Hunches and predictions for open source in 2009

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It’s that time of year again. Last year I wrote about challenges and priorities for open source, standards, and virtual worlds. In January, 2007, I reviewed my favorite blog entries for 2006 (and note that I was considerably more succinct when I did this for 2008 about two weeks ago). Finally, in 2006 I made some “open wishes” for that year.

I do go back and read these prognostications though I don’t grade myself on them. What usually happens is that things turn out to be more complicated than expected or else something surprising pops up. Financial market meltdown effect on open source as predicted twelve months ago? Sun buying MySQL?

That’s fine, and that’s what makes this sort of thing entertaining, though what happened to Wall Street et al was not funny by any means.

When I make predictions I’m somewhat handicapped in what I can say. I can’t give away IBM plans or strategies, nor can I pretend to make official pronouncements on behalf of the company when I’m really just trying to stimulate conversation and brainstorming. Business and industry partnerships also limit the amount I might decide to be critical about another industry player. That is, and I think you all know this, I’m not really completely independent.

Thus, to be clear, what follows are just my personal thoughts on some things we might or might not see in 2009 as it concerns open source.

  • The pressure will pick up on successful open source database-driven projects like WordPress to use databases like PostgresSQL in addition to MySQL, though it might be difficult to do.
  • We will not see a major fork of MySQL away from the Sun-maintained version.
  • Microsoft will initiate a serious and non-trivial project at the Apache Software Foundation, in part to show that their $100,000 investment last summer was more than just marketing.
  • Microsoft will not initiate any sort of serious and non-trivial project using GPL v3, though they will by 2012.
  • will continue to mature and add users, especially on the Mac.
  • Apple’s iWork desktop productivity suite will gain support for ODF, with interoperability with a key consideration.
  • We still won’t see an open source competitor to Adobe Photoshop that has enough features and is easy enough to use. (I know about GIMP and Seashore.)
  • The level of shrillness about open source supporters who use Macs will rise.
  • The number of open source supporters who use Macs will rise. (Aside: empirically, the number of industry analysts who use Macs already appears to have increased.)
  • The use or planned use of open source in governments, especially the US, will rise significantly.
  • We’ll see fewer columns and trade journal blogs dedicated to open source by the end of the year as 1) open source becomes more mainstream, and 2) people run out of things to say.
  • The growth of new open source projects on sites like Sourceforge will slow, but the total number of open source contributions will increase as more people work on key projects.
  • Business will be good for intellectual property attorneys as more companies decide to incorporate externally-developed open source code into their products.
  • OpenSimulator will increasingly challenge Second Life for those who wish to host their own virtual worlds.
  • A new non-Java, non-Mono open source virtual world project will start to get serious traction this year.

I may come back and add a hunch or two as I think about this some more. How about you? What do you think will happen?


  1. I think we’ll get some kind of industry rallying around the defence of ‘open source contributions from the public’.

    There must be piles of ‘no-commercial-value’ software source code in people’s desk drawers; some written by hobbyists, some written by academics, some written by corporate employees but where the corporation isn’t in the business of selling software (for example APLUS ); mostly cases where the originator, or owner, has no capability or desire to offer warranty service; and cases where the software no longer gives any competitive advantage to the originator. All written over the last 25 years, since the dawn of the IBM Personal Computer era started putting computer hardware into the hands of the masses.

    The world would be a brighter place if this were to all surface on public web sites such as IBIBLIO and UK Universities Mirror Service. A fair bit is there already, but much is surely in desk drawers and not available for reintegration into other solutions.

    Why is it still hidden ? Do the ‘owners’ not understand that at least some of the ‘industry’ would thank them, would be grateful, for the contribution ? Do we need some kind of ‘Amnesty’ to encourage individuals (and corporations, and universities, and governments) to turn out their drawers and make it all available for the public good ?

    Really, it is all separate from the day-to-day competition between the IBM Lotus Notes salesman and the Microsoft Office System salesman for your technology dollars. That competition is also in the public interest, the consuming individuals and businesses get steadily better value because we compete.

