I may not be an expert on the subject, but in the great debate of open source versus windows (notice I’m not saying Linux vs. Windows – although that’s got a lot to do with it) it only recently became truly evident to me why the latter is less likely to succeed
the profit motive is a powerful motivator, it induces a need to be competitive in your product to survive – this is lacking in OSS which causes a serious deviance away from that all important buy-in criteria – ‘user-friendliness’.
I recently set up a Linux VPS with WHM/cPanel and it became evident almost immediately why OSS systems suffer…
A while ago I was also running a Windows VPS with Plesk (a truly beautifull system), what was beautiful about it was that it enabled me to get my apps online fast and without massive concerns for the security of my system because of an improper server set up (a belief that was surely flawed, but nonetheless part of the experience). Compared to cPanel it was a dream.
A Linux VPS took forever to set up, with all kinds of obscure configurations to sort out before I could just get my machine to display a simple web page!
It’s a simple example, but it illustrates my point – a serious commercial application such as Plesk & Windows NT make a big deal about user-friendliness and simplicity, not surprisingly Apple does exactly the same thing – hiding complexity behind a veneer of polished design. Compare that to OSS applications and the frameworks they run on and it becomes increasingly obvious that they were built by programmers and engineers without much thought to UI design and ease-of-use (with the possible exception of Ubuntu, which is lovely – but again that has a profit motive attached).
Money is a motivator, competition is a motivator – and I am not decrying the OSS movement, but you simply get better applications surfacing when market forces destroy inferior products, with open source projects they just hang around until they aren’t supported anymore, but never really just go away.
Put quite simply, I think survival of the fittest is a good thing, and produces usable, friendly applications. OSS thrives on it’s variety, but it also does not necessarily inspire progress because it relies on passion and interest – once that fizzles out, you’re left with a dead duck…