Maybe it will be true if all proprietary vendors hold hands and wish it so

The International Herald Tribune tries to make the case that open source as a business is a long, tough slog. But reality is not kind to the IHT's position.

I stumbled across this article in the International Herald Tribune today and was shocked by how off such an otherwise reputable publication could be. The general tone of the article was that open source is struggling to grow. I'm not sure how 100 percent year-over-year growth for the prominent commercial open-source start-ups connotes "struggling," but....

On one hand, open-source developers are continuing to struggle to find ways to make money from open-source software, most of which is given away.

But the only way to do so is to work closely with their biggest rivals--proprietary software makers like International Business Machines, Microsoft, SAP, Cisco and Oracle--which also have an interest in limiting erosion to their own sales.

Since when? We have a host of open-source companies jockeying to be first out the IPO gate after MySQL. We have revenues that our proprietary cousins would salivate for at a similar stage in corporate existence (and it just keeps getting easier to sell open source). There's a very good reason more and more venture money pours into open source, and why every large enterprise is actively trying to figure out how to get more involved with open source (EMC being the latest to pledge its allegiance to the open-source flag). There's no shortage of money in open source.

And who decided that the best way to grow was by setting up joint shop with the very companies that would most like to see open source fail? Interoperability is good, but kowtowing to the incumbents is a recipe for stagnation, not growth.

In fact, my company, Alfresco Software, has been gathering research on this very topic, and all the data skews the other way: open-source applications tend to go into production with open-source infrastructure. (I'll be blogging the data in the next few weeks.)

In the meantime, I guess open source is just going to have to settle for $35.7 billion worth of servers and desktop computers delivered with open source by 2008 (according to the European Commission's 2006 report) and $1.8 billion in direct revenues in 2006 (growing 26 percent each year through 2011, according to IDC). Smart money bets on outstanding growth trajectories and the associated upside. In other words, on open source. Perhaps the International Herald Tribune would have had a more balanced view had it taken the time to talk more than one company in the open-source world.

That's OK. Customers are the ones voting here.

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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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