So, if all software should be free and open source, who is going to write this code? One argument is that the dentist, or a group of dentists, should underwrite the production of the code. But dentistry, like most things in western society, tends to be a for-profit competitive enterprise. If everyone gets the benefit of the software (since it’s FOSS), but a smaller group pays for it, the rest of the dentists get a competitive advantage. So there is no incentive for a subset of the group to fund the effort.
Another variant is to propose that the software will be developed and given away, and the developers will make their living by charging for support. Leaving alone the cynical idea that this would be a powerful incentive to write hard-to-use software, it also suffers from a couple of major problems. To begin with, software this complex might take a team of 10 people one or more years to produce. Unless they are independently wealthy, or already have a pipeline of supported projects, there’s no way they will be able to pay for food (and college!) while they create the initial product.
We’ve been on the side of open source for a long time here at MMM. From Bible+ to Katana to Biblia to Door43, we are extremely supportive of those persons and organizations who see a need for transparent development, free/low-cost applications and content, and the communities that develop from such efforts. We’ve also been on the side of projects that started with a boom but are nothing more than a whimper (for example, Katana). Starting a project with the idea that it will be open source assumes a lot – and unless you are Google-like (Android was purchased by them and then made open source). You’ve got to have certain ducks in a row, and unfortunately, finances and impact are the major ones where some open source projects fail.
But, there’s a place for going open source after a time. Are there Bible reader applications who have been in a maintenance mode, or are large enough that a critical mass of interested developers, designers, etc. would fill in some of the blanks such as platform support, languages, and reach? Probably. Yet only a few fall into this category – not to mention the fun of the content rights in this domain. It is an answer, and one that could afford to be better explored.
That only makes open source part of the answer. And as the Radar article is really trying to bring into the discussion, just because something is open source doesn’t mean its free to develop, support, or market. There are always costs, and somewhere, someone pays for this. This could be from donors, this could be from fans. But, it has to be a large enough group that open source ‘X’ makes sense over something that isn’t. When that’s not the case, open source is no more a correct answer than ‘C’ on a true/false test.