Gartner: Most commercial apps to embed open source by '12

The future apparently includes the heavy adoption of open source at the core of commercial software so developers can focus on pushing the envelope on innovation.

Gartner has made 10 technology predictions for the next few years, and in the analyst firm's view, life has never been better for open source.

Among the predictions: Apple will double its market share by 2011 and software-as-service will account for at least one-third of all business software spending by 2012.

But it was open source's gain that I found most interesting. Gartner doesn't speculate on how much open-source vendors will make or anything like that. Rather, Gartner talks about how much open-source code will make it into those bastions of proprietary, so-called "commercial software":

By 2012, 80 percent of all commercial software will include elements of open-source technology. Many open-source technologies are mature, stable and well supported. They provide significant opportunities for vendors and users to lower their total cost of ownership and increase returns on investment.

Ignoring this will put companies at a serious competitive disadvantage. Embedded open source strategies will become the minimal level of investment that most large software vendors will find necessary to maintain competitive advantages during the next five years.

Let's be clear. We're talking about Microsoft Windows...Oracle databases...SAP's ERP suite...and so on. Many of these companies already embed open source in their products but don't like to admit it (in Microsoft's case) or make noise about it. Market pressures will force them to stop pretending to be the source of all innovation and to "outsource" ever-growing amounts of their R&D resources to mining the best open source has to offer.

I can speak from experience that building on open-source technologies truly does lower the cost of development. Alfresco--the company I work for--went from zero lines of code to a product that had several Fortune 500 customers in just six months. We were able to leverage the strength of open-source projects like Spring, Lucene, and OpenOffice.

This is what the future looks like: heavy adoption of open source at the core of commercial software so developers can focus on pushing the envelope on innovation, not reinventing wheels that provide no discernible differentiation.

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