Ralph Müller from the Eclipse Foundation Europe gave an overview of the current state of OSS in the industry. He showed examples how huge companies like Airbus, Deutsche Bahn and financial institutions are looking into open source software to run their core business.
What sounds like selling your very soul (or at least exposing it to all your competitors) at first is driven by several factors. For one, those companies don’t sell software. They sell services. Software is just a means to be efficient. Therefore, if they give the source code for the software away, they don’t lose money as such (as opposed to, say, Microsoft). There are security concerns but economically, developing software themselves puts a huge burden on them: Airbus needs to maintain that software for 60 years. Deutsche Bahn needs a system to implements ETCS, so lives will depend on this software. Doing this in-house would cost an insane amount of money.
On top of that, if everyone used the same code basis to implement the standard, a lot of discussions could be avoided. Source code doesn’t lie.
Closed source software isn’t more reliable or secure as open source (or the other way around) by default. Web browsers showed that exposing the source helps to find and plug many security holes in a short time.
This follows the same lines as the first big software developers – IBM and DEC – who gave the software away for free when you bought (or rented) their hardware.
Last but not least, here is a quote from the talk which got me thinking: “Bad artists protect their work, good artists share.”