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A quasi-comprehensive look at open source in 2007: Part 1

A look back at the top stories of 2007 vis-a-vis open source.

Every time I think open source can't make inroads any faster, it does. Every time I suspect that we've hit a plateau, we haven't. Every time I think I can't be any more surprised by the proprietary world's response to open source, I am.

Such was 2007, a year when open source became more than a marketing buzzword/phrase. Starting in January (and ending, oddly enough, in December :-), here are the top stories that caught my eye in the first half of 2007. I think you, like I, will be shocked by just how much happened in 2007.




  • March kicked off with a raging, somewhat pointless discussion in the blogosphere about what constitutes an open-source company. I fought that battle hard as Chief Pointlessness Officer. I think I won. Which maybe means I lost. Not sure.

  • Novell started the year with somewhat tepid performance in its Linux business. Microsoft seemed to be a wasted lifeline. By the end of the year, however, the strategy seemed to be working much better and its quarterly results improved dramatically.

  • Openbravo, an open-source ERP vendor (Disclosure: I am an advisor to the company), got off to a rocking start to 2007 with downloads, sales, and partnerships on the upswing. It and several other open-source applications companies continued to demonstrate that open source is much more than Linux.

  • Sourcefire goes public [PDF], providing the third example that open-source companies can scale to IPO-esque proportions.

  • Will Hurley joins BMC, demonstrating that even stodgy old software companies can get new, open-source blood. Will promptly starts an IT management love-fest with his competitors but also takes a few swipes. A refreshing approach to an otherwise staid industry.

  • Linux desktop growth jumps from 10.5% in 2004 to 20.8% in 2006, according to IDC. Microsoft stifles a yawn as the numbers mean that both Bob and Fred installed Linux on their home machines. Meanwhile, Mac adoption goes on a torrid growth boom of its own.

  • Red Hat launches its Red Hat Exchange (RHX), a one-stop shop for SMBs to source open-source applications running Red Hat Enterprise Linux. RHX is maligned for not being open to competing vendors and many question its viability. Over the year, Red Hat morphs RHX into a platform for selling open-source solutions (and some not-so-open-source-solutions) to companies of all sizes. This change finally makes RHX start to hum.

  • Microsoft starts to reveal just how ambitious are its plans for Sharepoint, dubbing it its next great operating system. The open-source world largely (and unwisely) ignores the Sharepoint threat.

  • People try to figure out GPLv3 in anticipation for its release, but few succeed. I certainly didn't.

  • Ian Murdock of Debian fame heads to Sun Microsystems to inject new life into its Solaris initiatives.

  • Oracle announces some quality customers for its Unbreakable Linux, but the real news is just how strong its overall business is. IBM and Microsoft spent much of 2007 wondering what to do about Oracle's rising power.

  • Novell tries to play Jekyll and Hyde with Linux. "It's good. No, it's bad! It's not that bad! It's not that good!!" goes the argument as it tries to settle on a winning marketing strategy for its patent agreement with Microsoft. It's tough to play both sides of the debate....Novell, for its part, gets tired of me talking about the patent deal. Open questions abound as to who benefits from the deal: Microsoft or Linux?

  • 40% of developers surveyed by Evans Data Group reported using MySQL. When does a non-threat to Oracle become a threat?

  • The Linux Foundation manages to elect a board of directors that only has one member of the open-source development community. How representative!

  • GPLv3 was released to much fanfare but completely misses the opportunity to close the "ASP Loophole," the one major thing that it should have rectified. As a result, while adoption is solid, the Free Software Foundation failed to provide a 21st-century license to 21st-century development concerns.




That's the first half of the year. I'll report on the second half shortly.