Limpag: Worst nightmare-A A +A
Sunday, September 1, 2013
PROGRAMMER and open source advocate Eric Raymond met Microsoft executive Craig Mundie in an elevator during a conference in the early 2000s.
“And I looked at his badge and said, “Oh, I see you work for Microsoft,’” Raymond said in the opening of Revolution OS, a documentary on Linux.
“And he looked back to me and said, “Oh, yeah and what do you do?”
“And I thought he seemed a tad dismissive. I mean, here’s the archetypal, you know, guy in a suit looking at a scruffy hacker. And so I gave him the thousand-yard stare and said, “I’m your worst nightmare.”
More than a decade later, Raymond proved prophetic. Open source software – software released under a license that encourages sharing and collaboration – now dominates technology.
The antithesis of open source software is proprietary applications like Microsoft Office or Windows. When you buy Office on a DVD, for example, you can only install it on one computer. You are not allowed to share the disc and when you do, the system detects it and disallows the installation.
Open source software like LibreOffice, on the other hand, not only allows you to share the installer, it encourages it. LibreOffice is the open source equivalent of Microsoft Office and matches its functions. For most users, LibreOffice suffices for office applications needs that it’s hard to make a financial case to buy Microsoft Office. I once asked an accountant whether there is something Excel can do that Calc of LibreOffice can’t and he said the two applications were almost the same in functions.
Open source software underpins the Internet. Name a website or a web service and chances are it is using open source software in its operations. Open source technology allows startups to build products and services quickly and then scale – standing on the shoulders of existing technology projects and their active online communities.
Linux is today’s top web server operating system. IBM said that 94 percent of the world’s top supercomputers run Linux. While it is not as dominant on the desktop front – each of the past few years has been predicted, wrongly as it turned out, to be the year of the desktop Linux. While not yet as dominant, Linux on the desktop has improved tremendously through years of frequent releases by such projects as Ubuntu and CentOS.
And with people using online applications more, there is starting to be less dependence on locally installed software. You can now, for example, use online applications to edit photos. Goodbye pirated Photoshop. You can now use GoogleDrive as office application and, with just a browser, work on your documents. And with Microsoft’s debacle on the poor reception of Windows 8 and the increasing use of Linux-based Google Chromebooks, the year of desktop Linux may be on the horizon.
On mobile, open source dominance is more pronounced with Android, which is based on Linux, gobbling up market share.
In just a few years, open source has emerged from the fringes of geek and tech culture to become dominant in technology and in our society. It truly is a nightmare for those that depend on proprietary systems to make money.
That Revolution OS opening scene came to mind with the recent announcement by Microsoft that Steve Ballmer was finally retiring as CEO. Ballmer, after all, famously derided Linux as a “cancer.”
Will Microsoft ultimately fully embrace open source? If it wants to survive in the long-term, it may have to do so. It may have to follow the example of Red Hat, a company that makes money on open source products and services.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 02, 2013.