Service-Based Software Paradigm Touted

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA (07/19/2000) - An Apple Computer Inc. pioneer now at an open source software company predicted Wednesday that a services-based software paradigm will replace the current practice of buying proprietary software and waiting for upgrades.

In 10 years, people will not believe that businesses were once staked on software code that they could not control, said Andy Hertzfeld, a former Apple designer and a founder of Mountain View, Calif.-based Eazel, which provides subscription-based system management and file management services.

Hertzfeld was the keynote speaker at the O'Reilly & Associates Inc. Open Software Convention here on Wednesday morning. The conference drew 1,900 people, with many interrupting the presentation to applaud Hertzfeld's call for open source, free software solutions.

Hertzfeld hailed the open software movement and services-based software usage, in which users access software services off of networks instead of buying software products as they currently do under a product model. "This product model requires upgrades to get improvements," he noted.

"[The product model] leads to the feature bloat that we've seen," with users getting 10 features they do not need for every one that they do, Hertzfeld said.

Open source software leads to innovation, he stressed.

"You can't innovate when [code] is owned by proprietary interests," Hertzfeld said. "When the code is open, it's the code that wins."

Conference attendees agreed with Hertzfeld's speech.

Aaron Young, a software developer at Citadel Investment Group, in Chicago, said he liked Hertzfeld's software-as-services plan.

"In order to sell upgrades, you kind of have a few bugs [in the existing release]. Something like a subscription-based service seems OK to me," Young said. "You have people adding in things that you want, and of course, software is a service."

Young said his company's own open source deployment includes Perl scripts but not the Linux OS, having invested already in Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris and Microsoft Corp. Windows.

Another attendee, Jon Voortman, a research assistant at Penn State University, in University Park, Pa., also applauded open source software.

"I'm happy just [because of] the sheer fact that [if] things are open source, it will get rid of monopolies," Voortman said.

Software companies have no incentive to fix bugs, but with open source, the developer community fixes the bugs encountered, Voortman said.

Hertzfeld stressed that for open source software to succeed, non-technical users have to be drawn into the fold.

"Open source has to learn how to make programs easy to use for non-technical users," Hertzfeld said.

Reflecting on his early days at Apple, Hertzfeld praised that company's founder, Steve Wozniak, for toying with early copy protection schemes and seeking workarounds. Copy protection, which prevented users from copying the software, put software companies in an adversarial relationship with their own customers, Hertzfeld contended.

Hertzfeld panned Microsoft and its software upgrade-based business model, and questioned its new Microsoft.NET initiative, which calls for selling software as services. He called it "too vague to evaluate."

"How does Microsoft make their money off this thing, which [is something] they haven't articulated," Hertzfeld said. If Microsoft earns $10 billion annually now, they will want to double that with any new software plan, said Hertzfeld.

Hertzfeld also stressed that the Mozilla open source browser project is crucial, to ensure that browser standards stay free.

Also at the conference, Sun Microsystems announced its Star Office 6.0 office suite will be offered under a general public license in October. Also, open, XML-based formats and APIs are to be established for the product.

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