Note: This post is about a news arti­cle I was inter­viewed for. My com­ments are below.

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.

LotD: Ubun­tu theme for Win­dows

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