Open Season

Ephraim Schwartz in the July 19th issue of Infoworld describes a growing phenomena – good code being made Open Source with more of it involving desktop applications and specifically for the Windows environ. He cites the Open Sourcing of Nikus Project Workbench as an example of good project management software being Open Sourced in order to help Niku gain traction against the dominant Microsft Project in the broader Enterprise Project space .

It appears that the phenomenon is occurring but probably as a subset of a wider Open Sourcing “land rush”. The object is to be first with an Open Source vehicle in an important software category. An example is the Open Sourcing of Cloudscape by IBM to stake off the Java departmental database space. Or the earlier opening by Watcom of its C/C++ and Fortran compilers in OS/2 and Windows to grab the high performance Fortran and C compiler cachet. Or BEAs release of its BEA Workshop components and development framework in the Beehive project to get leading traction for its components and framework in the intensely competitive J2EE and associated SOA-Service Oriented Architecture fields.

Most recently, Actuate with Eclipse.org staked out with the initiation of the BIRT-Business Intelligence Reporting Tool project – a leading position in the definition of a cross platform, Open Source departmental reportwriter. The benefit of adding significant manpower to BIRT for Actuate is that they get first dibs on defining a cross platform report writing tool with its specific open standard XML-reportwriting templates. They also can ensure that this reportwriter fits or can be made to easily fit into the Actuate BI Enterprise system. Not too high a price to pay for at the very least “a thought leadership” position in the very competitive BI market.

Another factor that is driving the phenomenon is the maturing of many IT software markets. If you are not one of the top 3 vendors in a specific market, the likeliehood that you can effectively switch postions is growing more remote with every passing year. So dont mothball good software – but rather use it as a Open Source springboard to create a secondary after market for downstream utilities plus services and/or a “free” step to an Enterprise level product. This is the very strategies Niku is using for its OpenWorkbench and IBM with Cloudscape.

So yes, Ephraim is right, there is more rapid movement to Open Source. And yes it does have consequences for Microsoft simply because they dominate so many Windows desktop markets. And yes as in the case of Suns Open Office and Nikus Project Workbench it is designed to steal market share from Microsoft. But I think Ephraim has caught the pulse of a much wider trend – Open Source positioning for proprietary, commercial advantage.