January 26, 2009
Over the past few months, you've probably been reading news or IT magazines that suggest open source
will be doing very well in 2009, or you may have heard people say that 2009 will be a lot better than
2008 was when referring to FOSS (free and open source software).
But what exactly is meant by the term "open source" and which business model does the term really target
anyway? It is clear that there are still some out there that aren't really sure.
At any rate, we sometimes assume, correctly or not, that other people mean the same thing as we do in
the same words they use, but the truth can sometimes be a lot different.
The real meaning behind the term Open Source or FOSS is worth examining more closely, especially when
an IT vendor or systems' integrator is trying to sell your company some goods destined to your IT
department or end users.
For example, Microsoft representatives generally try to establish a world view sympathetic to their
own cause by talking as if the accepted distinction in the open source arena is between commercial and
non-commercial. They will say that at any open-source event or symposium they they participate in. However,
Microsoft's definition of open source is grossly inaccurate and is certainly meant to confuse people.
It's a lot more accurate to say that open source's true distinction is between proprietary and non-proprietary
software. By the way, that is exactly the term that is officially being used by IP (intellectual property)
lawyers in court rooms all over the world!
The inaccurate distinction between commercial and non-commercial software is simply designed to imply
that only proprietary software is acceptable commercially! In other words, companies and various organizations
of all sizes should keep acquiring proprietary software and various applications and leave the
non-proprietary variety to hobbyists?
Hummm... (!) Is this really how it should work?
Technically speaking, FOSS business models can and should exist on a scale from "software lock-in" to
software "lock-out", ie- more freedom for all its users.
Of course, moving up the scale results in much lower costs and results in important savings for those that
embrace open source 'natively' as it is often referred to.
For an IT vendor, IS consultant or systems integrator, open source simply means a shift from a product-oriented
(read- commercial) world view to a service-oriented one. Or is it?
Here are 5 main but important items on the open source scale:
Commercial open source: This business model is essentially proprietary, with some open source
ideology thrown in as a "sweetener" of some sort.
(Please click here for page 2.)