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The real impact of open source

IDC study concludes it will play a role in the life-cycle of every major software category

Open source software has spread far beyond Linux and is gaining enormous momentum, according to a newly released IDC study.

The study, which analyzed IDC surveys from over 5,000 developers in 116 countries, finds the use of open source is increasing at a such a rate that it represents the most significant all-encompassing and long-term trend that the software industry has seen since the early 1980s.

IDC believes that open source will eventually play a role in the life-cycle of every major software category, and will fundamentally change the value proposition of packaged software for customers.

Dr. Anthony Picardi, senior vice-president of global software research at IDC, said the use of open source beyond Linux is pervasive, used by almost three-quarters of organizations and spanning hundreds of thousands of projects. Although open source will significantly reduce the industry opportunity over the next 10 years, the real impact of open source is to sustain innovations in mature software markets, thus extending the useful life of software assets and saving customers money.

The study, entitled Open Source in Global Software: Market Impact, Disruption, and Business Models, finds that of the 5,000 survey respondents, open source software is being used by 71 per cent of the developers in the world and is in production at 54 per cent of their organizations. In addition, half of the global developers claim that the use of open source is increasing in their organizations.

IDC identifies the following developments in the open source phenomenon:

• Over the next ten years, open source will extract a toll on the industry in the low double digits, percentage wise, led by vicious price competition;

• Price effects are a less important impact of open source adoption than the effect of open source on the entire life-cycle of software invention and innovation;

• Despite the proliferation of open source license forms, only three business models are important from an industry and an individual vendor success point of view: the software revenue model, the public collective model, and the service broker model;

• Competitive success among vendors’ open source markets will be determined by a different set of core competencies than those required to invent and market a new product.

The study examines the future impact of open source in the software life-cycle, the emerging business models for open source software markets, and the potential for market disruption. It also investigates the open source business models of Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP, Sun Microsystems, CA, AOL, Amazon, and Perot Systems.

There’s a discussion of “networked intelligence” and the key ingredients of open source sustained innovation business models.