What Can't Open Source Achieve in the Next 10 Years?

Exactly ten years ago I was sitting in a small but cosy flat in the west of Helsinki, waiting to interview its owner. He was busy in the tiny kitchen, which lay just past the entrance hall decked out with dozens of cups and shields won at Karate competitions, preparing a cappuccino for each of us. As you've probably guessed, his name was Linus Torvalds - the trophies belong to his wife.

Wired's decision to devote the first mainstream feature to him and GNU/Linux was brave in 1996. At the time, free software was barely known outside a small, if growing circle of hackers. Linux was five years old, and still wet behind the ears. Although Apache had recently overtaken NCSA's software as the top Web server, it was one of the Internet's better-kept secrets. On the desktop, Windows 95 was unchallenged, as was Microsoft Office. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer was rapidly taking advantage of Netscape's continuing missteps in the browser sector to establish a near-monopoly there too.

Fast-forward ten years. GNU/Linux completely dominates the field of supercomputing. In the world of business computing, GNU/Linux is thriving in the server room, and is now the only serious competitor to Windows there. Apache's market share is hovering around the 60% mark; admittedly, this is its lowest level for four years, but that's not bad considering the fact that it is up against a company with a $30 billion cash hoard to buy friends and market share.

Even on the desktop, things are looking up for open source. Firefox has emerged from the ashes of Netscape Navigator to take ever-bigger bites of the browser market: according to one survey, it has over 20% in Europe and a respectable 13.5% in North America. And with OpenOffice.org and OpenDocument Format, the free software world finally has a standard that is able to take on - and beat - Microsoft Office.

These are extraordinary achievements; indeed, open source has become so successful, so pervasive, that we are in danger of forgetting how much has been done.

Against this background, then, I'd like to pose a question: what can't open source achieve in the next ten years? I phrase it this way, because it emphasises the fact that free software is likely to achieve much more than we might think. After all, who ten years ago would have been bold enough to predict that IBM - the archetypal conservative corporation - would place GNU/Linux at the heart of its strategy, or that the then-new Java would one day be released under the GNU GPL?

So, for example, I take it for granted that open source will be as successful on the desktop as it has on the server - with the caveat that the desktop itself may well be far less important in ten years' time. I also assume that everyone will be using ODF as the standard for document interchange and storage, and that GNU/Linux will consolidate its growing success in the field of embedded systems.

What's left? What won't be mostly running on free software in a decade? Or, to put it another way, what will Microsoft become in that time, as it finds its two principal revenue streams - Windows and Office - begin to dry up?

Microsoft's major product categories have followed a very similar trajectory. The first few iterations were dreadful, but eventually, through sheer dogged perseverance, the company has managed to produce winners that dominate their respective markets. This can be seen in the evolution of Windows on the desktop (3.0, 3.1, 95, XP), as well as server-side (Windows NT 3.1, 3.5, 4.0, 2000, Server 2003).

It can also be seen with the Xbox. Where earlier models were the clear underdog to Sony and Nintendo, there is increasing evidence that the Xbox 360 will emerge as the leading third-generation gaming platform. This is the area where open source is weakest: there are still relatively few free games, and no tools comparable to Microsoft's new XNA Game Studio. This means that Microsoft has more time to make money from its proprietary approach here than in any other field.

I suspect that we will also see the same pattern with Microsoft's Zune. By all accounts, the first iteration is awful; later models will doubtless improve until it becomes the dominant proprietary music player - not least because Microsoft can pay bigger incentives to the music industry than anyone, as it has already started to do. The Xbox 360's success and the company's ambitions in the field of home entertainment offer clear hints that this is where Microsoft's heartland will lie in the future, as traditional computer markets are increasingly commoditised by the inexorable rise of open source.

Glyn Moody writes about open source at opendotdotdot.



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peter pun's picture

it is true that there are independents like wordpress that improve without funding...because of their independence and lack of funding they improve in centimeters compared to the leaps and bounds of competitors.
no, linux shouldn't sell out, just have investors who appreciate their freedom...

The possibilties are endless

Tammy's picture

I agree Wendy anything is possible and if some of the big technology companies would just invest a little money into open source projects anything can be achieved over the next decade but even without funding alot of them are already taking off I think Wordpress has over 10,000 plug ins for it. I would like to see Drupal take off as an open source platform among the internet communnity

It can achieve anything

Wendy's picture

Open source can achieve anything over the next five years I think all open source needs is a little angel funding and we should see popular open source programs excel further than they ever have. I think if Bill Gates would fund some open source projects instead of womens concraceptives it might help open source tremendously.

