Does open source GIS provide a realistic alternative to expensive proprietary GIS?
After the personal computer became available the cost of implementing GIS applications fell dramatically. A number of academic institutions produced programs which could be run on the windows operating system. These were then developed by former students into software solutions for a host of different organisations needing a diverse set of requirements. Most of these GIS systems were developed as proprietary solutions with the authors retaining control over the source code of the solution. The cost of these proprietary GIS software systems, which ran on personal computers, were significantly lower than their mainframe equivalents. However, organisations still had to invest thousand pounds to acquire the software application. Cost has therefore always been an inhibiting factor in the wide spread adoption of GIS both for organisations and individuals.
Open source software is provided by a team of enthusiasts who develop software without needing to produce a profit for shareholders. Because the source code is freely available anyone can modify it and enhance the code for the benefit of all users of the software. Many large and small organisations currently use a variety of open source software programs which have been developed for the benefit of the open source community. These programs are often developed in the first place by academic institutions with government or other types of funding and are therefore of a high standard. The level of functionality available within open source software such as Quantum GIS now allows organisations to either supplement or replace proprietary GIS software within their organisations without consideration for potential budgetary constraints.
So in conclusion many large and small organisations are finding open source solutions, like Quantum GIS, do meet all their needs. Because of this there is no doubt that Quantum GIS is growing in popularity as it develops as a viable alternative GIS solution to proprietary software.