Pragmatism Not Ideology: IBM’s Love Affair with Open Source Software

Intellectual Property and Open Source

Article Snapshot

Author(s)

Martin Campbell-Kelly and Daniel D. Garcia-Swartz

Source

Working Paper, 2008

Summary

This paper examines the historical evidence as to why a large commercial firm supported open source software.

Policy Relevance

Policymakers should be careful not to idealize open source; firms like IBM become involved in open source for familiar economic reasons.

Main Points

  • Open source software lets users change the code to suit their own needs; open source code under the General Public License (GPL) must be distributed free.

 

  • IBM is the world’s second largest seller of commercial software, so some are puzzled as to why it supports “free” software.

 

  • The business history of IBM shows it adapts to change for practical reasons.

 

  • During the half a century that IBM has made software, it has delivered many combinations of free software combined with commercial software, or code that users can access combined with proprietary code.

 

  • Should open source grow markedly, it could eat into IBM’s revenues, but IBM would have time to adapt.

Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article

Share