Between the two
Without prejudice, I was asked what is the fundamental difference between proprietary GIS and OSS GIS? I replied the key difference was that OSS GIS is free. Next, I was asked how I solve the problem of user support in OSS GIS as in proprietary GIS? I replied that firstly, it does not exist in OSS GIS but users can get it free at forums and mailing list. However, if they were willing to pay for it, they could employ a consultant. So it was debated that OSS GIS is not free after all in the true sense of the word "GIS". I argued that, on the other hand, updates and plugins are perpetually free under OSS GIS and since I could not come to a monetary figure to this, I said let's make that equal. That was a strong argument in favour of OSS GIS so that point was amicably agreed upon. I pointed out the strong points in favour of proprietary GIS is that some specialized modules may be readily available which may not be available under OSS GIS. If such modules were required immediately to carry out a specifc task, then it only justifies to acquire that proprietary GIS, how else does one expect to do the job? If on the other hand, since different users have different needs, if a particular user's GIS requirement can be fulfilled merely by utilizing an OSS GIS, if necessary, importing specific modules from another OSS GIS exemplified by QGIS borrowing from GRASS GIS, then it would be more logical to invest in OSS GIS. From a financial point-of-view, I argue that with the after-sales support issue being contra-ed by the perpetually free updates and free plugins, the proprietary GIS software still had to be purchased. I argued that in the case of OSS GIS that cost could be translated into opportunity gain, for example, in the form of the purchase of 3 desktop computers where if in an office, certain work, up to now, could only be carried out on one computer, could now be shared amongst 3 persons since the office now owns 3 computers. Translate that into office productivity, it implies that work productivity now increased by 300% and the time it took to complete that task would be substantially reduced. Training staff in IT could also improve correspondingly because there are more IT infrastructure. The point I wanted to stress was that to appreciate OSS GIS, comparative benefits between proprietary GIS and OSS GIS must be seen from a more wider perspective or else you lose out on a lot of the benefits that OSS GIS can tag on. It was also pointed out that sometimes proprietary GIS was more preferred because to secure a contract the client demanded a specific proprietary GIS. Yes, true but I argued that it did not stop the firm to recommend to the client how he could make future saving if he too used OSS GIS as it did not impose any cost, I am sure the client would be only to glad to here such advice and that could further strengthen business ties for the future. I said if you force your mind to work only under a specific scenario (proprietary GIS) because you wanted it so, you may eventually lose out in the long run to other competitors when other scenarios (OSS GIS) are so modular and adaptable to change and different situations.