OReilly Gazes Into the Future of Open Source

There has been an enormous paradigm shift around open source, Tim O'Reilly told attendees at this week's open source convention.

PORTLAND—There has been an enormous paradigm shift around open source, Tim OReilly, president of OReilly & Associates Inc., said in a keynote address here on Wednesday.

Addressing hundreds of attendees at the OReilly Open Source Convention (Oscon) here, he said that the shift started when IBM introduced the first PC, with change in the PC industry now driven by low-cost hardware and the commodity model.

Software has also become decoupled from the hardware, resulting in a power shift in the PC industry toward software firms and seeing Microsoft emerge as the most powerful company in the computer industry, he said.

The new rules governing the Internet paradigm shift are based on the fact that an open architecture inevitably leads to interchangeable parts; competitive advantage and revenue opportunities move "up the stack" to services above the level of a single device; information applications are decoupled from both hardware and software; and lock-in is based on data and not on proprietary software, he said.

"The deep trends shaping the future of all software can be summarized by three-Cs: software is becoming a commodity, it is being customized by users, and we are seeing network-enabled collaboration," OReilly said.

While Google, Amazon and PayPal are "killer applications" running on Linux, they do not fit the old model and so are not thought about as applications.

"These applications are being built by open-source developers and run on an open-source platform, but most of them are fiercely proprietary, and the source code is not distributed, which would not be useful to most developers even if it were," he said.

In addition, collaboration techniques are increasingly being applied to proprietary software, as is evident in the rise of one of Microsofts flagship products, ASP .Net, which looks very much like an open-source project.

"With a large enough development organization, Open Source Software-like behaviors emerge. If its happening inside Microsoft, its happening everywhere," OReilly said.

A lot of people are also worried that if software becomes a commodity, it would herald the end of intellectual property. But the industry is just in the throes of working out what the new business model would be, he said.