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Open source - the once and future dream

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The cultural shift

Hacking is the easy part. The hard part is the cultural shift organizations must make so their employees can begin participating. That's a slow process that requires positive feedback on the experiences of open source inside organizations and flagging up success stories.

Tiemann notes that IT departments are the ones that are ones least likely to be trusted inside an organization when it comes to advocating greater participation. That's because they are blamed for the project failures of the past and because IT has earned a reputation for being a cost center, not a center of savings. So while IT can advocate, it will likely take the backing of the business, management, or some other force to bring change.

This is a long process, but the Linux Foundation's Zemlin is positive that the rate of contributions to Linux and FOSS in general - and from outside IT in particular - will increase and cease to be an issue during this decade.

Zemlin says that people who don't contribute today will eventually, pointing to how the Linux kernel has grown during the last 18 years. "The benefit of open source is you can collectively maintain open source...I think this is a temporal issue not a systematic issue."

Meanwhile, Tiemann believes the fact so many large organizations are already using open source means we are now at a tipping point - where users outside of IT become contributors. He cited the government of Brazil, where one official told him recently it's running open source "everywhere" but that it can now see "limits" in where it can go by just being consumers because open-source is not giving Brazil all the features it needs. "That's why they need to become co producers," Tiemann said.

"It's as if you got the field ploughed and prepared and maybe even seeded and now it's a question of getting people tending the crop," Tiemann said. "Ten years from now, we will have a huge harvest - more people participating and more features."

The past catches up

If the 2000s were remarkable for being the decade when Linux and FOSS crossed into the mainstream. The next ten years will show whether the last decade was a one-act play or the first chapter in a longer story.

The challenges that were the hallmarks of the last 10 years have not gone away. The issue now is whether Linux and FOSS can solve them or brush them aside and proceed to - as Tiemann believes - touch the rest of society in the way the PC and Microsoft's Windows revolutionized society by putting low-priced computing power in the hands of the masses.

Zemlin takes the example of Windows a step further. Looking to the end of the 2010's, Zemlin draws on the famous vision of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for a computer on every desktop and every home that drove that last revolution.

"My vision," Zemlin said, "is to have a computer in every gas pump, X-ray system, cell phone, GPS system, set top box, picture frame, car, logistics system, airplane, DVR, server, super computer and desktop all running Linux." ®

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