> While I agree that Mathematica could be improved, I think it is pretty > speculative to say that it would be better if Mathematica were free and > open source. I'm in favor of paying programmers and mathematicians. I > doubt that you get the best results from students who have to deliver > pizzas in the evenings to pay their rent.
I can see your point here, but I believe the biggest advantage of free software (as in free speech) is that everyone who _needs_ an improvement _for him/herself_ is free, if he or she is able, to develop and add the code that make an application better or more useful. It does not take anything away from you: if you are able and willing to perfectionate the code to suit your own purpose, you are free to do it. If you have the money to pay someone who can do that for you, you can let them do it (in this way they could quit that pizza delivering job).
With closed source software you are only free to beg the source owner to do that for you, possibly for a fee (or the cost of an upgrade). And if he/she does not feel like doing it, you're stuck. I guess there are a 'long liver' bugs in Mathematica, too.
Perhaps complex software must reach a critical mass before going open and free. In this way the original developer can be rewarded for their skills and dedication during the commercial phase. From the 'now it's free' point on, the software can benefit from the contributes of the skilled users. I guess that's what happens when patents expire.