gets it.

Re:Why? (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962588)

Not in a recession. People who lost 401k savings will salvage anything they can by limiting other expenditures. Therefore, money saved on an image editor will in fact go straight to a bank during a recession.

This is exactly why the economy is down right now. People are scared to spend unless it's necessary.

Re:Why? (2)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962632)

Addendum to my previous comment: The point you're arguing is valid when consumer confidence is returning or already established; money saved in one area will indeed go towards other expenditures. However, when consumer confidence is non-existent (e.g. right now), that money isn't going anywhere other than a savings account, if not under a mattress (if the user doesn't feel burned enough by banks as-is).

Re:Why? (1)

noobermin (1950642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962748)

And a $50 image editor is necessary. May be they simply won't buy the software and do without having a good which really isn't a commodity (unless they are a graphic designer, perhaps)

Re:Why? (1)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963016)

So are you arguing that bank robbers are beneficial during a recession? /troll

Re:Why? (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963046)

Are they going to spend that money, or will it go towards paying an existing debt or loan with another bank?

Re:Why? (2)

ThoughtMonster (1602047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962582)

Money not spent on software doesn't magically disappear.

Correct (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962724)

Free software increases wealth, and it is abundant so everyone benefits.

However, wealth (the non-abundant variety) always ultimately flows upward. It loops downward a lot, but the net effect over time is that more and more wealth gets concentrated among smaller and smaller groups of people. Such movement is not indefinitely sustainable, so all economies collapse eventually.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962626)

That's the most broken windows thinking I've seen in a while.

I would argue though that it can be bad for the US economy, as software is a pretty big export.

Re:Why? (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962668)

FOSS, as advantageous as it is in value (in many cases) contributes against the velocity of money by allowing consumers to pocket money which would otherwise "move" as a result of bundled software licenses.

That's the most broken windows thinking I've seen in a while.

When is Windows thinking not broken [] ?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962628)

You need to read up on Opportunity Cost []

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962638)

getting money to move from the average consumer is what's needed to drive an economy.

And you know what would do that? Burn their houses down. Anyone objects is basically a traitor to our glorious economy.

Re:Why? (0)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962656)

I'm pretty sure if you accurately counted dollars and cpu cycles, open source software would show up in commodity business expenses a whole hell of a lot more than it would show up in households.

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962666)

Insofar as software licenses are economically efficient and the proceeds of license sales fall upon as many people as possible you could be right. But if software licenses simply impose economic rent and the lions share of the revenues accrue to a few large corporations, which proceed to put the money in their checking account, its not so clear.

Open-source can also stimulate economic activity through sales of support contracts, new equipment, etc. What a recession does is it keeps people where they are, regardless of the sort of license they have -- they know what they have, they don't want to spend money learning something new, and the license they bought two years ago is still just as good today as it was when they were rich.

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

lupis42 (1048492) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962816)

Open-source can also stimulate economic activity through sales of support contracts, new equipment, etc. What a recession does is it keeps people where they are, regardless of the sort of license they have -- they know what they have, they don't want to spend money learning something new, and the license they bought two years ago is still just as good today as it was when they were rich.

Open Source actually stimulates economic activity inherently - it makes people more productive. If people are using open source software, it (in most cases) is doing something that they want done, thus freeing up their time for other pursuits, or allowing them to be more productive in the same amount of time.

Open source cannibalizes ... (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963010)

Open-source can also stimulate economic activity through sales of support contracts, new equipment, etc.

FOSS has largely cannibalized the support contracts of traditional Unix vendors and displaced the proprietary versions of Unix formerly used on new equipment. FOSS did not really generate new economic activity, it commoditized formerly premium priced services. Its questionable whether commodity based pricing has increased economic activity, companies at the low end would probably have purchased a virtual SunOS host rather than a virtual Linux host. Now for hobbyists FOSS has been a great boon, but I'm not sure their usage translates into much economic activity.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962744)

Moving money around as a way to grow the economy is overrated. The best way to grow is to actually produce something useful.

Re:Why? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962812)

Wait, you're saying we can't grow the economy by just selling each other tulip bulbs?

Re:Why? (2)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962836)

Don't be ridiculous; I make very important websites with my college education!

Money doesn't just dissapear (4, Insightful)

future assassin (639396) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962774)

People not spending money on commercial software doesn't mean that money just up and dissapears from the economy. Those people use that money for daily life necessities like food, utilities and transorrtation so the money goes back into the system but is taken throuhg a different industry.

