June 2008

Infoworld is reporting that Nokia is buying the remaining ~52% share of Symbian.  Nokia plans to offer the Symbian operating system royalty-free and open sourcing some portion of the code over the next two years.  Nokia likely hopes that offering Symbian royalty free will bolster the use of Symbian across handset providers and related parties. Also, from a bean counter standpoint, Nokia paid over $250MM in Symbian license fees last year, so paying $410M for the remaining share makes business sense.

The press release states that:

“Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, and Vodafone Group. All will get access to the Symbian operating system under a royalty-free license.”

So these vendors and anyone else will get Symbian royalty free, but will they continue to use it?

But what is the alternative?  Sure we have the Google-led Android platform, LiMo and Windows Mobile.  But millions of Symbian-based phones have been deployed for years already.  So even if vendors start to experiment with Android for one or two phones in their portfolio, it’s pretty risky to bet the whole product portfolio on Android being successful, or more successful than Symbian.

Since several of the vendors listed as Symbian members are also participating in Android, will this news from Nokia pose another hurdle to Android’s ultimate success?  Especially if Nokia can get the code fully open sourced faster than 2 years?  Part of me even thinks that a royalty free (but not open) Symbian operating system by itself will put a dent in Android’s ultimate success.

What do you think?

I previously wrote about Clipperz because I really think Marco and team at Clipperz have a great idea.  To summarize, Clipperz has technology for “zero-knowledge web applications” which they have applied to an online password manager as a proof of concept.  Marco writes:

“We simply meant that Clipperz knows nothing about its users and their data!

As a consequence of the “learn nothing” mantra, every zero-knowledge application should be completely anonymous, or at least it should make it impossible to relate the real name or email of a user to his data”

It seems that Richard Stallman agrees that Clipperz technology could be very useful in the cloud-based computing world that awaits us.

The guys at Clipperz and RMS have been talking about how Clipperz’s technology could provide freedom and privacy in the cloud.  To that end, they suggest (summarized from here):

  1. Choose AGPL: If your services are based on software with an AGPL license, you have to make the source code available to anyone that uses the service
  2. Add zero-knowledge sauce: The server hosting the web app could know nothing of its users, not even their usernames
  3. Build a smarter brower: We still need to provide users of web apps with an even more flexible and secure environment.

To expand on #3, Marco writes:

“Stallman suggests adding a feature to the browser allowing a user to say: “When you get URL X, use the Javascript from URL Y as if it came from URL X.” If the user does invoke this feature, he can run his copy of the Javascript and still being able to exchange data with the server hosting the web application.

A browser with such capabilities could also easily verify if the Javascript from URL X is different from the alternative Javascript stored at URL Y. If the user trusts the present release of the Javascript code from URL X, he could make a copy of it at URL Y and be alerted if any change occurs.

This solution protects the user from malicious code that could be unknowingly executed by his browser, stealing his data and destroying the whole zero-knowledge architecture. “

Personally, I think #2 and #3 are great ideas.  I’m having trouble with #1, the AGPL requirement.  From an academic standpoint, I can agree with it.  But if we’re asking Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, HP, etc. to use AGPL’d code, it could become an uphill battle.

Using the AGPL’d widget (from Clipperz in this case) that enables a “zero knowledge web application” is not the problem.  However, the viral nature of the AGPL would be a concern for any vendor who intends to drive revenue from their proprietary code/application delivered via a SaaS from a Cloud.  I guess that these vendors could always license the Clipperz technology…


When a PR contact from Reddit contacted us about “exciting news”, a mixture of workload and getting sent press releases not remotely related to open source led me to ignore the request to meet with Reddit.

My bad.  The news is that Reddit has decided to open source the code behind reddit.com.  The Reddit blog states:

“There are only five of us who work on reddit; we couldn’t have made this site if it weren’t for a great community of developers. In no particular order, here’s a quick list of the open source products that reddit is built and runs upon:

Debian, lighttpd, HAProxy, PostgreSQL, Slony-I, various python libraries, Psychopg, pylons, Solr, Tomcat, Ganglia, Mercurial, Git, gettext (translation), daemontools, and memcached.”

The code is licensed under CPAL, (i.e. a Mozilla license with a badgeware requirement).

I can’t immediately understand why users or companies would run this code themselves, except for very specialized purposes. But open code could attract attention from Reddit users who also have developer skills.

What do you think?

I usually try very hard to not write about IBM. But the following from Matt Asay requires a reply.

Regardless, IBM isn’t in the habit of open sourcing technology in which it has a lead or at least a strong position, such as it does with DB2. IBM strategically invests in open source to undermine the margins of its competitors, not its own.

