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Some thoughts on the employment of Open Source Software for EO

Some thoughts on the employment of Open Source Software for EO:

A: Why should a company distribute freely their source code?
B: The question should be why they should not do it. There are two reasons for not doing it: the company is licensing its products in the market or the company is trying to lock the customer.
A: But each company should protect its investments from its competitors, shouldn’t it?
B: IT companies largely live from services like technical support, software customization, training and solution integration. None of these activities justifies proprietary software development; except for customer locking.
A: Would software be more expensive for the Customer if developed under public licensing?
B: An individual company may try to do so but the availability of open source software lays a common ground for open competition. In turn, competition feeds technology development and lowers costs.
A: Don’t you expect companies to market their software products? And use their licensing revenues to further invest on technological development?
B: Different IT domains have different maturity levels. Mature domains commoditise, that is, solutions are widely available at low costs and similar quality whereas new domains remain the arena for niche proprietary solutions.
A: What has to do open source with the maturity of the IT domain?
B: Open source software drives the market towards commoditization. By doing so, stimulates commercial software products to move ahead to new domains, niche markets and first class solutions.
A: But not all IT companies can follow that evolution.
B: Remember most IT companies do not market their software products but they provide technical support, software customization and other services. In that kind of business commodity software or open source is an advantage for promoting service excellence.
A: So there are two distinct types of business models.
B: Yes, and that is why there are two reasons for not releasing software as source code.
A: We have spoken of private companies but what should be the role of the public institutions?
B: Public institutions should promote market efficiency and technological excellence.
A: So should they use only open software?
B: Not necessarily. Public institutions should identify which IT domains are opportune for commercial software development and those other domains which are commodities.
A: Can you provide examples in Earth Observation?
B: Earth Observation is a developing subject with growing demand and limited offering. Earth Observation priority should be the development of applications and services which can exploit Earth Observation for society. So far it is hard for them to emerge.
A: What does it mean in terms of IT commoditization and open source?
B: In order for that market to develop we have to render the basis a commodity for everybody. All enablers as could be the access to data, basic software to query, convert, compose, circulate, share, publish, browse should become commodities elements which help to develop the market upwards.
A: Aren’t IT standards enough for that?
B: Standard languages, formats, interfaces and protocols are essential in the commoditization process; open source software is a further step.
A: Who could lead this process in Earth Observation?
B: In Europe it could be ESA.

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