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 Open​Of​fice​.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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