O'Reilly on Open Source ... in 1999

It is more than a little disturbing that both the myths and the explanations in this nearly-10-year-old article have remained so constant. Here are the myths:

  • It’s all about Linux versus Windows, with Red Hat as yet another challenger to Microsoft.
  • Open Source Software Isn’t Reliable or Supported.
  • Big companies don’t use open source software.
  • Open Source is hostile to intellectual property.
  • Open Source is all about licenses.
  • If I give away my software to the open source community, thousands of developers will suddenly start working for me for nothing.
  • Open source only matters to programmers, since most users never look under the hood anyway.
  • There’s No Money to be Made on Free Software.
  • The Open Source movement isn’t sustainable, since people will stop developing free software once they see others making lots of money from their efforts.
  • Open Source is playing catch up to Microsoft and the commercial world.

Fake Steve on the Borg and Freetards

Good analysis in a sarcastic candy coating:

Open source has ridden the classic Gartner hype cycle. Three years ago was the “peak of inflated expectations,” and VCs would fund anything with “open source” in its name or business plan. Now the cycle has moved on to the “trough of disillusionment.” Reality has set in. Nobody is making money. They’re in the Slough of Despond.

Bear in mind that FakeSteve is the Voice of the Valley, and measures using the standard Valley metrics: VC funding, license sales, lines of copy in Fortune. Open source has been through two hype cycles now (from cycle one, remember the VA Linux IPO?) and keeps on trucking. There are more things in heaven and earth, FakeSteve, than are dreamt of in the Valley.

Timmy's Telethon #6

And finalement:

  1. Third party business applications: It could be argued that an enterprise GIS exist to support business requirements which often call for a third party client solution. Are vendors building COTs apps against these third party solutions?

I think the wording is a little off here, and it should be “are vendors building third party COTS solutions against these open source apps?”

And the answer is “sure!” Not as many as against the ESRI stack, but that is to be expected: ISVs support things where there is demand for support, and the market leader obviously drives a lot more demand. However, the amount of ISV support for open source is greater than zero, and growing. On the PostGIS side, for example:

  • Safe Software’s FME supports it
  • Mapguide supports it
  • Ionic Red Spider supports it
  • ESRI’s Interoperability Extension supports it
  • Manifold supports it (!!!)
  • CadCorp SIS supports it
  • ArcSDE 9.3 supports it
  • MapDotNet Server supports it

Most of the web-services side of things are supported via open standards, so Mapserver slots into all kinds of infrastructures and third party tools via the WMS standard, for example. I imagine if the WMS standard did not exist, more software would talk directly to Mapserver via it’s own CGI dialect, but WMS made that redundant.

And on the client side, I found this nugget from Bill Dollins’ ESRI Fed UC review intriguing:

So the take away was “we’ve got the server to crunch your data and give you good analysis results, display it any way you want.” There was no OpenLayers demo but it was mentioned several times and something that should be able to leverage new APIs.

In the open source world, OpenLayers is already the “default map component” for web apps, it is interesting to see it already banging on the doors to the proprietary world as well.

"Risk"

Great quotation on the OSGeo-Discuss list:

The brutal truth is this: when your key business processes are executed by opaque blocks of bits that you can’t even see inside (let alone modify) you have lost control of your business. You need your supplier more than your supplier needs you—and you will pay, and pay, and pay again for that power imbalance. You’ll pay in higher prices, you’ll pay in lost opportunities, and you’ll pay in lock-in that grows worse over time as the supplier (who has refined its game on a lot of previous victims) tightens its hold.

I heard Chris Di Bona of Google say exactly this at a conference in DC last year with respect to Google’s own strategic software direction. For anything that is core to their business, they use open source if it is good enough, or build it themselves if it is not. Being beholden to a vendor would be a huge competitive disadvantage to them.

Like Cattle to Slaughter

When I first got a cell-phone, some 10 years ago, I deliberately chose the hip new alternative on the block, FIDO, because their costs were competitive, and they didn’t have a “N-year contract” system. You paid your bill until you were done with the service, and then you stopped – sounded fair to me.

However, the Canadian industry has consolidated down to 2 major carriers and a handful of small regional ones, and FIDO was bought up by the Rogers behemoth. They still operate as an independent brand, but clearly things are changing. For one thing, they have added multi-year contracts, and are now pulling maneuvers to try and get people to leave behind their month-to-month plans.

My wife got a call from a marketer – would you like a better plan? we’ll give you two months free and blah blah blah blah blah. She was holding a screaming baby at the time, and said “yeah, sure”. Never say yes to a salesman in haste. Turns out the new plan was a 3-year contract.

Today, I found out that the phone I have was quietly switched to a 3-year plan when they sent me a new handset last year. Surprise! FIDO had sent new handsets in the past, so I didn’t notice, but apparently the cost of my new phone was that I am now in cell-phone shackles until January of 2010.

You’re not a customer to the phone company, you’re an ambulatory money beast. Mmoooooooo.