A bright future

Ellen's picture

Should be interesting to see where everything is or should I say will be on the next generation of HD internet from both platforms but should be even more interesting to see just how far open source goes and with who.

What Can't Open Source

Christopher Jones's picture

I worked on a project where an expensive embedded OS was used rather than Linux because of all of the rancor in the FOSS community over proprietary drivers. The company has a significant investment in this, and the risk that a competitor would request the source to the driver for the proprietary hardware, and thus be able to reverse-engineer the hardware and produce a competing product at a lower cost (not having had to develop both the hardware and software from scratch), was enough to have the legal department ban the use of FOSS in the product. We did use GCC, but we even had to re-implement the C and C++ runtime routines from scratch to satisfy the legal department.

That sounds very familar to

Manuel's picture

That sounds very familar to me, i was in a similar situation too.

One low probability area -- Tax software

Anonymous's picture

Income and other tax software is more of a service than a software package, since most legislatures can not resist the temptation to do social engineering via the tax codes. Thus, the software has to change every year, both at the national and state/province levels, to reflect the latest legal tinkering. Likewise, the limited (national) scope of the software makes it hard to build a global developer pool.

Obvious solution - web deployment

Anonymous's picture

Ideal case for deployment as a web-based app, possibly using AJAX.

There will still be a market for enterprise tax software, but personal tax can be provided by the oganisation that collects it. Hey, this may even lead to a simplification in the rules.

two words - flat tax.

Anonymous's picture

two words - flat tax.

it's possible.. but I guess that's more of what can't open source gov't do, not really a limitaion of open source software.

2000 - year of the linux

Rick's picture

2000 - year of the linux desktop!
2007 - year of the linux desktop?

Sounds like special pleading to me...

KevinH's picture

You don't actually paint a very bright picture; you say it yourself: Apache, the cornerstone of the entire Linux drive, has been in decline for four years. It's a matter of historical fact that software that declines for that long never, ever recovers. IE didn't take advantage of Netscape's until IE 4 when Netscape had been terrible for years. Netscape destroyed themselves. As for what dominates in the world of supercomputing is such a miniscule market to be hardly worth serious consideration.

You're also revising history; OpenOffice was, as StarOffice, a commercial product. The basic groundwork was given away by Sun and was hardly written from the groud-up. Mozilla Firefox took the better part of four years to come up with a half-decent browser.

Ti say "the inexorable rise of open source." is evangelism pure and simple with nothing substantial to back it up. There is nothing inevitable about the success of open source, by under-estimating the achievements of Microsoft you're really writing your own obituary. Given the self-adulation and BS that surrounds open source it should have demolished MS years ago, and you know, you ain't even come close.

The power of the almighty $$$

Linux4Life's picture

The fact is Microsoft has had ten years to establish and solidify its dominance of OS market with Winblow$ - and build a huge capital reserve with which to expand its business interests. Things would have been a whole lot different if Apple was purely an OS maker back in the early 80s instead of a direct competitor to IBM's PC. God help Vista if OSX is ever fully ported to PCs.

Micro$oft's move into the gaming console and portable media players is yet another example of cash-rich monopoly muscling its way in so that it once more, dominates the market and to have everyone(consumers and suppliers alike) forever worshipping at Little Billy's feet. What fools.

Luckily, we Linux and OSS supporters will never allow ourselves to be like sheep being lead to the slaughter - should I say, those chumps who buy overpriced trash and are convinced they are getting a bargain.

Linux has never had the capital investment and development that would come anywhere near what Miro$oft has given to xbox, vista etc. And Linux is unlikely to get such investment whilst Winblow$ dominates the market - if only IBM would take the risk....

All in all, this is why it's taking so long for linux to take off. But this is the future - especially OSS - because you can never beat a product that does most if not everyting you want...something userfriendly, stable, more secure. And best of all - IT'S FREE, U FOOLS!

The decline of Apache?

Placid's picture

I don't think so

Glyn Moody's picture

Apache has hardly been in decline: it has more or less held its own in a market that tripled in size in the last four years. And that against a competitor that has become ever-more aggressive.

