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Open for Business

December 27, 2010

Everyone’s getting into the prediction business, since it’s the end of the year.  I’m more random in my predictions, and I’m not having such a good hit rate for 2010 anyway, so I’ll just stick to picking on others’ predictions.  Here’s one from the Register that caught my eye this morning.

If 2010 was the year that taught open source “how to disappear completely,” 2011 will be the year we’re reminded that “anyone can play guitar”…or open source. At present, open source is de rigueur with the underdog class, those vendors seeking to challenge incumbents like Apple and Oracle.But open source will take center stage with industry leaders in 2011, as it already has in the mobile battlefield with Google’s Android, much to Apple’s chagrin. It’s not just about using open source to gain market share. It’s also a matter of using open source to keep regulators at bay. As Funambol CEO Fabrizio Capobianco rightly points out, open source saved mobile telecom operators from net neutrality regulations. The FCC decided that “meaningful recent moves toward openness” largely obviated the need for more regulation. That’s a message that even the stodgiest of proprietary players will want to mimic.

I’m a reasonable proponent of open source, and I’ve found that it can be useful when a particular player or other seems to get too confident in its ability to grab market share of any particular segment. I once predicted that OSS would be the next big stock market bump just like the Internet was, and that never seemed to happen.  It’s not that OSS is a bad opportunity.  As the article notes, Google seems to be making inroads with Android, and there are other key players that are rife for investment interest.

But the article notes the key factor that I’ve seen in the communities: “Open source, however, is more art than science. It’s a non-trivial task to build and sustain communities…”  Keeping the developer base focused on actual development, rather than arguing about licenses or code reuse, or some other whacky point that prevents real work is often the hardest part.  Software developers are notoriously independent, and giving them a socialistic land like OSS and then imposing rules is a tricky option.

So color me a bit skeptical of the “Year of Open Source,” but consider me a supporter of more development on open standards that keeps the industry moving.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 27, 2010 3:28 pm

    Maybe it’s the same dynamic that results in the restaurant chains who offer insults & rudeness as part of the entertainment value getting packed to the gills with paying customers who want to pay for the opportunity to be called “idiots”?

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