One sign of the health of open source these days is the number of surveys saying how healthy it is. For example, here's one from Actuate:
The figures show that Europe leads the way in its preference for open source platforms, particularly in the deployment of new applications, and replacement of outdated systems, with France and Germany at the forefront.
When French respondents were asked about the extent to which open source software is considered when procuring software, close to two-thirds (61.6%) stated that it is either the preferred option, or explicitly considered as an option when procuring software. This is a significant statistic, exceeded only by Germany (63.6%).
These are good figures, and, surprisingly, even Blighty is getting there at last:
Actuate found, in the UK, that the proportion of respondents believing that the benefits of open source software outweigh the inhibitors has increased this year to 54.0% (from 45.3% in 2007). This figure rises to 65.4% in France, North America 53.5% and Germany 48.6%.
Also interesting is the new bottleneck for open source adoption:
a lack of in-house skills to implement open source software (cited by 58.2%) – overtaking perceived issues with the availability of long-term support. This suggests not only that more organizations have progressed further with their investigations into the value of open source, to have come to this conclusion, but also that the skills are harder to find because of the greater adoption of open source across businesses generally.
This also suggests that employment prospects for those with open source skills should be bright, despite the current economic stormclouds.
Painting a similarly rosy picture is another survey, this time from OpenLogic. Like Actuate's, the main message is that Europe is the global leader in open source adoption, but there are some other results worth noting:
There is a significant amount of open source software used on Windows. Participants scanning Windows machines averaged 39 open source software packages per machine scanned. Linux users found more open source, with 87 packages on average, but that also includes open source that is shipped with the Linux distributions.
I think this is really important, because it means that even on closed platforms, people are starting to experience the benefits of openness. Moreover:
The most popular packages are similar for both Windows and Linux platforms with 7 of the top 10 packages in common.
As I've been saying for a while, this is how the transition from Windows will take place: people will start using some open source apps on Microsoft's platform, and then migrate to using the *same* apps on GNU/Linux, making the move almost painless. Among those available on both platforms is OpenOffice.org, and here the OpenLogic survey has some extremely good news regarding this program:
OpenOffice has been found on 73 percent of personal machines scanned vs. 28 percent of enterprise machines scanned.
Again, what this means is that while enterprise use of OpenOffice.org is still low, many people are using it on their own machines, and so are aware of its benefits. In time, we should see more and more copies seeping into the enterprise – a neat reversal of the way that Microsoft Office seeped out of companies onto home machines in the past.
The big question is: Why Europe is ahead in open source? Based on the results of his rather more ad hoc personal survey at the first Europe Open Source Think Tank, Larry Augustin offered a thoughtful suggestion:
In the US the Open Source nature of the software is almost irrelevant to a company’s buying decision. The US buyers want better, cheaper software and a better relationship with vendors; all of which Open Source helps create for them. But they are not so interested in the source code itself nor in how access to the code created those benefits.
I believe the European Open Source software community has moved beyond that. The European community sees those benefits, but in addition recognizes that the Open Source nature of the code is the driving factor behind those benefits. As a result they have embraced Open Source to a degree the US market has not; insisting in many cases on acquiring the software under an open source license, not an alternative commercial license. It’s great to see this level of sophistication among the commercial Open Source community in Europe, and I have hope that eventually the US market will catch up.
Two cultures for open source, anyone?