The French faith in open source

As energy was the driver for the industrial revolution, the Internet is the driver for IT.

Of all the nations in Europe it is France that has embraced open source with the most passion, and the most money.

The whole Open World Forum project is a way to call attention to this. That's why it opened with a parade of politicians talking about the money government is putting into the space. And the industry appreciates it.

But the motivation was explained best by Matthew Poujol (right), a consultant with Pierre Audoin, during an analysts' lunch put together by Italian Roberto Galoppini.

“We just shipped a study for the European Union on the future of software in Europe. Each year the EU gives help to the Information Technology (IT) community – 1.2 billion Euros just last year. (About $1.6 billion.)

Why? “Software and IT is becoming more of the added value on everything you build. It was 20% of the value of the airplane, now it's 30%. It's 20% of the value in an auto.” It's an immense cost that needs to be shared, he said, even with American competitors. “Airbus has put all their Java into Eclipse. They are encouraging Boeing to join their community.

“As energy was the driver for the industrial revolution, the Internet is the driver for IT. It changes how we do IT. We make IT the way we make cars. Before it was craftsmanship. Now it's a process.”

But there remain problems.

“We don't get to economies of scale as easily as the U.S.. Venture capital money is lagging. And the entrepreneurship craze” does not exist. “I work with engineers in school who don't want to create their own company.”

Maybe here we're lacking something the U.S. has, he suggested. Or maybe they're like American journalists, I should have replied, most of whom define what we do as working for someone, and have little appetite for quitting the profession to run a business.

Because that's what happens, whether you're an engineer, a chef, or a writer. You start a business to scale what you do, and find yourself no longer talent, but management.

NOTE: My plane fare and hotel costs in Paris were picked up by the Open World Forum upon my return.