The Comingled Code

Josh Lerner, Mark Schankerman

Published by

MIT Press

ISBN

978-0-262-01463-2

RRP

£25.95

Reviewed by

Stephen Gibney MBCS CITP

Score

8 out of 10

The Comingled CodeThe book investigates the economic impact of open source software by reviewing economic principles and the effect on economic development, reference to specific case studies and also by implementing a large survey of software users and developers. The intention is to add some facts around the open source versus proprietary software argument.

The book is well-written and presents many complex economic ideas in a format that is understandable to the lay person.

The first three chapters introduce the reader to the role of software in economies throughout the world and to the interesting summary chapter ‘The History of Open Source’.

Chapters 4 and 5 go into great detail about who produces and who uses open source and proprietary software and relates heavily to the large survey that was carried out.

I confess much of the detailed statistical analysis was hard-going, however the summary at the end of each section was useful in understanding what information could and could not be gathered from the data collected.

The key points I took away were that both types of software are complementary and that total cost of ownership is not primarily software purchase cost.

Chapter 6 describes the economic effects government policy could have with respect to proprietary and open source software, focussing on some of the key arguments for and against open software.

The importance of education about and not enforcement of software choice was highlighted as well as the need for government policy to encourage innovation and competition. A key point was also the role of government policy to strongly encourage the adoption of open standards.

The final chapter highlights the key ‘takeaways’ from the earlier discussions.

Overall, the book makes factual statements about the open source discussion and looks to be objective in the conclusions made. The book is also well priced at £25.95.

Further Information: MIT Press

May 2011