Free open-source software: My take on its inexorable rise

Free open-source software: My take on its inexorable rise

Summary: Free software is making its presence felt in all walks of life — not just on the desktop

TOPICS: Android, Linux, Mobility

The battle for the desktop is shifting glacially toward Linux but it's a different kettle of percentages for mobile. Every day there are:

  • 371,000 babies born
  • 378,000 iPhones sold
  • One million Android devices activated
  • Only 1.1 million PCs sold

Stats via @zeldman via @lukew via TNW

As we all know, Android has Linux at the heart of it, with a litigious Java platform, which means that it is the powerhouse driving the adoption of free software — although many would argue that it's not really free.

From my own very small web design corner of the universe I can see the inexorable rise of free software. Of my last eight contract roles, four of them were working on either the WordPress or Drupal content management systems.

WordPress seems to be pulled off the free software shelf for some quite brisk and frisky customisation for relatively small client sites, while Drupal is a more of heavyweight alternative. I've also heard good things said about Concrete5's modular structure for swift customisation.

With margins narrowing to near-negative proportions, it's hardly surprising digital agencies are choosing mature and proven free software alternatives. In the same way that Microsoft is losing Team Foundation Server customers to Git, proprietary and custom-built CMSes are losing out to free software.

Topics: Android, Linux, Mobility

Jake Rayson

About Jake Rayson

A web designer since the 20th century, I am a pragmatic advocate of Free Software and I use proprietary software when appropriate. I made the full-time switch to Linux back in 2007, and my desktop tools of choice are Linux Mint, Inkscape, GIMP and Sublime Text.

As a Front End Developer, my core skills are HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, and my working life reflects my commitment to open standards and accessible websites (ie accessible by everyone, regardless of browser, platform, ability or technology).

For web publishing platforms, I use WordPress for ease of use and Drupal for more complex solutions.

I am also learning about Ruby, Rails, Sinatra and CoffeeScript. I like the minimalist Ruby Way. To this end, my personal portfolio website is built with NestaCMS.

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  • The Only Place Where Open-Source Does Not Dominate ...

    ... i.e. the desktop, is in decline. The only reason Open Source does not dominate there is because it is no longer a competitive market. All the innovation has gone out of it, along with the profits.

    In every other arena of computing, on the other hand, where innovation is thriving, Open Source is growing to dominate. We see this in ultramobile devices, which are now so popular that Linux, in the form of Android, has beaten out Windows to become the world's fastest-shipping operating system.
    • desktop

      The desktop is not so much in decline as at the saturation point. There are no new wow features to attract business and home users that weren't already there. I use Linux for my file server at home, but have no intention of using it for my desktop/laptop, tablet, or smartphone. I am quite happy with my Windows 7.5 smartphone, and plan to skip the tablet for a touch enabled ultrabook.
  • Dilusional

    "The battle for the desktop is shifting glacially toward Linux"

    This is a blatant falsehood.
    Tim Acheson
    • Absolutely

      You would think the author would know better. The linux community must be really really desperate for clicks, so much so they have to make up lies to get their own community to believe in them.
      Loverock Davidson-
      • Still living in the past Loverock?

        You lake cards, paper tape and dsik drives the size of washing machines.

        I don't.

        Charles Norrie
    • How So? Not a Bold Claim

      It's not like that's some kind of bold claim. Percentage of desktop usage of Linux has been fairly steadily, but quite slowly rising over the past few years, though it's still not very high.
    • Linux on the desktop

      It's interesting that Valve is putting so much into developing its Steam games on Linux. It seems to me that they might know something about Windows 8 that others don't know yet. Except I think the Linux fans have known it for a long time.
  • My take on "open"

    Much like piracy, the flawed dogma of "open" would kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, if was capable of succeeding:
    Tim Acheson
  • My take on "open"

    Much like piracy, the flawed dogma of "open" would kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, if was capable of succeeding:
    Tim Acheson
  • Free open-source software: My take on its inexorable rise

    "The battle for the desktop is shifting glacially toward Linux but it's a different kettle of percentages for mobile."
    LOL!!!!! Funniest thing I read all day. Your blogger colleague wrote a whole blog post about how linux on the desktop is dead and I'd have to agree with him. I have seen absolutely no proof that would even suggest linux is increasing in the desktop, everything I've seen says just the opposite.

    "As we all know, Android has Linux at the heart of it"
    Ok so now android is linux. I'm getting confused by the back and forth of whether it is or not.

    Biggest flaw of this article is the author thinking free software == linux.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • "I'm getting confused by the back and forth of whether it is or not."

      Good - confused Loverock was always more fun to read.
      • Retarded Loverock... even better...

    • You're very easy to confuse, apparently

      So sorry to have to clarify that every single person using an Android device is running Linux. I know that runs cross-purposes to your worldview, all those millions and millions of Linux devices.

      Quick, whip out one of your standard FUD remarks, attempting to create the impression that all those very happy SGIII and HTC One X users are all so disadvantaged ...
      • Not to mention...

        All of the Linux embedded systems...