Exactly (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36963002)

If the money isn't spent on software licenses, it will be spent on something else. That something else will be, quite obviously, something which is valued more -- not less -- than software licenses. (If the software license was determined to be a better value, than naturally the money will go to the software license.)

This isn't rocket science, folks.

Re:Why? (2)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962784)

Here's the thing, though. If someone saves $100 on a license for Windows, that's $100 that they can spend somewhere else. If there's one thing that stands out about the American economy as a whole, it's the inability for a large number of people to save money. That $100 is just going to be spent somewhere else. In some cases the ability to use FOSS will allow people to improve their business, where they might not have been able to do otherwise. The money that they can potentially save with FOSS products, whether it's an OS, web server, or productivity software can go towards other parts of the business.

The ability to do things in a more cost-effective manner is what drives business as a whole forward. No one is sitting around crying about the woes of the blacksmith whose enterprise was destroyed with the advent of the automobile. We're too busy using our cars and other vehicles to enhance our own lives and make things which were impossible before the automobile, e.g. long commutes, largely trivial. If Microsoft's business model is less viable, I won't lose any sleep over it. Either than can adopt, or die at the feet of progress. If they don't, the world in one hundred years will care no more than we care about the buggy makers of a hundred years past.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962834)

that's $100 that they can spend somewhere else.

Right, unless it's a recession, when people are doing whatever they can to rebuild what they lost. In this case, that's $100 that won't be spent at all.

Re:Why? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962952)

"Here's the thing, though. If someone saves $100 on a license for Windows, that's $100 that they can spend somewhere else."

Like silly things...


I dont know of anyone that is squirreling away money. Savings accounts are losing money as they pay an interest rate that is less than inflation rate.

Everyone I know is taking any extra money and using it to pay down debt. you get the biggest return by paying down debt than saving anything at all right now.

Re:Why? (0)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962996)

Debt is paid to who, again? Banks? Maybe some utilities which aren't expanding?

That money isn't moving anywhere. Banks are scared to lend. What's your point?

Re:Why? (2)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962806)

Yeah, let's break all the Windows.

Re:Why? (2)

pieterh (196118) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962838)

"velocity of money"? You're really off track.

Software is like ice. I wrote, in 2003: "Information technology, likewise, is an essential part of todays' business world. In many ways, the IT systems of the last decades resemble natural ice: an incredibly valuable material hacked out with curious cutting tools by a small band of rugged adventurers, transported with great care to distant places, and mainly catering to the richest consumers only. Like ice, information technology has no basic cost: no expensive raw materials, no inherent limits on production. Ice is simply the solid form of one abundant matter, and information technology is a solid form another abundant matter, namely the human intellect."

When ice is free, you enable huge industries on top of it. Same with software. Free software underlies the Internet, for one thing. Velocity of money? No, it's about velocity of knowledge, freedom of the market, lower friction, and overall more wealth.

Re:Why? (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962922)

Nobody's going to risk creating a new industry when banks and other financiers won't loan them the money needed to pay employees to get those ideas off the ground. Everything grinds to a halt when people want to make sure they survive.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the economy are in fact quite inter-woven. Fearing failure of survival inherently overrides any desire to create new wealth; people will strive to use proven means of sustenance rather than testing new waters when survival is in question unless all other methods have already failed.

Re:Why? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962874)

Bundled software licenses merely move money to the rich ruling classes. They can then speculate with it, or blow it on coke and hookers, but that does fuck all for the average consumer.

Re:Why? (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962980)

What about all those programmers working at MS and Apple? I dare say they are spending all their paychecks on coke and hookers. Okay, maybe Pepsi and Cheetos.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962880)

Could you please remind Apple and Microsoft of the velocity of money.

Re:Why? (0)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962940)

They're paying employees. They're paying universities for research. They're hiring. They're licensing other technologies from other companies which in turn perpetuate the cycle, etc.

Re:Why? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963014)

MS and Apple employee about 95,000 employees between them. I dare say most of those aren't rich fat cats.

Re:Why? (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962912)

Yeah, move, rigt into Bill Gates pocket, right!

Broken Windows fallacy? (2)

havardi (122062) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962920)

Pun intended.

dudes - Ad Hominem attack here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962930)

...increase the velocity of money.

"Velocity of money"? Hmmmm.

