The Ballad of Billy and Pat

In his poem, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Michael Ondaatje tells us that Billy the Kid was a bad man with some good in him, and that Pat Garrett, Billy’s nemesis, was a good man with some bad in him.

Like many people, you may equate proprietary software with Billy the Kid (bad, but not completely), and open-source software with Pat Garrett (good, but with drawbacks). Unless, of course, you’re one of the many people who think the exact opposite.

The point is, almost no one believes that either proprietary or open source is the solution for everything. Both approaches have their merits — and tradeoffs.

All fine and good, but choosing between the two can be difficult. In the proprietary corner, you can leverage your vendor’s professional support services and quality management process. In most cases, you also get better development tools. In the open corner, on the other hand, you get faster bug fixes, greater self-sufficiency, and the power to bend and shape the software to your purposes.

It’s no wonder, then, that software vendors like QNX are moving to a middle ground that gives developers benefits of both approaches. At QNX, we call our approach the “hybrid software model,” and I recommend that you read Lawrence Rosen’s whitepaper on the topic. Rosen is the former legal counsel to the Open Source Initiative (INI) and he does a great job of explaining what the hybrid software model is and isn’t.

Billy the Kid on a bad hair day, and Pat Garrett on a good one.

Tags: open source, QNX

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