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From an investment research perspective, the term "open source software" refers primarily to a set of terms and conditions associated with the software's license. There are dozens of such licenses but those designated Open Source Initiative (OSI)-compliant meet a set of 10 characteristics outlined on the group's web site that capsulize the open source philosophy.
The term "open source" derives from the fact that the software's source code is at least available and in fact ususally distributed with the executable code (the normal way of distributing software). Per one of the typical terms and conditions in an OSI-compliant license, the software can be (1.) "freely" changed and (2.) somewhat freely redistributed (depending on which open source license is used).
Open source software is not the same as free software and the term free software does not necessarily mean available "at no charge." There is free software that is not open source and vice versa. See the Free Software Foundation (FSF) web site (fsf.org) for more details. This issue is less relevant to investment research because very few public companies embrace the FSF philosophy.
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Because the source code for open source software is transparent and built in part by volunteers, enterprise IT planners have been hesitant to use it fearing security issues and a lack of support if the software experiences problems. Thus, companies with large IT departments and in-house developers that can fix internal problems on their own are generally the early adopters of open-source. Companies like Red Hat (RHT) and Novell (NOVL), because they guarantee support for their Linux solutions, are slowly but surely convincing wary enterprises to take the open source plunge. Trust in the security and stability of open source software continues to improve.
Dealing with proprietary software vendors can expose users to "vendor lock-in", where all their infrastructure is dependent on that vendor. The vendor can then exploit this condition to increase their profits, or the vendor might simply stop supporting a particular piece of infrastructure without leaving any clear migration plan. Open-source software provides some cushion against this, because in the worst case a company can hire people to maintain the software or to assist in migration (without compromising any intellectual property restrictions on a proprietary vendor's software). This cushion should not be overstated, though; it's expensive to hire people to maintain software like that and the company is seldom able to defray these costs by reselling the work. Small companies can ill afford this expense; large companies may have enough pull with the software vendor to begin with that they don't get in such a situation.
Some companies may maintain a stake in open-source software infrastructure just to have a better negotiating position with a proprietary software vendor.
Comment received via email:This aallctuy an excellent exercise for this trader in training. So, here is my dollar's worth.I would say almost everything we humans do involves some form of trading . Whether we traded sea shells for magic spells, or apples for oranges, etc. Today most of us work 8 hours a day in exchange for some weekly salary or wage that is a trade of skills/labour in exchange for some agreed upon monetary amount, which is an auction, but also an investment.I don't think there is much difference between trading and investing . They're both require to varying degrees speculation, risk, experience, capital and investments in equipment, knowledge, skill, time, etc. Trading requires an investment of some sort and investing requires some form of trade . They, in my mind are not mutually exclusive or one better than the other, regardless of time frame . It's really just a matter of personal preference and ability.According to the definition of investing, to put (money) to use, by purchase or expenditure, in something offering potential profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value , trading is a form of investing.If there is a difference, I think it is more a matter of perception of trading not being investing because there seems to be a general perception that all trading is day trading short term and thus gambling , to the exclusion of swing mid term and position long term trading. The perception of Investing for most is, from my experience, a matter of buy and hold for the long term. I believe investing can also be gambling.Gamblers, speculate based on very little basis of skill, probabilities, experience, knowledge, practice, etc. That is, they don't really know what they're doing, they just role the dice , taking a chance that they'll eventually win.I would also venture to say, that long term investing is aallctuy much more speculative and risky than short term trading. The further out in time one goes, the more things one has to consider, the more complex things get and the harder it gets to forecast or predict what the probable scenarios could be, and the more time it takes to see the results and the less time available (assuming one is going to eventually die) to recover from bad results. One only needs to consider one term: geopolitics to get the drift of that.Every bubble, whether housing or equities, etc. was fueled by investors speculating on nothing more than chance, and very, very little knowledge, skill, experience, research, etc. behind their Investment . Nobody ever calls it for what most retail investors do gamble, because that just doesn't sell very well and that is certainly not what most retail investors believe they are doing. At the other end of the retail investors trade is a skilled, trained, well equipped and experienced professional trader/investor . The probabilities are overwhelming in favor of the professional, yet the retail investor thinks s/he is playing at the same level. Result; at minimum 95% of retail investors lose, usually by an unrecoverable amount.Whether one is a trader or investor , or any other human endeavor for that matter; to have any measure of success, one must acquire the skills, experience, knowledge, practice, study, research, work, continuously learn, and understand and control risk, etc. Life itself is subject to all of the above.I am not yet a professional trader, but at least I have an idea of the difference and have no delusions of my probabilities of success if I don't acquire what is necessary to succeed. The real distinction for me is whether one is a professional speculator or an amateur gambler whether one calls one self a trader or investor.