Tech VIPs say future belongs to open source
In the next five to 10 years, the open-source movement will transform the software business, according to several top industry executives speaking at the AO 2005 Innovation Summit at Stanford University.
"We're building a whole new world in the software industry," said Ray Lane, a partner at venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins Caufield &Byers, who was moderating the open-source panel.
Kim Polese, CEO of SpikeSource, said she believes that every application in a proprietary technology environment will become an open-source tool in the coming years. Her company provides an integrated package of interoperable pretested software to CIOs.
Asked by Lane whether she thinks companies will pay for a license to own open-source tools, Polese answered yes. Companies will also learn to better cooperate with industry rivals to build and adapt open-source applications that work for their businesses, Polese said.
Stability and security will be other drivers of open-source software, said Rahul Kapoor, a partner with Morgan Lewis & Bockius.
That sentiment drew mixed reviews from other panelists, who wondered if the software simply seemed more secure because virus writers are more focused on larger pools of users, such as those who rely on Windows.
Lane asked the panelists where companies should go if their open-source technology breaks.
Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz answered that if it's Red Hat's technology, for example, then companies would turn to Red Hat.
"Companies that present you with technology need to provide you with assurances," Schwartz said, adding that the software industry must adopt open standards for it to thrive.
"Open standards mean more than open source," said Schwartz.
He pointed to Firefox as an example of a product that's growing popular rapidly because it's simple and easy to use. He noted that it's a side benefit that the program just happens to be open source.
"Why is Firefox being adopted so quickly? Because IE is a lame product. It's not so much about open source--but that's great--but that it works so much better," he said.
Schwartz further noted that services built around open source add value. Yahoo Search, for example, is free, but the advertising service around it is tremendously valuable, he said.
Rod Smith, vice president of emerging technologies at IBM, gave his assessment of the open-source industry over the next 10 years.
"By 2010, or 2015, the business will be very different, and it's going to combine multidisciplinary applications," Smith said. "We're early pioneers of this."