What does the parent sound like? Hmmmmmmmm.An Economist, maybe? Or Satan?!?

As far economists are concerned, supply and demand is what they know. Everything after that is superstition - for a lack of better terms.

Economists, after 75+ years can't figure out if the New Deal did any good!

Anyway ... here's where he's a hypocrite - F/oSS reduces prices for the consumer. That's their argument for off-shoring - cheaper shit means better standard of living for us peons - right?! Therefore, F/oSS boosts the economy by the economist's own fucking standards!

I rest my case, your honor! Shoot the fucking economist!

Re:dudes - Ad Hominem attack here. (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963026)

Love you too, babe!

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962976)

Free Software effect on the economy isn't that straight forward. What you loose in money flow you gain in your business ability to grow, and expand.
What free software did do, is make it hard for Software Companies to product new Software. Not all software business models work on the RMS Approved way of making money with Free Software. If your product is easy to use yet powerful, consulting services is out of the question, If your product is small in size, charging for shipping and material doesn't work as well. Some software business will work best if they focus on building the software and someone pays money for the right to use it. But the problem with free software alternatives is that these companies will need come up with a huge advantage over the alternative for it to succeed.
But as I said before that is too simplistic of a view... Because such software companies can alter their program to be one of those newfangled "Cloud" programs where people will just pay for the rights to use it, with using existing free software they can do this much more quickly.

Re:Why? (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963078)

What you loose in money flow you gain in your business ability to grow, and expand.

again, no growth will happen during a recession. Everything will be banked or used to pay off debts to banks and other investors, which will in turn also be hoarded.

Re:Why? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963000)

Depend what you call "economy", if it is money from everywhere somewhat dissapear inside the ivory tower of a corporation, maybe it won't help a lot of people. In the other hand, free software mean more services built around that software popping everywhere, or more available cash for the user of that software to use it in other places.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36963054)

Your circular logic is astounding. Please! Tell us how bad economic times are good for the proprietary software industry! You sound like you work for Wall Street...

If anything, bad economic times makes people examine what is in fact most important to them in their personal and professional lives. Having the majority of the population do that is probably something you're against, strictly judging by your post.

Re:Why? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963104)

Aaaaaah, beautiful. The above comment certainly deserves the "+4 Interesting" moderation that it has because it is a fine tuned demonstration of absurdity, to which economic illiteracy takes a Keynesian follower, and the above comment is definitely Keynesian in nature, even if the commenter himself doesn't immediately recognize it as one.

Think about this, just like the worthless, completely worthless Krugman, who says that people need to be hired by government, who must create worthless jobs just to cause this 'velocity' of money, the above commenter puts the money above the product. Worthless paper above an existing product.

The reasoning about economic wealth is transformed from: people need things, and that's why they work in the market. To: people need to work, no matter what the work is, even if it is worthless, as long as there is this 'velocity' of money.

Any product that already exists increases economic wealth. If the product is sold at a price, which is efficient to the market participants, then it's a good deal. The Free Software qualifies perfectly. It is given away, the part of the deal is that the code becomes Free and cannot be locked and stolen from the public domain basically. So it's a product, upon a company can rely and spend nothing for the licenses - that is extremely efficient. If more products were like this, the economy would be much more efficient.

The goal of the free market is lowering of the prices, not hiking of the prices, as the Fed wants you all to believe, so that the Fed can justify printing the money and causing inflation, which is what governments want. Governments are huge debtors, especially governments of the West today, especially USA. So governments want inflation, and that's what they create with money printing.

Effect of inflation is rising prices, which is the opposite of what free market provides - lowering of the prices and increase in choices and efficiencies. The goal of an economy is to provide the required choice of products and services at most efficient prices/costs.

The goal is not full employment of-course, that's a side note, it's a side issue. The goal is to provide everything that the market wants at the prices that the market prefers.

So going back to the economic disaster that USA and the rest of the Western socialized societies are facing. The reason why the economies are in such huge trouble is the mis-allocation of resources - human and capital resources, that is created by the government. The fix to it is more free market, not less free market and more government.

If the free market provides one product/service at very low costs, that's not a failure of market, that's a success of the market, as it obviously created an environment in which this product is possible at that price.

Any spending that can be reduced on any product is a good thing. The increase in spending is a bad thing. The increase in debt ceiling was not the crisis that the politicians want you to believe it was. It would have been a self-imposed austerity measure, that would have started the US economy on the road to recovery.

