20110804

Open Source: You get what you pay for.

There's merit in the cause for open source software. It's noble to work as a team, often a very large team, to create something awesome and allow people to have that product for free. The unfortunate truth is that you are at the mercy of these programmers to have the interest and inspiration to resolve issues that are found, or even the users who may or may not report an issue.

I love open source software. It's cheap, usually works fairly well in general, and you can tell everyone about it and make them feel better too. The reality that I'm facing is that there's nothing like buying software that has a real owner, and real people behind the product because it's popular enough to generate its own revenue streams (i.e. authors of how-to books, etc.)

My point here can be demonstrated with OpenOffice.org vs. Microsoft Office. When you download and start to use OpenOffice products to notice a slight lack of polish, things are not as well integrated and the overall experience falls short. You tend to accept these issues as the short comings of the product, but you end up pleasantly surprised by how good the product is for the price, $0.00. Then you go back to work and use Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is a well thought out and thoroughly tested application which does everything that OpenOffice.org does, but better. It has the polish and concerted effort put into the whole product, buffing and re-touching every nook and cranny of the tool to ensure their support costs are reduced.

Factor this in, you may pay $150 for the Home and Student version of Microsoft Office, but you'll blow $1000 in frustration when using OpenOffice.org. How do I measure that? $50 per hour, but damages for pain and suffering. I figured I'd put that in a manner most Americans would understand, they're the highly litigious neighbours to the south of us.

I'm not saying don't use open source software, I'm saying that you need to know there may be some extra effort, pain, and suffering involved in doing so.

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