IT predictions and the sneaky rise of open source

Open source is everywhere, but it's not dominating any IT markets. Perhaps this is because it feeds IT markets without requiring a price tag. Perhaps because we've misunderstood how to effectively monetize something that was never intended to be directl

Sometimes our beloved analysts get things dead-on...and sometimes their predictions as to where IT trends will take us are very, very off.

In an excellent article, ZDNet traces the non-demise of Windows and UNIX that analysts predicted, the continued dominance of Microsoft on the desktop (which was supposed to have been supplanted by open-source alternatives by now), and generally blisters our inability to predict the future with regard to open source. It's everywhere, yes, but without the expected dominance that was to come with ominpresence.

One thing it has brought us, however, and that is a significant shift in how all companies engage open source:

...[Apache, Firefox, and Samba] are token victories that mainly offer new options for home users and small businesses. No other open-source application has enjoyed anywhere near the massive commercial success of Linux through its creation of an entire services and support ecosystem.

Instead, they have served as game-changers - motivators to encourage for-profit vendors like IBM and Microsoft to up their game and offer extra value in their respective products.

Indeed, this decade, the success of Linux has created an imperative for companies of all types to be seen as being involved in "open source" - with a similar imperative to that created by "greenwashing", where companies portray themselves as being environmentally friendly or carbon neutral. This wave of change has been even more significant than sheer adoption numbers, since it has even pushed Microsoft to make concessions to interoperability such as its recent Office Open XML file format standardisation.

Very, very insightful. Perhaps it could be said that the past decade has been spent preparing the ground for a new century of open-source adoption, where open source is not the oddball cousin that crashes the proprietary party, but rather the adopted child that completely alters the "family's" make-up forever.

Perhaps, in other words, we have set the stage for open source to truly be everywhere, in every application, but likely not overtly so.

I mentioned yesterday that companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft get all the press, while open source remains in the background. This is true, but belies how critical open source has become to the constitution of these companies.

Take Apple, for example. Its operating system is open source at its core, as is the Safari browser. Could Apple live without open source? Sure. Has it chosen to live without open source? Not at all.

I'm beginning to wonder if a better open-source model is one that treats open source as a necessary, useful component of a service one sells, rather than the face of a product or service itself. In other words, I wonder if Tim O'Reilly was right, after all.

Again. :-)


Via LinuxToday.

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Tech Culture
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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