The actual CRISIS is the DEBT.

Because of that any reduction in spending needs to be understood to be a good thing, this applies to Free/free software as much as it applies to any other spending.

Re:Why? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963116)

Isn't that just the broken window fallacy? I mean sure, nothing is destroyed but the effect is the same: spending money on software (or a new window) when you could use free alternatives (or keep your current window). Free software is cost efficient software, and efficiency is better for the economy than unnecessary spending.

no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962532)


Re:no (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962694)


I think not... (1)

ThoughtMonster (1602047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962550)

...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?

free software is not free (0)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962560)

just look at android, the development costs for each new version cost HTC who ever is Google's favorite of the week a lot of money. the phones aren't any cheaper than the iphone a lot of times

free software is usually good a decade or so after the retail software has been on the market. something like jboss replacing weblogic

Ubuntu Duke Nukem Edition (2, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962716)

Ah the year of the linux desktop...been hearing that for a while.

Free software is mainly useful when you are implementing large quatities of things (e.g. server farms or point of sale terminals or generic desktops for interchangable worker bees. Also it's fantastic for sharing things to other people whoo can't be bothered to buy, say Matlab, to run your stupid script. that's why it gets so much play in acadamia.

but everyone else values their time and does not have the skill to deal with all the flexibility and variety Linux has. Google, apple and microsoft spend a lot making it easy to use and assuring compatibility (well not google yet). Linux by it's nature is untamed. it's a lynx not a kitten. Nothing wrong with being a lynx, but they are never going to be housebroken.

shooting to be a desktop environment for the masses is trying to be the wrong thing.

Re:Ubuntu Duke Nukem Edition (1, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963008)

"but everyone else values their time and does not have the skill to deal with all the flexibility and variety Linux has."

Not to mention the constant UI changes inflicted on newcomers. It used to be getting a GUI running in the first place was a barrier to entry. Now that Linux driver support is excellent and most distros are easier to install than Windows, the new barrier is frequent UI change.

No problem for geeks, but I don't even bother to interest non-geeks in Linux because unless you are a techy and willing to put in a few hundred hours getting proficient it's a waste of time.

People buy Windows because they are used to Windows and because it is the de-facto STANDARD (though Redmond can't resist fucking around with the UI a bit).

I detest Windows, but Linux UI designers don't give a fuck about noobs. They provide a useful free service, but that doesn't make it wrong to point out shortcomings.

Short answer, "Yes with an If" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962578)

Long answer, "No with a But"

no (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962580)

because linux is only free if your time is worthless.

Re:no (2)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962726)

If you don't have a job, if you're sitting around at home/basement in your underwear eating cheetos, your time is worthless. Unemployment now lasts 99 weeks -- almost 2 years. No doubt it will be extended again until an entire segment of the population will be on permanent dole.

Great for linux? Maybe. But the kind of people who would sit around collecting unemployment for years are the kind of people who use Internet Explorer, if you catch my drift. (For those of you who didn't catch my drift, you use Internet Explorer and have a low IQ).

Re:no (1)

arbulus (1095967) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962890)

The same argument could be made about for Windows administration costs. It costs you money, but then you still have to pay people to manage it. Linux solutions might cost no money, and you still have to have some one manage it. Either way, the people who manage it have to know what they're doing. But even then, there's just as much documentation around the web for managing Linux systems as there is for managing Windows systems.

The real key is whether or not a Linux/FLOSS solution is right for your organization.

I manage a number of clients who are medical facilities. Even with their "web-based" medical software, it still requires Windows/IE/ActiveX nonsense. The rest who have locally hosted databases require Windows (which sparks another rant on the lack of cross platform support in the medical field). These facilities are constantly trying to find ways to cut costs. I would love to move them to free software solutions top-to-bottom, but I can't. I have, however, been successful in converting several of them to OpenOffice/LibreOffice, which has saved thousands of dollars and the users are perfectly happy with that.

Re:no (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963004)

You can successfully run IE6 and IE7 on Linux using wine. I have done this for ages... I have not tried running IE8 or IE9 though...

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962960)

GNU/Linux, BSD, etc., cost time, just as learning literally anything else in the world costs time. If that's your deterrent, you must have zero hobbies and/or skills.

Proprietary software costs time AND money. More importantly, it costs freedom and potentially safety, privacy, etc.

