Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Commercial Open Source is very healthy

Last week was Commercial Open Source week for me. I met almost everyone in the industry, since I spoke at OSBC in San Francisco and I attended OSGR in Utah. The latter was a lot of fun, the former a bit surprising.

I wrote in the past that I believed LinuxWorld was done, and I was right... I also wrote that the next one up was OSBC. I now feel I was wrong. OSBC is morphing, naturally (I do not think Matt was anticipating this, it just happened). It started as a club of Commercial Open Source people discussing about business models and licenses. It became an outlet for large companies trying to behave opensourcy. It is now an education conference, for people that know a little about open source and nothing about how to make money with that.

I gave a talk about my way to build a successful open source business (similar to the keynote I gave at the World Computer Congress). I started with basic concepts, like "what is open source" or "what is dual licensing". At least half of the audience was listening with a level of attention that surprised me. I was talking about concepts everyone knew at the first OSBC. Not now, not at this one.

Open source has crossed the chasm. It is mainstream. The rest of the population (which happens to be the vast majority) is now looking at ways to create businesses around it. They do not know the basic concepts. They come to OSBC to learn them.

That is why OSBC was packed and the rooms were full, during an economic downturn where nobody is traveling.

The other angle came from OSGR and some of the chat in the hallways at OSBC. Every CEO I talked to said the same thing: "we are doing pretty well, business is growing, despite the economy". OSGR was the last days of the quarter, and everyone was relaxed.

Open Source companies are doing well. The downturn is helping them. I talk to a lot of CEOs in the Valley and, believe me, everyone is hurting badly. They are all scared to death. No cash from VCs, their customers delaying payments, some dying, contracts slipping quarter after quarter.

Not in the Open Source world. This market is very strong. It is now attracting the bulk of the market. It is perceived as the Walmart of software. And that is where people go to shop in a crisis.

Long life Open Source. Long life OSBC.