IE didn't "take advantage" of Netscape earlier because Bill Gates was asleep at the wheel: it was only when he woke up - later announced in the famous Pearl Harbour Day speech in 1995 - and did a 180 degree turn on the Internet, that his company's undoubted capabilities kicked in and IE took off.

As far as supercomputing is concerned, don't forget that yesterday's supercomputer is tomorrow's desktop: the point is GNU/Linux will scale hugely in the future. It's not clear that Windows will.

OpenOffice was indeed the commercial StarOffice - a product that had precisely zero effect on the market, like OpenOffice.org 1.0. It was only with version 2.0 that people started taking the software seriously as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

The same happened with Firefox. The original (commercial) Netscape code was pretty awful: years of fiddling with it had little impact on the market. It was only when a slimmed-down version - what became Firefox - was produced that the market share started to climb.

As for inexorability, well, I see that from two things. First, there are the dynamics of open source: better will tend to replace good, because there are not the same commercial or marketing agendas involved (they are probably still some).

More generally, Microsoft just can't go on writing software the way it has in the past: just look at Vista. It's years late, and missing most of its really cool technology (WinFS etc.). The distributed, modular approach that lies at the heart of free software is better able to cope with the creation of complex programs - effectively getting around the problems of Fred Brooks's Mythical Man-Month.

Time and effort is being wasted

Anonymous's picture

Hopefully, before long, someone will give FOSS a huge kick up the backside. Way too much time and effort is expended in attempting to copy existing products. Free versions of word may be nice, but word is a terrible example to follow.

The tools are available, let's use them to create better software products not just duplicate the past.

I saw an article about this

Anonymous's picture

The fact is that software

Anonymous's picture

The fact is that software that is available for more operating systems than the software it is copying, shouldn't be seen as duplicate software. Why? Simply because there are no competing commercial products for several of the supported systems. For example, does Microsoft distribute MS Office for Linux or even FreeBSD? I don't think so. But why are there also versions for Windows and Mac OS X of OpenOffice.org? Because a) porting does not needs much efforts, b) it can increase the community and thus leverage the project to become better on the OSes that MS Office does not officially run on, and most important, c) it protects the users of operating systems not officially supported by Microsoft from vendor lock-in because it allows the spread of open standards (otherwise users of OSes with a smaller market share that are not supported might be discriminated to islands). The same is also true for Firefox and other FLOSS. Note that Netscape stayed successful on Linux when the market share on Windows and Mac was decreasing due to IE (not available for Linux!!), that Netscape decided to leverage the less agressive Linux market (no IE competition), and the fact that most websites are today also fully accessible for Linux/FreeBSD/... users because websites adopted open standards due to the availability and success of Firefox on Windows (and Konqueror's code in Mac OS X's Safari). Without competition from open source (Mac OS X is built upon a lot of open source!), Microsoft would have became a lazy monopolist, and Windows users had to wait another 10 years for the relase of Vista, besides paying more.

no monocultures

Anonymous's picture

Absolutely. As Linux reaches parity in things like useability and eye candy, it would be nice to see more concentration on real innovation.

I think the closest current design paradigm to Linux is really the AK-47 assault rifle: its not pretty, but its cheap, reliable, and anybody can produce their own version. All violent tendencies aside...

I hope in ten years we still have a Microsoft, an Apple, Linux, BSD, whatever else. The one lesson we should take from Microsoft is that monocultures are good for no one.


Markus's picture

I think that the Open Source Achieve become better in the next 10 years.

no monocultures but...

DerThomas's picture

It's absolutely desireable that in ten years there is still Microsoft, Apple, Linux and so on.

But Linux has still the reputation that this is an OS for experts and geeks and so the most normal users think, they can only work with M$.
When I talk to friends about computers, everyone thinks that you have to be a good programmer, if you want to use Linux.
The consequenze is, that most people don't even give a chance to Linux.

So we all should work on telling the people, that Linux is no "rocket science".

