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Open-source companies log impressive growth

A few first-quarter data points, from organizations and products ranging from Funambol to Sourcefire to Firefox, suggest that open source is shining even amid a cloudy economy.

Even as the global economy tanks, open-source companies continue to soar. A range of open-source companies reported sales and community growth this past week, including:

  • Funambol: As announced on its Web site, Funambol's mobile open-source community has grown 2,000 percent, downloads are up 34 percent, and the number of active Funambol servers is up 42 percent in the past three months alone.
  • Actuate: While business intelligence vendor Actuate's overall license revenues grew 15 percent last quarter, its BIRT (i.e., open source) revenue grew 32 percent.
  • Linux Desktop: While there's no one company behind Linux for personal computers, it's significant that Linux just broke through to 1.02 percent market share for personal computers, the first time it has ever risen that high, according to data compiled by Net Applications. (Meanwhile, even in beta, Windows 7 continues its march, now hitting .25 percent market share.)
  • Red Hat: Despite a bruising economy, Red Hat has been on a hiring binge, adding 600 employees to its now 2,800-strong workforce. The company isn't stopping there, noting in SEC filings that it plans to continue to add to its headcount in 2009.
  • Sourcefire: Albeit quiet for the past year, Sourcefire has been keeping busy, increasing year-over-year first-quarter revenues to $18.6 million, a 36 percent gain.
  • Firefox: According to Net Applications data, Firefox continues to gain market share at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, rising to 22.48 percent market share in April. Google's open-source Chrome browser also grew to 1.42 percent, while IE tumbled to 66.10 percent, a drop of more than 1.5 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

In other words, it's a great time to be in the open-source market. I advise more than 10 open-source companies, and I'm not aware of a single one that is seeing anything other than growth through the downturn.

This is the right time for open source: a time when enterprises care more about the right functionality at a compelling price than clinging to 20th-century brand names whose idea of CIO value seems to be the software audit.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.