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IM1x 141 Open systems Open source en

1.4.- Open systems. Open source
1.4.1.- Open systems. Open source
Hello, welcome back. In previous videos we have discussed the choice faced by management
regarding how to source their MISs: either bespoke development or purchasing a license to
use off-the-shelf packages from software vendors. For companies that decide to adopt
packages, however, there is an alternative to acquiring a license for a commercial package:
implement an Open Source package. Similarly, whenever software tools and products have
to be implemented, ranging from office tools to operating systems or database management
systems, companies can choose between licensing commercial products and adopting Open
Source versions.
Open Source software products, including Open Source MISs, are generally developed by a
large, dispersed group of programmers. As opposed to commercial software, generally
developed by a company and licensed for a fee, Open Source is free for anyone to use.
Besides being free, it can be modified by whoever wants to. The name “Open Source”
derives from the fact that its “Source code” is “Open”, in the sense that anyone can see it
and change it.
The “Source code” of a software product, such as a MIS, is the code programmer actually
write, in whichever programming language they use. It is, therefore, “understandable” and
“modifiable” by another, similarly skilled programmer. Open source licenses grant users the
right to freely utilize and modify this code. If they impose conditions, they are generally
aimed at promoting further sharing; for example, by requesting that any modifications are
also openly distributed.
In contrast, when a company acquires a license to a commercial product, often it does not
get the source code, but rather a compiled code, a sort of “black box” that can be executed
but is very hard to understand or modify. Besides, the terms of the commercial license usually
forbid any attempt to tamper with the code or reverse-engineer the compiled code to reconstruct the source code.
MS Windows© would be an example of a commercial operating system; Linux is the bestknown example of open source operating system. Microsoft Office© tools, such as Excel©,
are commercial products; the Apache Open Office is a competing open source office suite.
Nowadays Open Source alternatives exist for nearly all software products, including MISs.
Later on in this course we shall analyze Odoo, an Open Source ERP or integrated MIS that
provides an alternative to commercial products, such as SAP ERP©, particularly for small
According to the Open Source Initiative, “Open source software is software developed by
and for the user community. It is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in
modified or unmodified form) by anyone. Open source software is made by many people,
and distributed under licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition.” They suggest
that nowadays the term "open source" has taken on a wider meaning. It is associated with a
set of values, the “open source way”, such as open exchange, collaborative participation,
transparency and community development.
Since the word “Open” elicits positive traits such as “easy to work with”, “No lock-in”,
“non-proprietary”, the term is often abused, to a point in which all software vendors claim
that their proprietary products are the most “Open” in the market. They may have a point
regarding their ability to interact, coexist and cooperate with products from other providers,
but certainly this should not be confused with the much more stringent definition of Open
Source Software.
This Open Source Development idea has spread to other environments besides software,
providing for “universal access via a free license to a product's design or blueprint, and
universal redistribution of that design or blueprint, including subsequent improvements to it
by anyone”.
Thus, to recap, besides developing software from scratch, which will normally be quite
expensive, or buying a license for a pre-written commercial off-the-shelf product, companies
might choose to select an Open Source alternative, and, if appropriate, adapt it to their
specific circumstances.
Hopefully the set of introductory concepts covered this first week have paved the way for
the more in-depth analysis that we shall carry out in the forthcoming weeks. Let us now
move on to review all these concepts by practicing with a few questions. Thank you, I will
see you next week.