Open Source as IP Socialism (SAP)

| About: SAP AG (SAP)

The Stalwart submits: One of SAP's (NYSE:SAP) executives has let it slip that he perceives the open source software movement as IP socialism:

Shai Agassi, president of the product and technology group at SAP, said in a speech at a club in California that Linux is not innovative, according to an article on technology news site VNUNet this week.

"We all talk about how great Linux is," Agassi reportedly said. "But if you look at the most innovative desktop today, Microsoft's Vista is not copying Linux, it is copying Apple."

SAP will not make its software open source as it would no longer have an incentive to innovate, Agassi said.

"Intellectual property [IP] socialism is the worst that can happen to any IP-based society," he said. "And we are an IP-based society. If there is no way to protect IP, there is no reason to invest in IP." ...

SAP is not the first company to claim that open source development is not compatible with capitalism. In an interview earlier this year, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) chairman Bill Gates implied that free software developers were communists.

While we shall refrain from using the heated words socialism or communism, we must admit that we can draw parallels from the words used to defend IP patents above and the debate between drug patents and drug costs.

We are very much excited about the potential for large decentralized communities to piece by piece develop brilliant solutions more efficiently than smaller, more rigid organizations. Still, we'd like to remind ourselves that the open source software argument could be extended to drug development and once it reaches that point we'd be against removing drug patents (without getting into the moral debate for/against drug patents in terms of accessibility of service for those immediately in need). What's the difference?

Perhaps at some point a solution becomes so complex and in need of maintenance that we need guarantees as to its ability to act effectively and sustain itself as well. Someone needs to be accountable. Maybe its even worth paying a premium to a patent holder for this accountability.

Thus for example, maybe a massive company just prefers to have the word of SAP backing up its systems. When something goes wrong it knows who to hang, which means hopefully that SAP is extremely careful to maintain its service quality.

We admit to still sitting on the fence here, we haven't seen enough different viewpoints on the issue. While we're sure there are much larger debates on open source going on elsewhere, any comments or links are welcome.