Apparently patents do matter when it comes to open source software adoption.
In a teleconference preview ahead of next week’s LinuxWorld conference, Matthew Lawton, director of IDC’s Worldwide Software Business
Strategies Group, revealed the results of a non-public survey of IT end users
about their attitudes toward software in general and open source in
“The potential for copyright and patent infringement is the No. 1 inhibitor right now for organizations in adopting more open source software
in their organization,” Lawton said in the afternoon conference call. “Close
behind that is the availability of support.”
Microsoft has alleged that open source software infringes on 235 patents. Microsoft has yet to name these patents or bring specific patent infringement
legal action against any open source vendor, though it has made deals with
Novell, Xandros, Linspire and others for patent protection.
Despite patent infringement as inhibitor, Lawton was quick to note that there are many drivers to open source.
“Those two inhibitors did not rank as high on the scale as the initial cost,
total cost of ownership and product functionality ranked as drivers,”
On an overall software basis, the IDC study found that end users are most
interested in product functionality, scalability and reliability. End users
were less interested in having access to source code and the ability to
modify and redistribute source code.
“The key take away is that end users care about what software does and how
well it does it, not how it’s developed or distributed,” Lawson said.
The study found that end users are
interested in evaluating open source in part due to the perception that it’s
cheaper in terms of initial cost and total cost of ownership.
End users are also actively looking for open source alternatives to
proprietary options, which Lawton said illustrates an active interest
in open source software.
“Fifty percent of end users had an objective in their organization around the
use of open source software, and they had budget in 2007 for the use of open
source software,” Lawton said. “For me that’s a high percentage, and it
indicates that, while software criteria hasn’t changed, they are still
interested in evaluating open source software.”
Where is all this open source software headed? According to Lawton in the
near term the same place it’s traditionally gone: infrastructure
software like Linux and databases like MySQL. It’s a scenario that is likely
to stay the same for some time.
“Five years from now infrastructure software will still represent the majority
of open source software that is adopted, but we think the profile will go
down in favor of development, reporting tools and application software,”
Lawton said. “That will take a number of years to happen, though.”
Ultimately for end users, said Lawton, software is software and that functionality is key.
“Having said that, to the extent that open source software saves end users
money, they’re all ears and their adoption and deployment behavior suggest
that they believe that they can save money with open source software.”
Lawton noted that the outlook for continued adoption is very
“Adoption is most prevalent in lower levels of the software stack but we will have this
progression upwards in the next four or five years.”