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The tech industry's top obsessions

This blog talks a lot about open source, but most people actually aren't that fixated on open-source issues. They care what the big vendors are doing.

Readers of this blog care deeply, madly, passionately about open source. But if this blog's traffic data is any indication, readers of this blog care even more about Apple, Google, and Microsoft. In fact, most of the planet, as measured by Google Trends, cares more about what Apple is doing on a given day than what business model MySQL has adopted:

Search volume for Open Source, Google, Microsoft, and Apple Google Trends

On this blog, MySQL and Ubuntu make an appearance in the top-25 most read stories, but Microsoft, Apple, and Google dominate the most-read stories, despite constituting a relatively small number of my total posts.

I note this data only to remind everyone, myself included, to take ourselves a little less seriously. It's not that open source isn't critically important, because it is: It is the heart of computing going forward. But our petty controversies are just that: Petty. The stakes are pretty small, given that open source is being woven into the fabric of software's future, even within these giant software vendors, regardless of our squabbles.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft largely determine the shape of the technology industry today, perhaps in large part because they are the primary IT providers to the average consumer. Anything we do to influence greater adoption of open source within these giants will go farther than any small things we do on our own.

A Google that openly embraces open source would be far more important to the health of the open-source marketplace than a few startups' choice of business model.

Real interoperability from Microsoft on open and transparent terms will do more to determine the future of the desktop and cloud/desktop computing than anything Ubuntu will do. We should be working with Microsoft to provide compelling, corporate reasons to open up. In this, Eben Moglen's behind-the-scenes work with Redmond is more important than any petition or blog post decrying the software giant.

As for Apple, I have no idea what can be done with Apple. It uses a lot of open source, but is a little less adept at contributing back. Coming up with a way for Apple to foster an industry filled with open-source add-ons for its iconic products might well be a start.

These are the game-changing companies of the 21st Century. Even mighty Oracle and IBM (and Salesforce.com) barely show up on a Google Trends chart with Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Those who want open source to win should invest more time working with these giants, and less time in internecine, not-so-civil war.