Sure ain't "Point and Click"

indnajns's picture

It may not be "rocket science", but it sure isn't Point and Click, either. FAR FAR from it. I have been using computers since 640k was "enough for anybody". I can program in or have dabbled in over a half dozen languages. A "DOS prompt" doesn't scare me. I have also just spent over a WEEK trying to get Mysql, PHP, and MySqlAdmin to work harmoniously on my machine. I ALMOST GAVE UP. Did I want the source code or the .tar build? Did I need the msi file? Which one's the install file?? Complain about M$ all you want, at least I know what .exe will do. It installs the program for me, no matter what my "use" of it will be. No CGI build vs the desktop build vs the web design build. Point, Click, Install, USE! Until Open Source grasps this concept, it isn't going anywhere mainstream. But the elitist mentality that exists in the Linux community will probably never let it happen. "ALL Windows users are spoonfed sheep and Open Source shouldn't bow to their GUI needs." Well, I'll give you a hint - it isn't just $$ that keeps M$ on top. Do you really think the average user could figure out how to install ANYTHING Open Source? Until Open Source is designed for the AVERAGE user, the average user isn't going to embrace it. Simple as that.

I'd love to switch to Linux. I'm tired of Microsoft telling me my perfectly good software and hardware are now out of date. But after what I just went through to get to use a simple database, I don't even want to think about what would be involved to find hardware drivers.

True! When i started working

Anonymous's picture

True! When i started working with linux 1 year ago, i though it is much more complex to handle and that i would have to spend a lot of time reading books and magazines to get started with this whole linux thing - but then while installing the ubuntu distribution i realized, that linux is even more confortable than windows and that you do not have to pay for every little program. 1 month later i switched my main pc from windows to linux!

The Because Effect

Doc Searls's picture

I predict that in ten years open source still won't be a "business model". And that this will be a Good Thing.

Open Source is a development approach and a value system around usability and re-usability. It's great at creating an endless variety of highly useful commodity building materials. Like gravity and the periodic table, it has enormously supportive "because" effects. That is, you can make much more money because of it than with it.

Unlike gravity and the periodic table, we can always improve on it. That is the great advantage of open source code.

This is why it is better to invest in companies that smartly use open source code than in companies that just produce it. The better part of ten years ago, VCs invested in open source as a buzzphrase, expecting to make money in the open source "market" that never developed as expected. (Today they're following other buzztrends, like "Web 2.0".)

Anyway, I hope that we'll see "white box" electronic components that allow us to make our own cameras, iPod equivalents and cell phones, free of vendor lock-in. But I fear that we'll never have that without VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management.

Which is why I started ProjectVRM at the Berkman Center. It too is an open source effort, of course. And I invite anybody who cares to weigh in and contribute to the effort any way they like.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

It provides a new form for an old business model

rjh's picture

Open source greatly enhances and revises the old business model of the "teaming agreement." I have seen it used to greatly simplify some of the multi-corporation partnerships that I am involved with. I have occasionally explained the GPL as a kind of pre-negotiated teaming agreement.

Traditional teaming agreements require extensive legal support and are enforcable as contracts only in the context of some state or national law. This presents a large barrier to widespread use of teaming agreements.

The GPL is enforced by copyright, thus simplifying multi-state and multi-national participation. It has simplified the rules to the extent that the pre-set terms can be evaluated and accepted by the participants, without needed large teams of lawyers and negotiations. The other various licenses are similar, but with somewhat different rules regarding the nature of the teaming agreement.

As a result, a large body of participants can quickly agree to team up on solving some common problem (e.g., a generic operating system) with the understanding that they will compete elsewhere on services, support, etc. Almost all teaming agreements require the team members agree to share the solution to one problem while competing elsewhere. The Open Source model has moved this kind of teaming from being an infrequent legal agreement into the mainstream with the pre-negotiated teaming licenses.

Ten years ago today (12/16/96)

Joe Klemmer's picture

I had been using Linux for 5 years and 1 month. But my attention was occupied as I was helping my now ex-wife give birth to our son. Since then he's been the primary (and secondary) focus for me.

It was also six months after my first article for LJ was published and nine months after I visited Red Hat to meet some friends there and another who was visiting from Australia. OC, no one I knew then is still there.

I'm not saying this as a one upmanship thing. Just that it has been an interesting 10 years.

Indie Game Dev and Linux User
Contact Info: http://about.me/joeklemmer
"Running Linux since 1991"

same as today

linux bob's picture

In 1996 I got a copy of suse on my computer, at the time there are so many thing did not work, suse could not find the graphic card, the network card does not work... Now I use ubuntu everything just worked perfectly. who knows which one is going to be the 1 os in 10 years time,
maybe linux maybe windows. oh I love compiz

Its turning into a Open source world

Mike Walker's picture

In my opinion the world is slowly heading towards open source and as we see the market mature we will see it reach critical mass. I think it will be the acceptance of the corporate world that will spur the real change...

