Open Source For Fun And (Mostly) Profit - InformationWeek

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2/19/2008
06:11 PM
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Open Source For Fun And (Mostly) Profit

What does open-source software mean to you? I see Open Source as a way to beef up your company's bottom line and to beat your competitors -- if it is used effectively.

What does open-source software mean to you? I see Open Source as a way to beef up your company's bottom line and to beat your competitors -- if it is used effectively.I'll do my best here to show just what it means to use open-source software as an effective business tool. As a technology expert and a journalist, this has always been one of my favorite topics: My last assignment here at CMP, as the editor of Linux Pipeline, covered the same ground I'll cover as a blogger for bMighty.com.

In some ways, this is an easier job than it used to be. Back in the 1990s, when I covered Web publishing tools and technology as an editor for Seybold Publications, the very words "open source" could be the kiss of death for an otherwise-promising new product. While IT users were demanding -- and usually getting -- software based on open standards, very few open-source products, including Linux, could provide the kind of service and support required to compete against traditional proprietary software vendors.

Today, a decade later, the Open Source world is a very different place. One of the biggest challenges today, as I see it, involves staying on top of the sheer variety of open-source software options available to business IT users. Another challenge involves knowing when not to jump on the open-source bandwagon; every boom market brings its share of charlatans and snake-oil salesmen, and this one is no exception. And finally, of course, there's the challenge of sorting out the truth about open-source software from the FUD that so many proprietary software vendors still insist upon spreading -- even when their own customers are usually the ones who suffer as a result.

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