Yes, and no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962600)

Bad economic times make FOSS tempting, but it makes commercial software providers start taking action to keep people from moving to FOSS. There is a reason that most pro cameras require Photoshop plugins (and not the GIMP) if someone wants to decode the RAW camera images.

Dont' forget the CAD ecosystem and sound files. You are not getting away from AutoCAD no how much you try, nor are you going to get away from ProTools and other DigiDesign offerings if you want to be considered a respectable studio putting out quality albums.

No Linux on the Desktop (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962622)

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.

Re:No Linux on the Desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962736)

Nope, because of Microsoft's monopoly everyone buys a Windows license when they buy a new PC

Either you need to include Apple computers, in which case it's not everyone, or else your definition of PC is so narrow it wouldn't include a Linux PC anyway.

Bundled OS is a steep hurdle for Linux (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963098)

Nope, because of Microsoft's monopoly everyone buys a Windows license when they buy a new PC

Either you need to include Apple computers, in which case it's not everyone, or else your definition of PC is so narrow it wouldn't include a Linux PC anyway.

The GP seems fundamentally correct, let me rephrase things. New computers generally come with a bundled OS, Windows or Mac OS X, and consumers generally see no need to replace either OS with Linux. The switching cost does not seem to exceed the perceived benefits. You can argue the consumers are mistaken but the GP's point that a bundled OS is an incredible hurdle for Linux on the desktop is correct.

Re:No Linux on the Desktop (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962894)

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 to just leave the default Windows or OS X installation.

Now with apps, you MIGHT have a better case. There is little doubt that Blender is a shitload cheaper than 3ds Max to use if you're looking to do some 3D editing. And GIMP is much cheaper than Photoshop. But, chances are, if you're doing such high-end video or graphic editing, you're probably going to be willing to sink in the money to use an industry-standard program (unless it's a one-off deal where you don't ever have to worry about contract work or sharing). It may also be a lot cheaper to install OpenOffice on your startup's PC's than to buy a bunch of Office licenses. But again, if you're a serious startup, the cost of Office licenses are likely to be pretty trivial compared to the hassle of using non-standard software.

So no, in the end I very seriously doubt that even a more serious economic slide than we're already facing would really help FOSS much. At most, it might lower the cost of some of the more expensive proprietary stuff (as it already has on software like Final Cut Pro, for example).

Re:No Linux on the Desktop (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963030)

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.

It would be for sane actors (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962636)

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 don't want to be using a "dinosaur" (a version of Office without the ribbon).

Re:It would be for sane actors (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962742)

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:It would be for sane actors (2, Insightful)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962948)

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.

Re:It would be for sane actors (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963032)

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 from MS network management solutions (AD, Exchange, Sharepoint). It would bring huge savings at the next upgrade, but that upgrade won't happen while you are near bankrupt anyway.

4 - Switch CAD (any kind). Yeah, new short term expenses and you don't plan to buy new licenses anyway.

Switching to a free Linux is not cheap (1, Interesting)

guacamole (24270) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962676)

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 contracts for RedHat Enterprise Linux)

Re:Switching to a free Linux is not cheap (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962776)

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

Re:Switching to a free Linux is not cheap (1)

DadLeopard (1290796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962798)

This might be true for a Business, but or an average user, the savings is very large, well unless they just get a copy of all that software from their friend that works at XYZ company and brings his copy to use at home! For the average computer user, it is as easy as popping in a CD, hitting reset, answering a couple of questions and waiting a half-hour!

Re:Switching to a free Linux is not cheap (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963060)

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 same. Most of Microsoft's server OS pieces use seat licenses. You get a deal if, say, you bundle your AD licenses with your Exchange licenses, but you're still paying by the user.

This is not to say that using Linux is cheaper than using Windows. There's tons of factors involved in figuring out TCO on one system vs. another. As a rule Unix admins are more expensive than Windows admins. There's often user training costs involved in switching OSs for any but the most trivial use cases. If you're already a Windows shop (likely unless you're either in a few specific industries or a new company), there's going to be lots of one time costs in transition. Sometime software has to be rewritten, replaced with another version, or simply doesn't exist for other platforms.

Speaking very generally I think that some, perhaps many, companies could save money by switching to Linux or other free alternatives, but I don't see them doing it during a recession. Like I said, there's lots of one time costs involved in such a switch, and even if you think you can save money in the long run by switching, you're not going to want to absorb those one time costs in an already lean period.