Reason for FOSS (Linux, Firefox, etc.) increased potential

Gabidan's picture

There is nothing that open source, specifically FOSS, cannot achieve in the next 10 years. However I strongly believe that one of the advantages it has is that its main opponent, Microsoft, will continue to have a difficult time competing with it mainly because of the following reasons:

1. WINNING A RACE FROM THE LEADING POSITION: Microsoft will have a difficult task competing with companies and or products that is coming from behind them, in terms of market share not technology or quality. Windows came from behind to gain market share over Netware and others; IE came from behind to beat Netscape, Xbox is coming from behind soon to beat PS3 and Wii; I can list a few more but you should see the trend. Microsoft have no experience, although it is a fast learner, with any company and or product that came from behind them to gain in terms of market share.

2. COST: this should be self-explanatory

FOSS is the first man-made phenomena.

I don't agree quite

Anonymous's picture

I am not that optimistic as you are. When you talk about particular applications you may be right - for example Firefox is better than IE (personal opinion) so nothing can stop it on its way up and gaining more popularity. But when we talk about operation systems and especially games and game stations - lets face it, there is so much work to do, too much I'd say. Linux is still not user friendly enough to win the competition and games is a huge holdback in its race.
Besides, so far cost is not the best reason you give. To a great extent cost drives users more to non licensed software than to FOSS.

Well, he actually has a point

Anonymous's picture

And I think Gabidan has a point. You are right that there is much work to be done in order to make Linux a real Windows competitor for the ordinary users but that time is not that far away. As good as Windows is (did I said that really ?!?!) it lacks Linux's safety and... sympathy. Name me a company more hated than Microsoft and an operational system more criticized than Windows. With this in mind, what Gabidan said about market share, and I would add the experience FOSS get from their oponents' mistakes ... there is nothing unachievable for FOSS and FOSS IS REALLY the first man-made phenomena.

I don't know about "can't", but I can think of a few "won't"s

Daniel Glasser's picture

Open source is finding its way into embedded systems in a big way, however there are some areas where it is being excluded because of the nature of the GPL. The GPL is a good thing, but some companies have proprietary hardware interfaces, and for reasons of licensing and/or trade secrets, do not wish to expose details of these interfaces as they would be should the source code that supports it become GPL itself.

I worked on a project where an expensive embedded OS was used rather than Linux because of all of the rancor in the FOSS community over proprietary drivers. The company has a significant investment in this, and the risk that a competitor would request the source to the driver for the proprietary hardware, and thus be able to reverse-engineer the hardware and produce a competing product at a lower cost (not having had to develop both the hardware and software from scratch), was enough to have the legal department ban the use of FOSS in the product. We did use GCC, but we even had to re-implement the C and C++ runtime routines from scratch to satisfy the legal department.

In some areas of defense related work, again, the GPL excludes a lot of FOSS software from being used, this time for reasons of national security. Some other open source licenses lend themselves better to these areas.

Note: I have no argument with the GPL myself, though I tend toward the BSD license.

You can't get there from here...

peter.green's picture

...some companies have proprietary hardware interfaces, and for reasons of licensing and/or trade secrets, do not wish to expose details of these interfaces...

I've never understood this argument about reverse-engineering hardware. Surely even a lawyer must realise it's not possible to design an internal combustion engine simply by examining the dashboard?

That risk is actually just theoretical

Richard's picture

The worry quoted above, namely that a GPL driver would help competitors to reverse-engineer the hardware is a frequent straw-man proposed by legal departments. In fact, no one should worry, for 2 reasons.

1)Reverse engineering the hardware from a driver is actually very very hard! Even if you get some information about register specs and so on, you still have to take apart the physical hardware to know how its built. And the competitor could probably disassemble the binary without much greater effort. Besides which, the information gleaned is of rather limited use!

2)Your market advantage is in first-mover advantage, time-to-market, build quality, look-n-feel, branding, advertising, reputation, reliability etc. It isn't in being the only one in that market sector.
By the time your competitor has reverse-engineered your product, you should akready be on the next generation.

