Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Open Source is the next Revolution

In today's Internet-driven world a simple novice can easily get hooked onto the Internet within a matter of hours (not days!) no matter how low-tech he/she can be, or how uninterested.

I personally converted a non-connected person into an eager email & e-shopping addict, and another person from a low-tech, 'cant-operate-a DVD-player' into an avid web surfer who went out and bought himself a snappy new $1'650 laptop, complete with a USB memory stick! On another occasion, and by simply explaining how easy it was to download a full-length movie to a fellow gadget-junkie, I now am a happy recipient of his up-to-date movie and music downloads (until he went to work overseas).

What they, and surely I, use as on line tools and utilities are your straight forward browsers, email and p2p clients that are readily available (for free) off the Internet. Things like IE/Netscape Navigator, emule, MS Outlook, etc. Simple WYSIWYG GUI's to take you to today's most popular search engine and you're on your way, searching through the millions of pages that address your curiosity, whatever it may be.

This was ( and my emphasis here is on the word 'was') the case with personal computing only, whereas in the business environment you are usually subjected to the corporate policy of using whatever software is available on the network, and that usually means Microsoft products like Internet Explorer, MS Office suite, Windows XP/2000 combinations. The advantage of such applications being provided by the same vendor/developer/vampire is the crucial requirement to be interoperable with other users at other business areas.

Businesses usually rely on enterprise-wide business solutions to be installed by a third party and supported by the internal IT department, which provide the support based on prepaid licenses which entail a large dollar value. This means that the vendor provides assistance with installation, rollout, training and delivery of the business solution, but does not support the user behind the solution itself, which is where the real need is created. Not only that, but in 3-4 years' time, the very solution you've just invested in and installed, will definitely be replaced with a newer updated version, which costs even more that what you just installed (if you factor in the future cost of money, hardware replacement costs and maintenance costs, both direct and indirect).

Enter the world of open source! This terrific concept of a flat, organized community of programmers, testers, documenters, troubleshooters supporters, etc. all working together in a collaborative effort to tear down the monopolistic walls of source code ownership, and therefore, capitalizing on the licenses, fees, certificates and upgrades needed to support the source code that the giants sold to the masses. In today's world, you don't really need a Genuine Microsoft operating system to work your PC, or a Microsoft Office suite to run your business, they can be downloaded for free from the internet!

In my opinion, open-source may well be the coming wave of the Internet revolution. It's easy to absorb by the masses (because it's free) and easily updatable (because it's open-source) and is highly configurable (because it's made by no one with an intent on monopolizing the 'net). Many businesses have already converted to Linux-based core systems, and some have come to realize the power of open source office applications like France and other EU countries.

Right now, I'm typing this article using a program called OpenOffice Writer, part of a software suite called OpenOffice which comes from a Sun-supported community of programmers who believe in open source, as described above. Pretty soon, I'll be downloading and installing the Linux operating system and see how that goes.

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