In a press release dated Jan. 31, research firm Gartner made a number of predictions about the IT marketplace in two to four years. One of the eye-openers: By 2012, they claim, "80% of all commercial software will include elements of open source technology." Wacky? Exaggerated? Probably not.
First of all, they're not claiming that open source will replace 80% of all commercial software -- an easy way to misread the statement. They're of the belief that 80% of commercial software out there will in some way use open source code -- and as far as I can tell, that also would include code opened by the authors of the products themselves, not code taken from the outside.
To that end, the trend would work both ways -- it would involve the incorporation of third-party open source code, and the creation of new open source code as well, by the vendors themselves. And on top of that I want to throw another projection: that open standards also will be an inevitable part of this mix, too. As code opens up and becomes less proprietary by default, the standards for the data they use will have to follow suit, even if only by proxy.
There's more: "Many open-source technologies are mature, stable, and well supported," says Gartner. "They provide significant opportunities for vendors and users to lower their total cost of ownership and increase returns on investment. Ignoring this will put companies at a serious competitive disadvantage."
I've found that it's language like this that best makes businesspeople sit up and take notice of open source. Their case for using open source is entirely practical, not ideological, even more so than the average desktop user. If they reap benefits from open source, benefits they can turn around and tell their own partners about, they become some of the strongest advocates you could name.
The last line of the paragraph in question reads: "Embedded open-source strategies will become the minimal level of investment that most large software vendors will find necessary to maintain competitive advantages during the next five years." In plainer English, use it or lose it. It doesn't mean the sun has completely set on proprietary software (and probably won't for a while), but it is getting dark out, and everyone's taking notice.