Open Source Goes Mainstream
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Android is here. And no, I'm not talking about the latest science fiction thriller at the Cineplex. Android is a software development platform for mobile devices, released by Google.
What's most significant about this isn't that Google, a company known primarily for its search engine and online ads, is now in the smart phone business, but that it is using the open source software model to drive a highly visible commercial product.
Once derided by established software vendors as risky at best, business use of open source software is now in the mainstream, and the Android project is merely one recent example of that trend.
The open source movement is based on the premise that the more people who are allowed to work on software, the better, more flexible, and reliable it can become.
This goes against the old way of creating software where one company maintains complete control over the underlying code, and changes, updates, and improvements are tied to that
company's willingness and ability to respond to customer requests.
With open source software, anyone can get access to the code, make any changes he or
she deems worthwhile, and then submit those changes back into the main repository for the benefit of all.
Many major vendors that once produced only proprietary, closed source software (e.g., IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Sun) are now embracing open source by making some of their code available under open source licensing, incorporating open software created by others into their products, providing support for open source projects and products, and even buying many of the businesses that have grown out of the movement.
Open source projects cover just about every business need, from basic office productivity suites (e.g., word processing and spreadsheets) to advanced customer relationship management and relational database products.
Not all open source projects are equal, or even suitable for business use, and not every business is ready to incorporate this type of software into their operations. But we've now reached a tipping point where if you're not seeing improved product quality and pricing from your customary vendors, you have realistic alternatives.
You have direct access to world-class software for free if you have the necessary skills,
temperament, and resources to take advantage of what's available. And even if you don't, you can seek the support of companies of all sizes-and usually for a small fraction of the cost of similar proprietary offerings.
Tech Tools Article, "Software Alternatives: Choosing the Right Tool"
Forbes Article "The Commercial Bear Hug Of Open Source"
CNet News Article "Microsoft finally acknowledges that open source is mainstream"
T-Mobile G1 Android Phone