I'm getting ready to fly over the pond again and meet a great bunch of people at the Open Source Think Tank. As this will be a great occasion to discuss what 2008 will bring to Open Source, here is my shot at some of the most notable challenges for the year to come:
- 2008 should be FedEx year for commercial Open Source. It's time to deliver: Open Source funding is not exactly dry as a bone, but is definitely taking the plunge (I consider this a good thing, actually). The money has been awarded, now it's time to get to real work and prove our worth. No excuses.
- as an organic consequence, it's easy to predict that as the market separates the wheat from the chaff, a good handful of companies will disappear. Don't panic: it's just Darwinism at work. The challenge to Open Source as a viable business proposition will be more than balanced out by the opportunity, for those who manage to thrive (or just trick their investors into C-rounds), to perform M&As, and/or acquire IPR, skills and customer bases.
- with the frenzy almost over, we might want to take a moment on a Napa terrace to sip a glass of wine and think about the business model of commercial Open Source. Are we dead sure that development behind closed doors, releases thrown over the wall and aggressive/sneaky techniques to convert downloads into paying customers is the best we can come up with? I'm sure there is a better way to monetize software, probably with communities becoming even more relevant.
- which brings me to the next point: my prediction for 2008 and beyond is that Open Source will thrive much more when used as a means to an end. Be it technology companies cooperating on common blocks to build new products, SaaS endeavors willing to optimize their infrastructure and build new solutions or good old services companies willing to monetize added value in knowledge rather than gated access to technology, there is a great opportunity out there. Note: Being at the helm of a Open Source services company surely means I'm biased, still you can smell some winds of change.
- finally, I hope we can call it a day with Open Source licensing issues now that everyone and his dog, from free software diehards to attribution fans, should be happy with what the OSI has got to offer. That doesn't mean legal issues won't be biting us in 2008: there are just too many lawyers out there with Mercedes hungry for petrol and wives hungry for alimony. What I'm expecting is a surge in compliance-related matters, with companies (and individuals, and communities) actually starting to care about protecting their Open Source-licensed assets. To that extent, the Software Freedom Law Center will make all the difference.
Last but not least, let's not forget that on February 8th, 1998, Eric Raymond issued the Open Source call to the community. That alone will definitely make for a few rounds of celebration and toasts with some nice Napa bubbles. And, while we're at it, note that I'll be traveling with my clubs, and I'm ready and willing to challenge anyone in the Think Tank field for a round of golf at the Silverado PGA!