Open Source software is the software establishment!

It can be amusing when news articles or blogs are written about a report/study that has only been released or read in excerpt. Small snippets can be extremely controversial on their own, and are easily taken out of the context of the gestalt article.

Such has been the case with the announcement of the Standish Group’s report, titled ‘Trends in Open Source‘. The report is available in full to Standish subscribers, or for a fee of $US 1,000 per copy. Standish themselves chose to drum-up publicity in a press release two and a half weeks ago:

Open Source software is raising havoc throughout the software market. It is the ultimate in disruptive technology, and while to it is only 6% of estimated trillion dollars IT budgeted annually, it represents a real loss of $60 billion in annual revenues to software companies.

Some commentators pounced on this in defence of FOSS, and in doing so played right into Standish’s hands. A week later, other reports chose to focus on the technical perceptions of FOSS solutions, in particular security. Some of these articles basically said, “we haven’t been able to read the full report, but this is what we’ve been told”.

More informed accounts have hit the virtual presses in recent days, and it’s been revealed that the report is very positive overall with regards to FOSS. When iTnews asked me for comment, I was assured that the report had been thoroughly read. I said a lot of things, but the quotation that made the final cut is the following:

FOSS is inherently compatible with a free market, and hence with business. There is no closed-off ‘command economy’ that is characterised by proprietary software companies. The software and its development are totally open to the world.

Following the interview, I tried to distil some key points about FOSS:

  • The keys are transparency and accountability, as well as freedom over your own information and independence from vendor lock-in.
  • Most FOSS is based on open standards, which means that users/companies are not tying their data/processes to one vendor or piece of software. Some might be wary of FOSS, but I don’t think anyone can argue against the merits of open standards.
  • There is plenty of FOSS that works well on proprietary platforms (like Windows). There is no inherent tie-in with Linux.
  • FOSS has been most successful where it isn’t noticed. This can be in embedded devices, or in popular desktop applications like Firefox and OpenOffice.org.
  • Most people might think of a ‘computer’ as a desktop computer, but most of ICT (and ICT growth) is actually elsewhere (servers, consumer electronics, mobile phones, telecoms, embedded, supercomputers, etc.). Linux and FOSS is far more popular in these fields.
  • Most of the Internet is based on FOSS and open standards built around FOSS. For instance, TCP/IP networking was built for BSD UNIX (which is open source), and the majority of Web servers run the open source Apache web server.

Obviously there are more points than these, but I deliberately kept this as a quick ‘off the top of my head’ exercise as a means of preventing it from growing into an encyclopaedic tome.

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