Re:Switching to a free Linux is not cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36963072)

switching to Linux will be far more expensive than the cost of Windows/MacOS licenses

Tell that to the BSA [] .

Re:Switching to a free Linux is not cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36963074)

First of all, an enterprise system should have someone who knows what they are doing in order to configure them correctly for the situation they are in.
Secondly, the cost to train someone to do enterprise work in a MS environment vs a Linux environment, is more, because they have to unlearn their mistakes they learned when dealing with non-enterprise systems.
Thirdly, are you seriously suggesting that a MS "enterprise" system costs less for support then a RedHat system. Please compare apples with apples.

Re:Switching to a free Linux is not cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36963096)

Sounds like BS astroturf to me... enterprise Windows Server licenses are not cheap at all AND they're closed source.

Having "official" support isn't as important with Linux because you're aren't locked out of the codebase and bent over to begin with. It's a requirement for Windows.

The Year of teh Linux Desktop is nigh! (2)

webtron (1124453) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962688)

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 anything and have no idea what is going on. To these people the concept of TCO does not exist.

I doubt it! (1)

DadLeopard (1290796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962702)

There are too many people that haven't a clue as to how much time and money they are wasting on Microsoft products and all the other software that you need to make that work! Of course they aren't actually paying for most of it! How many people do you know personally that have actually paid for the versions of Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office they are using, though they do have to pony up for their commercial Anti-virus programs to get the updates, well that is if they aren't smart enough to use something like AVG or Avast. Their computer came with Windows and that is what they will use till they buy the next one, which will also come with Windows, though some with a lot more money and a little more brains will buy from Apple and get on that treadmill instead! It's only the totally P.O.ed, fed up and just a bit smarter or desperate that will even think to try Linux, though once they do they will never go back! Once a slave throws off his shackles he will fight like hell to keep them off!

Re:I doubt it! (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962884)

ok what? most people are going to buy a pc, and whats on there? pretty much everything you need, cd burner applications, movie editors, media center hell most even come with a home version of MS office, anti virus? you know MS has been giving one away for a couple years now and its actually better than most commercial ones right?

linux users are the shacked ones, dependent on whims of egomaniacs, and in a constant state of broken, your constantly having to fight with it, which is fine if that is your thing but I usually turn on a computer to get something done, not fuck off all my time.

(posted from mint, which magically woke up and will not work at 1280x1024 anymore, though it has been for almost a year now)

Actually (1)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962902)

I paid full retail for my first photoshop (version 2.2) back in the day (1994). MS Office? 10$ for a fully licensed version thru my employer (That's professional version, including access and powerpoint).

OS - XP professional came with the machine, I would have to spend a lot of time to replace it, and it WOULD NOT RUN a piece of software on the machine that my company paid 1200$ for.

So, what would Linux cost to implement? No way to tell, because it can not do the job. So once again, the premise is faulty to start with. Linux is not a complete solution.

Here we go again... (1)

Phics (934282) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962704)

I love Linux, however, there isn't going to be 'The Year of the Linux Desktop'. Maybe there will be a 'The Decade of Gradual Adoption of the Linux Desktop for Enthusiasts', or perhaps 'The Eventual Five Year Rise of One Linux Distribution to Market Dominance in the *NIX Desktop Sector', but I suspect that we'll see different hardware form-factors make the desktop as we know it more or less irrelevant long before Linux makes any startling leaps in mainstream acceptance.

Apple proves the proposition false ... (4, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Apple proves the proposition false ... (1)

E-Rock (84950) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963114)

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.

Flawed logic (1)

deains (1726012) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962746)

Very, very few places have computers on offer with no OS installed. Practically none have Linux-based PCs on sale (I know there are a few, but the number is pretty much negligible here). So Linux is not the cheap option. You don't save money buying the computer without Windows, because you simply can't get anything without Windows. And here in the UK at least, the Ubuntu PCs I saw didn't save you much money over the Windows alternative anyway.

So basically, Linux isn't going to save the customer any money. Therefore it will be no more and no less attractive in a recession than at any other time. Therefore this article is complete twaddle. Next.

Wont happen (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962752)

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

Default (4, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Default (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962868)

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 ?

Re:Default (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963036)

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 of self-obsessed arseholes with the only goal being destruction.

Yuo Fail it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962756)

may also w4nT

This is not our first Rodeo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962768)

There have been other recessions in the last 15 years. Each one did not result in a commiserate increase in the share of Linux Desktops. In fact, Linux desktop deployments have been relatively flat. Obviously, economics is not the main driver behind Microsoft' market dominance.