Really? Take a look into OSGi, SCA, Apache HTTP Server or the countless other open source projects that IBM has open sourced technology into. This technology didn’t undermine competitors; it helped customers and competitors alike (and let’s not forget that competitor contributions helped IBM).

Take OSGi for example; virtually every application server is going to be built on OSGi technology. We helped found the OSGi Alliance and contributed a significant amount of the code for various OSGi implementations since Release 1.

IBM did this because the open standard (OSGi in this case) delivered customer benefits. Like all standards, they’re only useful if they are widely supported. What better way to convince other vendors and competitors alike to support and contribute to a standard, than through the use of open source around an open community?

The attention that OSGi technology is generating today is helping to raise all boats, especially IBM WebSphere, the first application server built on OSGi technology over 2 years ago.

Was the move to open source OSGi technology strategic for IBM? Absolutely. Did it undermine competitors? Not that I know of (but hey, I don’t know everything).

IBM (and all smart vendors) strategically invests in open source. But strategic doesn’t have to mean “undermine competitors”.

Dave reports that IDC’s latest report “Worldwide Standalone Open Source Software 2008–2012 Forecast: A Preliminary View” estimates that the standalone OSS market will grow from $1.73B in 2007 to $4.83B in 2012. That’s a 23% annual growth rate to 2012 vs. 7.7% annual growth for the overall software market.

Interesting to note that $4.8B represents 1.3% of the overall software market. The previous version of the IDC data suggested that standalone OSS spending would come in at 1.8% of the total 2011 market spending. (Don’t try to reconcile the two figures as forecasting is difficult and usually +/- a wide margin).

But as the report’s author, IDC’s Matt Lawton highlights:

“However, we need to also provide some context. Standalone open source software is an important but small segment of open source software. Large vendors are realizing significant revenues indirectly from their activities with and support of embedded and complementary open source software. In addition, unpaid open source software adoption is significant but not included in our revenue estimates.”

Matt Lawton is a very bright guy and “gets it” when open source is the topic of discussion.

Good to see that the data continues to support the idea of OSS becoming an aspect of the software market, rather than “the beginning of the end” as some had predicted.

I was pretty excited when OpenLogic announced the Open Source Census. A key aspect of the census was a tool that scanned respondents’ servers to determine which open source products/packages were actually being used. Anonymous data from these individual scans was going to be shared with the public in order to revolutionize our understanding of OSS usage. This would be very important for companies whose IT leaders don’t know that they are using OSS.

However, to date, only ~1300 machines have been scanned.

News from InfoWorld today that Microsoft has also sponsored the Open Source Census is great as this will attract attention to the Census.

If you’re reading this and have not participated in the Open Source Census, why not? What will it take to change your (and your company’s) mind?

When a Forrester Research representative emailed with the following survey highlights, I was more than a little surprised:

“Forrester released data today analyzing trend lines in enterprise open source usage in 2007. Among the key findings:

  • Seventy percent of decision-makers responded that they don’t have interest or have no plans to adopt open source software;
  • Only 23 percent of respondents said expanding their use of open source software was a priority;
  • Security is the main concern around adopting open source software. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said it was an important or very important concern.”

The data is from 1,017 decision makers in North America & Europe. The survey was conducted in Q3 2007.

But here are two data points that puts the 70% “not using or don’t have plans to use” in perspective:

The pie chart on the left was asked to decision makers who had already stated their company is using open source frameworks such as Spring or Hibernate. The pie chart on the right was asked of decision makers who had already stated that their company is using PHP, Ruby, Python or Perl.

As the Report’s author, Jeffrey Hammond, writes,

“Open source frameworks such as Spring and languages such as PHP are better known by name than license model.”

OSS vendors face an uphill battle to sell anything (support, as is the case today, or a product as I suggest) if the top decision maker doesn’t believe that his/her company is using OSS. It’s not an insurmountable battle, but it is uphill. The following finding from Forrester is promising for OSS vendors:

“Among those using open source, security, availability of service and support, and TCO are the primary concerns.”

Once the decision maker becomes aware of their company’s use of OSS, they want to ensure that the product is secure, supportable and has low TCO.

It would have been great to ask respondents “do you plan to acquire support?” if they were in fact using an OSS product and had responded that they were not using OSS. Tough to administer this question in a survey as you’d have to convince the respondent that they were in fact using an OSS product. But that would have been great data.

Contact Forrester to get a copy of the results and/or speak with Jeffrey Hammond.

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