Government // Enterprise Architecture
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4/27/2009
12:00 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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The Trend Towards Open Source: It's There, But Not Inevitable

I spent most of last week and the whole of my weekend knee-, hip-, and finally neck-deep in Ubuntu 9.04 for an upcoming feature on the OS. I had my problems with it, and from that had a philosophical "what exactly are we trying to accomplish here" moment (shilling for rant). But after the dust settled, I had a better picture of how all these platforms complemented each other.

I spent most of last week and the whole of my weekend knee-, hip-, and finally neck-deep in Ubuntu 9.04 for an upcoming feature on the OS. I had my problems with it, and from that had a philosophical "what exactly are we trying to accomplish here" moment (shilling for rant). But after the dust settled, I had a better picture of how all these platforms complemented each other.

It's fast becoming a world where you can get exactly what you pay for and pay for exactly what you want to get. That doesn't mean we're going to see mass platform defections anytime soon, though. Not everyone is going to want to, or can, run Ubuntu. Or Windows 7, for that  matter. Or the Mac. I'd bet that at any time the number of people who are likely to simply migrate incrementally (Ubuntu 8.10 to 9.04, Vista to 7, etc.) far outweigh those who defect to another platform altogether.

What is happening -- and even I can't argue with this despite my own bad experiences -- is that with each incremental addition to the panopoly of choices, from low-end to high-end, there's that much less reason for people of modest (and even not-so-modest) computing means to just pick Windows and be done with it. Especially when a growing percentage of folks either see the Web as their desktop of can have their pick of non-proprietary applications to get things done.

Now keep in mind all this is a trend, yes, but it's not an inevitability. A lot of that depends on how good a fight the Redmond boys put up, and from the word reaching my ears they are putting up a very good one indeed.

I couldn't go a day during my work on the Ubuntu feature without hearing some word about the upcoming Windows 7 public release candidate, and all of its goodies -- the seamless Windows XP emulation mode available as an add-on for the the higher-end SKUs; the media streaming features ... you name it, I probably heard about it too. The lower-end SKUs don't have all that stuff, and if you go all the way down to the bottom there's the Starter SKU with its three-app-at-a-time speed limit (although you can find arguments both for and against such a thing being a frustration to certain people) -- which is in itself a form of "nothing you don't need".

The fact that a growing panopoly of OS options now exist is well and good. But it won't add up to much if people have all the more reason to stay right where they are.


Each year, InformationWeek honors the nation's 500 most innovative users of business technology. Companies with $250 million or more in revenue are invited to apply for the 2009 InformationWeek 500 before May 1.


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