        I was on an overseas flight recently and before take off they booted up the inflight entertainment system. I was thrilled to see my happy penguin waving from the server control screen...

        Happiness is MSFT @ 0.0001
        • Not enough

          Sorry, but Windows also dominates the embedded devices market. You'd be surprised how widespread Windows CE is used. It's something that most people are not aware of, but Windows CE does in fact dominate almost to the same extent its big brother Windows does in the desktop market.

          And you should know that while "Free Software" sounds good on paper, in practice, it has its downsides. For one, it's lack of quality support compared to proprietary software is something that's just not good for businesses. Some Linux distros do have good corporate support, but many do not. Many distros are basically "You're on your own" distros. With Windows, their business support is amazing. If you run a business you'll know how much of a headache it is when you need support, but there's no one there. Going onto Google and looking through Linux forums in not an option for businesses. Free Software is just not a sustainable model if there's to be any amount of support.

          The polar opposite of Free Software would be Apple and their ultra-closed and proprietary software. Most people, businesses, consumers, and even people that use proprietary software know how restrictive Apple is. You're wish is for Microsoft (MSFT) to collapse if I'm not mistaken. If that were to happen, you have no idea what the ramifications for that would be. If MSFT drops to 0.0001, it'll basically cause a collapse or at least a huge slump in the software industry. It'll cause a domino effect where once MSFT collapses, investors will immediately withdraw from other software companies and they'll collapse as well. The collapse of MSFT will also see a huge crash in the hardware market both desktop and embedded. Even though Free Software alternatives are available, the damage will have been done.

          Right now, the world is essentially dominated by Microsoft. If Windows Phone 8 gains enough popularity, you'll see Microsoft also making a comeback in the mobile market. I like to think of Microsoft as somewhere in the middle between Free Software and Apple Proprietary. They're not an open source software development company, but they don't lock their products down like Apple does.

          Even with Windows Phones, Microsoft provides you with the tools necessary to "jailbreak" your device. Imagine that! A jailbreak tool that's actually reliable and has support from a large corporation. Android, even though it's open source, it's not completely open. You still have to root a device if you want full control. It's not like Google or any manufacturer is offering the tools and support for rooting Android devices.

          In the end, there's a reason why Open Source Free Software hasn't won yet. It's because of quality and support. That's really all people care about. They want it to be good and if something goes wrong, they want customer support immediately. Microsoft pours billions into quality and support. Free Software developers don't have billions of dollars to make sure their software is as good as possible. Proprietary software is just simply better in the eyes of businesses and consumers.
          • Win CE ?

            it was not dead ?
            or is a walking zombie ?
            you said: "You'd be surprised how widespread Windows CE is used."
            Please, surprises us...
            Now you say "ultra-closed" about Apple. Coming from an MS fanboy this is pure stupidity. Let's put it simple for you: I compute on mac OSX because , as an unix platform, Open Source is 1st class citizen. Compare that to Windows. That thing, VisualStudio, still doesn't do PHP ?
  • Here's a question...

    And this is honest, no angle...

    The mobile app market certainly has the "free" side covered with add supported apps, but what about the OSS side of things?

    Unless I've missed it, there doesn't seem to be much OSS, at least not in terms of popular titles unless the authors simply aren't advertising the fact their titles are OSS.

    At the end of the day, I don't subscribe to the OSS vs. closed debate. In the end, good software wins out, and whether a particular software title is open or closed has little to do with the quality of it. It's the idea and the implementation of the idea that determine quality.
    • There Is Some, but Not a Big Push

      There is some open source Android software, but it's true that there hasn't been a big push. Examples are Ringdroid, FBReader, Cool Reader, K-9 Mail, Firefox, the game Frozen Bubble, and in beta, VLC. Of course there are quite a few others, but those are some of the more popular apps. I also have OI file manager on my set top Android device, and it seems to work OK.
  • Good software at the right price...

    will usually win out. This goes back to the battle of would I rather sell 5000 widgets for $5000 each OR would I rather sell 500,000 widgets for $500 each. Sometimes companies price themselves out of the market by trying to make too much. Open Source can contribute to larger volumes at lower prices. I am not saying it is the only way to do so, but it can help. The way the world seems to be moving (much of the World's Wealth accummulating into the hands of fewer and fewer people) makes me believe that, other things being relatively equal, more widgets affordable at lower prices will win out. Open Source CAN be a factor in that, although it is only part of the equation.
  • Bravo -- now the other half: the new meme is Open Source Everything

    twitter hash #openall Your piece is in tonight's Open Source Everything Highlights, short URL for the stack is Key point is that not only is F/OSS into everything, but all the other opens are essential if F/OSS is to be all it can be -- Open Access, Open Cloud, Open Culture, Open Data, Open Education, Open Government, Open Hardware, Open Journalism, Open Knowledge, Open Manufacturing, Open Materials, Open Meetings, Open Science, Open Software, Open Standards...and of course Autonomous Internet, Crowd-Funding, Crowd-Sourcing, True Cost, and UnConference. All at once.
    Robert Davud STEELE Vivas