However, NOT using GPL code denies you 2 advantages:

i)The ability to build on a large body of FOSS, and speed up your own development

ii)The community of users cannot hack your product. This means that it can't be used for new and interesting things. So you lose a part of your market, and you don't get any work done for you for free!


Morten Juhl Johansen's picture

I completely agree with the first-mover argument and the possibility of taking avantage of a large body of developers. I have often wondered why the graphics cards producers haven't tapped this resource. One suspects that they fear their products seeing too long-term use?

I think the author should

Personage's picture

I think the author should have just said it's impossible to tell where open source will be in ten years and just left it as that.


Glyn Moody's picture

I was trying to suggest something stronger: that even though I (obviously) don't know what's going to happen in 10 years, open source will nonetheless have achieved much more then than many might think - and I use the past 10 years as a parallel situation.

The question is really: what are the areas that are going to be very tough for open source to crack? As I've indicated, I think that home entertainment is going to be tricky not for technical but for political reasons.

More accessible flexibility perhaps?

Anonymous's picture

A while back, I decided to try and get rid of Windows [it's the only Microsoft thing I actually use on this computer] and move to a Linux desktop. I'm a musician and composer, and use certain software for my work. I had read that Rosegarden was as good as Cubase so I tried to download it. I also looked at Lilypond and Demeno.

And there the problem started. Rosegarden needed 53 pieces of software for me to also download; and some of those had other dependencies. Lilypond didn't communicate with Denemo. The help files were written by someone who obviously didn't care whether I could use the software or not. My Windows software had no such problems so I had to switch back because I quite simply could not work.

When I put this to a Linux fan, he said that since I was a specialist case, it didn't matter that I couldn't use it for my job. But I started as a general user of computers before I started my job. And my needs [as with other users I am sure] changed. So my operating system needs to cope quickly and efficently with that change. For me, Linux could not do this.

I use Openoffice.org as it's a great piece of software that with each version seems to deal with the environment around it, by adding new filters and functionality with an easily accessible interface. That makes it a useful tool. Perhaps the operating system could learn the same trick? Loading software shouldn't feel like a mission.

You're mixing up too many

Anonymous's picture

You're mixing up too many things.
The fact that installing some software package is not easy has nothing to do with the operating system, but with the software package itself. Those programs will be as hard to install in Windows, Linux, OSX, BSD, BeOS or whatever. Also, many times you are simply experiencing rough edges due to the incomplete state of the program.
But you can do something about it. Even whining is a good thing in Open Source Software. Talk with the developers about your needs, your ideas. This is critical in very specialized fields, like music software, because software developers need to be educated in the problem they are trying to solve (even if they don't realize they need to). Articulating your thoughts in an article and post it in a blog can help, because it can start a ripple of new development on resonating minds over the World. That's how Open Source gets started.
I too think that installing software should not be a mission, but it is a inherently difficult task if it has to be done in a safe way. Package management is great if your distribution has a package for what you need, but it cannot solve everything. There are ideas floating around, like "zero install" (look for it in Wikipedia), that may crystallize the day Fedora or Ubuntu make use of them.
For the moment, your best bet would be to use an specialized distro (if it exists) or one with a large package pool, like Debian or Fedora.

You missed what he said

indnajns's picture

You completely missed what the poster was saying. See my post above. To install a program on a Windows machine you Point, Click, Install, and USE. With Linux/OpenSource, you find you have to have another program, another file, or a different version of the file based on how you're going to use it. Why should this user's needs be marginalized "just because" his use is different from yours? That's more of that "Windows Users are too ingorant to know what they want/need" thinking. He knew exactly what he wanted. He tried to figure out what he needed from the cacaphony of files he was inundated with. I've seen the type of help files he's talking about -- written BY programmers FOR programmers. I shouldn't have to be able to write the software just to install it. By that thinking, I should be able to build a microwave just to heat my tea. Anybody on here buld microwaves from scratch just for the fun of it? (yeah, I'm sure a few do, but hopefully you can still see my point.) Until more Open Source programs are point and click, no matter how abhorent that concept is to the Linux elitists, Open Source will not be gaining a lot more ground.

Good point

Glyn Moody's picture

This has always been a weakness for free software; clearly things are getting better, but there's still some way to go.

MS is all well and good, but

pfe1223's picture

MS is all well and good, but Apple is making a big play for the home entertainment market as well. So open source has to fight two threats, one with lots of money and the other with lots of creativity.


