Lately there have been a lot of news items coming through about open source and where it's heading. We have Oracle undercutting Red Hat. We have Microsoft putting SuSE riding shotgun. Times are changing. But all of this brings to the fore one point that will inevitably come back time and again.
Who "owns" Linux?
If you ask anyone in the Linux community the answer is simple: The community owns Linux. A collective of minds, users, and enthusiasts all working (in one way or another) to continue to push the Linux operating system as far forward as possible.
If you ask the business world or those purveyors of the Wall Street green, they would want a very specific answer in order to place a value upon the product.
But what is value in the open source world? How does one measure the value of a product who's creators do what they do out of passion. My answer to that would be another question: how much value can you place on a product that offers just as solid a solution as a proprietary solution? Equal value?
Would you say the latest release of Ubuntu Linux is worth the same as that of the latest Microsoft release? That's a tough one. Why? Think about it this way: a release of Ubuntu comes with far more than an operating system. In fact, a release of nearly any Linux operating system comes complete with everything you need for either production or test environments. It's editorial. It's development. It's servers and graphics. It's so much more than an operating system.
At one point, about five years ago, I priced out proprietary equivalents of all the open source software and came up with a figure around $4,000 dollars. That was then, this is now. And right now it seems there are companies trying to place a dollar figure on a product that needs no dollar figure.
Linux, and the Linux community, is about freedom. Freedom from greed. Freedom from the crappy software that many proprietary companies place on the shelves for consumers to consume.
So to me the price of open source software is priceless: as far as software can be priceless. It's not curing cancer (although projects like the <a xhref="http://www.nfcr.org/" target=blank>Screensaver Lifesaver</a> is sure trying) but it is trying to rid the computer world of a cancer known as over-priced and underproducing software.