We all remember Gulliver's Travels. But can you remember why the Lilliputians were at war and had been for as long as anyone could recall? It was the result of an argument over which end of a boiled egg should be opened and eaten first, the big end or the small end?
For over three years, I've been observing the progress of the open-source software movement and Microsoft's reaction to its challenge. Most of the time, it has been like watching two dogs barking at each other across a fence. There's a great deal of noise but very little in the way of useful, sensible debate - the kind of thing which allows an IT director to consider the various arguments in a single, well-reasoned package and act accordingly.
Like the egg wrangle in Gulliver's Travels, the open-source versus proprietary software debate, has descended into the realms of emotional or political point scoring. The real issues are soon forgotten and we are left with an unhelpful caricature of the original argument - Tux the cuddly Linux penguin versus the great Seattle Satan.
To make matters worse, the two camps have adopted an "apples and oranges" approach. In the same way that Americans insist on talking about Iraq, while the Arab world would rather resolve the Palestinian problem first.
What are the facts? Is this just a simple strategic choice between Microsoft and Linux?
One of the two presents a greater security risk to business, costs more money in the long-term and from a developer perspective is environmentally unfriendly. But which one? Do you really know? Or are you caught in the middle of a propaganda war that has left the truth scattered in a muddy no-man's land between two colliding ideologies.
The existence of the open-source debate is good for the IT industry and should be good for business. However, it needs to remain a debate and not degenerate into a playground slanging match that leaves business wondering whether last month's security alerts are a defining metric in an argument that is increasingly losing its way.
If 2002 started with a demand for Trustworthy Computing then perhaps 2003 should be the year that introduces the concept of intelligent computing or at the very least, intelligent and well-reasoned argument?
From a computing perspective, it's what lies at the middle of the egg that's important and how you arrive there is simply a matter of preference.
What's your view? Is the open source versus Microsoft debate generating more heat than light? Tell us in an e-mail >> CW360.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.
Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.
This was first published in December 2002