Glyn Moody's picture

But in a sense, that's more Microsoft's problem, since open source will probably only move on to that market once it's sorted out the rest of traditional computing....

open source home entertainment

J's picture

Take a good look at Mythtv and the like. Open source is already well established here and is uniquely positioned since it can focus on the user's needs and desires, not the media companies'. Add in some good quality "white box" living room hardware and you can give the big players a run for their money.

Looking ten years out that's a no-brainer: open source can do it. After all, what made .mp3s popular to begin with? It wasn't MS, Apple, or the media companies; it was user-driven with a lot of open-source software involved.

Technically, yes

Glyn Moody's picture

But there is a problem that goes beyond mere technology, and that involves DRM. Content will need to be prised from the dead, DRM'ed fingers of the media companies before open source can take off in this sector.

As we've seen, this issue is already driving things like the GPLv3, and I expect that there will be more of the same before things are ultimately resolved in favour of alternative business models that do not involve treating the customer as a criminal.

Quite correct, Glyn

Anonymous's picture

Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) is a problem, and it certainly won't stop copyright infringement. The copyright-infringement houses will find a way to get around whatever the MPAA/RIAA Nazis come up with.

I actually don't buy DVD's anymore because the MPAA wants to stop me from watching legally purchased DVD's on my GNU/Linux box without some sort of DRM-related "software tax." I am, of course, referring to the Content Scrambing System (CSS). For those DVD's that I already bought, yes, I do use DeCSS, and if that makes me a crook, then so be it; damn it, I bought and paid for that DVD. I should be free to play that DVD in whatever device I wish, whenever I wish, for the personal use of the members of my household.

If the media companies wish to make that essentially computationally impossible with stronger DRM, then I simply will continue not purchasing any of their movies. I am totally behind GPL v3 for the reasons that you have specified.

DRM in 10 years time

Philippe Lachaise's picture

My guess is that in 10 years time OSS technology will have evolved to such a point that creating artistic content will be quite easy.

Providing you have a good story, nothing will stop you from creating a hit.

You will then be able to market it in classical OSS way : "if you liked it you're welcome to send me one buck via Paypal".
And if you you think you can make my film better, please do it !

This has already started with YouTube : nice little clips, still embyonic, but the next stage will produce full-blown, DRM-free films.

There's not much future for DRM.

In the meantime I do agree with you : just don't buy it.


Glyn Moody's picture

So what your remarks imply is that we need to educate content producers in order to promote a cultural change such that DRM just becomes irrelevant to the way people distribute their works.

More Education

ProfTheory's picture

What would be nice would be if companies such as Cyberlink (PowerDVD) and others realized that there is a market for Linux software.

But at the center of that issues, as hinted at in a previous post, is whether proprietary software can be used with GNU/Linux or not. I have read that FSF believes All software used with GNU/Linux must be OSS. Part of the issue is the definition of, derivative work.

Case in point are the Broadcom WiFi drivers used by Linksys. Some believe that since Linux was used as the OS that others have the right to reverse-engineer the drivers for use else where. Though they state that the legality is 'questionable.'

I hope Linux isn't going to be hampered by a too broadly interpreted meaning of derivative work or that all software used with GNU/Linux MUST in all cases be open source. I would prefer that companies would do that but I also see a problem with it being mandatory. This is something that should be made clear to every one in and out of the open source community.

Politics and Law will decide the future of Open Source

MattyB's picture

In ten years time, I hope that we will have seen a large court case that completely sides with the GPL against a M$/Novell/Universal etc. I hope that this will be the case across continents. I have a feeling that with the growth of Chinese and Indian GNU/Linux developers, some idiot politicians (probably with M$ money in their pockets) will put out a Sarbanes Oxley/DRM/MCBlahblah type law that impacts open source. We shall see.
What is sure, is that there are no technical barriers to GNU/Linux use across the technical spectrum. The present situation is enough to proove this.


That Guy's picture

Heres one for the books, and if I can find the interview clip I will try to post it in it's somewhat entirety. But to sum it up, Bill Gates, said in an interview "DRM is not the future, rightnow we don't have the technology to what really needs to be done"...and finished off the comment, with "just buy the CD, rip it, and then were all legal." And hes right, I just never thought that he of all people would make a statment like that. Then again I guess when your the richest man in the world, you can say whatever you want.