    But the historical stuff, the no-commercial-value stuff, could very usefully be made available for the next generation to learn from and build on. Doing that doesn’t favour Microsoft over IBM, or IBM over Microsoft. It favours the public, and whoever will exploit it.

    So I think we’ll see initiatives to encourage recycling of software, and to offer ‘public interest’ protection to anyone who turns anything in to be recycled.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts and tips. I’m interested in OpenSim and have forwarded it on to colleagues who are/were interested in Second Life with K-12 students. I’ve been thinking a bit about which I use a great deal. I really use WordPress and Drupal with FCKEditor or WidgEditor a lot more for word processing and of course both Drupal and WordPress for publishing. Applications within Google Docs and Apps are also favorites for collaboration. As Web 2.x grows I wonder if as a PC based application will become less attractive. In like manner Microsoft Word would follow too. Just thoughts!

  3. I’d venture a couple of additions for you, Bob.

    – open source packaged business applications rapidly accelerate in adoption. CRM continues to be the leader here, with SugarCRM and other competitors blazing the trail. ERP and HR applications slower to take off but will get there in 2011-2012 horizon

    – open source in quantitative analysis, through R, continues to be in the mainstream and continues to go largely unnoticed…

  4. For those inside IBM, we can run a prototype OpenSimulator on the Cloud Computing infrastructure.

    It’s not really ready to go into the IBM “showroom” with a price-tag yet; but you can buy a BlueGene off-the-shelf and take the OpenSimulator code from the web site for a kind-of “Do-it-Yourself” solution. And I’m sure that your IBM Global Services salesman will sell you a Business Servant to do it for you, if you wish.

    These things are coming. Who’s going to lead with them ?

  5. Drizzle will be the catalyst for largely MySQL-only projects (particularly web applications) to consider alternative databases, which will open a very short window for PostgreSQL. If the PostgreSQL team (or fans of it in web application projects) aren’t quick enough to put it on the radar, these applications will either support MySQL and Drizzle, or shift 100% to Drizzle (but only after a couple of releases).

  6. (1) IBM_______. One of the biggest stories of 2009 was launched in 2008 by IBM — its Microsoft-free PC initiative. The effort is centered on businesses and “allowing customers to package their applications with Linux and the necessary middleware” (I. Kuznetsova). When someone sits down at any of the three distros IBM partners with on this effort, they’re ready to get straight to work, can save precious time via Lotus Notes, Lotus Symphony, and Lotus Sametime, and there’s no downtime typical of Microsoft powered machines. Word of mouth will grow as this clever stroke by IBM is proven to save companies small fortunes on IT right from the start. Microsoft’s refusal to give up its Software Assurance program (gouge!) will guarantee it’s a success.

    (2) Linux_______. Few people expected two distros in Fedora 10 and openSUSE 11.1 to be so good at the end of 2008. Both are elegant, faster than previous versions, stable, and support an impressive breadth of recent hardware. If you’re wanting to migrate from Apple or Microsoft in ’09, you’re going to wish you had done it sooner.

    (3) Google_______. How could we not include these guys? Google Desktop’s adoption will grow not because of its features, but because of its convenience. Using a Mac, PC, netbook, and smartphone all in the same day demonstrates the utility of cloud computing. And by year’s end, the big story won’t be Win7, but Android, Android, Android.

  7. As I said, for those who need IP-unencumbered, roll-your-own:

    The Chinese get it. Use the technology you own: the ISO Standard. Let’s see how Google and the other TLAs react.

  8. Why is it still hidden ? Do the ‘owners’ not understand that at least some of the ‘industry’ would thank them, would be grateful, for the contribution ? Do we need some kind of ‘Amnesty’ to encourage individuals (and corporations, and universities, and governments) to turn out their drawers and make it all available for the public good ?

    In part this is because uploading to Sourceforge is a pain. It’s designed for geeks, by geeks, and those of us who program sporadically don’t have the time to learn the system. I have a bunch of old projects I should upload, but I’m not going to fit with the interface.

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