Europe the leader, not the follower in open source

Open source companies and governments in Europe should remain true to the spirit of open source, which is distinctively European.

Matthew Aslett of The 451 Group quotes from Viviane Reding, European commissioner for information and society, on Europe's need to capitalize on its open-source assets:

As online software, or software as a service, replaces traditional packaged software, Europe has advantages that give it a "window of opportunity to develop a leadership position in software." These include a large home base of demand to build on, high levels of qualified talent, and the fact that 70% of open source developers worldwide are of European origin. However, "the window is small and it will soon be closed if we don't act," since 90% of the economic benefits of open source are being won by US companies.

Despite this, as Matthew goes on to say, Europe is a bit conflicted on open source. Its public policy statements tend to be affirmative of open source, but its purchasing policies tend to be neutral. I think it's just a matter of time before the rhetoric gives way to purchasing decisions.

Indeed, I've already seen it firsthand. Most open-source companies operating in Europe do a steady and growing stream of business with European governments (while, interestingly, much of the sales in the US are to private corporations).

Regardless, open source has a large home base in Europe. Indeed, I'd argue that open source is distinctively European in its roots and mindset, and that VCs who want to find the best open-source investments may well have to get on a plane to find them (even if they ultimately succeed in getting European executive management to move back to the US, as with Marten Mickos of MySQL and others).

The economic impact of open source on Europe should not be understated. Europe needs to accept this and buy accordingly. Its future is not in exporting euros to the U.S. Its future lies in building its own IT ecosystem with open source.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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