I just saw an interesting article on Cnet about Obama collecting information on open source software. I agree with the author, Matt, in that a mandate would be somewhat inappropriate. However, I am very disappointed in another aspect of McNealy’s quote.

Sure, if we manage to save some money in the US by operating on open source software, that’s great. The thing is, if we spend more money by switching to open source software, it’s still the right thing to do for many other reasons. I hope that McNealy did not make his entire argument entirely based on economics. More to the point, I hope Obama is actually interested in understanding what the open source initiative is really about.

Our existing industry based on closed technology is hurting us. It keeps us from innovating as quickly as we could be. We should be sharing ideas with each other instead of creating laws that explicitly hold back the proliferation of an idea. I remember Lessig talking about the origin of copyright law in the US and how it was originally meant to be a very short term monopoly on an idea with the strict intent of spawning innovation.

With a short window, you have to move on an idea quickly if you’re going to benefit. But in our world today, there are family members separated from inventors by generations who are still collecting on patents and copyrights they had absolutely no involvement in. This is wrong. This does not encourage a prosperous America.

Our world is changing and our country is changing. The way we think is changing. Look as this map of tweets. Watch it all the way through and you see the rhythm of a single idea flowing through the minds spread over the entire world. A social and human component is becoming tied closely to the strength of technology and it’s bringing us all together. It’s happening so fast that it’s hard to know what’s next.

Call me crazy… because I am. But I think that where we’re going, we won’t need commercial software any more.

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