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OSBC 2007: customers, cash and the corporate face of open sourceJay Lyman, May 25, 2007 @ 11:03 am ET
Just back from OSBC, and it’s clear that open source and businesses are in step at a fast pace, and it’s not just open source businesses, it’s all businesses. Companies that are users, companies that are investors, proprietary companies, dual-license companies, big companies, small companies – they’re all beyond the point of awareness and now at least to the point where they are figuring out how open source can help them. At the conference, we first heard from OSBC Chair Matt Asay and Red Hat CEO Mathew Szulik how the only friend of open source is the customer. I’d say that open source might be the best friend of customers. Customers who have had to take software the way their vendor wanted it. Customers who have had to take software distributed in the way the vendor wanted it. Customers who faced an all-or-nothing proposition when formulating their IT and business plans. Open source is the new kid in town, and he’s a big kid, so bullies beware, he doesn’t like seeing people pushed around.
We also heard a lot about how to valuate open source companies. It’s certainly true that an open source-based business does not have the IP assets that can help measure a company’s or product’s worth. However, open source operations, at least successful ones, have communities. How do you estimate the value of a community, which could include not only developers, but also users, consultants, media and marketing people and others? There were some answers and insight on these questions at OSBC, but one thing is crystal clear: there is opportunity in open source.
In addition to a few discussions in the legal realm (Microsoft patent hubbub, GPL3 and other licenses included) the other theme of OSBC 2007 was corporations. The continued growth of OSBC and the names and companies represented there were further evidence that open source is indeed big for business. The billions going into open source software, as well as the billions being produced from open source software, show open source is among the most significant forces in the industry today.
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