Desktops will be in decline the next 10 years (2)

Wild_dog! (98536) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962780)

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 be accomplished using a tablet with much less headache. They don't have to call someone everytime they can't figure something out since there is nothing really to figure out.

Maybe (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962786)

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 short, I think difficult economic times make companies less likely to take a risk. And switching to Linux from Windows would be seen (rightly or wrongly) as a huge risk. A new company starting from scratch, or a company that already has a significant mix of Linux boxes, maybe.

No (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962808)

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 opinion, companies actually don't like to lay off employees, if they can help it. So if they have a Windows Shop they are going to keep the Windows Administrators (If they can learn or already know Linux is immaterial, as it would be risky to check them on that as their windows admin skills are a known quantity).

What is big now is Cloud, and Thin Clients (Which are not called thin clients). We are seeing companies go to the cloud for many of their non-operational tasks (email, web hosting, file storage...) and more use of Mobile Phones, iPad/tables, Net Books... as a Thin Client host. Because it saves them the upfront cost of installing more expensive hardware and hiring more admins to keep track of these servers for tasks that are not key to business operation.

Now once the economy picks up I can see the Cloud computing becoming less prevalent, because ultimately people want full control of their stuff, and cloud services are only more affordable to a point where it becomes cheaper to host it yourself.

It isn't that Linux is Bad or inferior heck Linux hosts much of those Cloud services. But Software License costs isn't the big savings that companies need.

The year of Linux on the Desktop will be the Year the Desktop is irrelevant.

FOSS or Piracy? (1)

TehNoobTrumpet (1836716) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962878)

It's often as easy to pirate as it is to install FOSS, and when money is tight morals are looser than usual.
What makes FOSS more appealing than piracy for a non-power user?
Even with no money to spend, Windows is what most people are used to and what most people will try to stick with one way or another.

They have it all wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36962926)

desktop_year_of = "Linux 1996"

The Year of the Vista Desktop? (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962932)

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.

The poor economy justifies a lot, but .... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962954)

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 machine for a little bit more money up front (but a promise of better resale value down the road).

From what I've seen, most of these people have more motivation to stick with a commercial OS rather than try Linux because they want to re-use some existing software they bought previously. The idea of saving money with open-source software in the future doesn't do much for them, really. (Most of the time, they're not really sure what's out there for an OS like Linux or BSD in the first place. Being free, open-source software, the developers obviously aren't spending any money on advertising on TV or in the print media to tell people about their programs.)

For small business users, a computer and related software purchases are usually a tax write-off anyway - so they're not real motivated to switch to and learn to use something totally new/different either.

The *few* people I know who did purchase a new computer with Linux pre-installed keep running into headaches when they need to call for technical support. EG. One lady with a Netbook running Ubuntu had problems recently when she signed up for AT&T U-Verse. Nobody on their support line could walk her through the steps needed to connect her wireless card to their wireless router they supplied, and despite telling them she was using "Ubuntu" - they insisted that was just "some program running on top of Windows", and she "probably has Windows 7".

No, it won't be the YOTLD (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36962966)

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, Google, and Microsoft in particular have shown no qualms about using their market power to force their customers to use only their products. For instance, over the last couple of years any company that was selling both Linux and Windows 7 netbooks has dropped their Linux lines. That doesn't look to me like spontaneous market forces.

I like Linux, I use Linux both at work and at home, I think it's far superior to MS Windows and has some advantages over OS X as well. But that doesn't mean it's going to become the dominant OS any time soon.

Simple answer ... (2)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Troll alert (1)

drdrgivemethenews (1525877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963022)

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's always the year of the Linux Desktop (1)

revjtanton (1179893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963050)

How many times has it been "the year of Linux" over the years?

I don't know if it's the year of Linux or not, but I think with economic times being what they are it is certainly a good time to brush up on some skills and strengthen your resume.

You can do that at []

Year of the linux desktop? (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963064)

Haha, keep dreaming pal. A more accurate title would be "Year of the pirate copies."
Most people I know around here would rather get an illegitimate copy of windows/mac than switch to any linux OS.

The other possibility (1)

callmebill (1917294) | more than 3 years ago | (#36963076)

I posit that it's more tempting to steal the software you need and are accustomed to, more than it is tempting to move to foss alternatives.
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