IBM Wants Your Desktop Back — But Will It Really Be Open?

If a press release can be believed, IBM is chasing the business desktop productivity market again. Not with hardware, but with something called the “Open Collaboration Client Solution.” Kicking off IBM’s Lotusphere conference in Orlando this week, the announcement suggests the lords of big iron have their eyes on your PC again, only in a nicer, more open way. The release begins:

“IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it will offer an integrated Open Collaboration Client Solution with support for Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system from Canonical Ltd. that is especially popular for desktops, laptops and thin clients.Showing strong momentum around its IBM Lotus Notes 8 and IBM Lotus Symphony-based Open Collaboration Client Solution, IBM also announced a new agreement working with Red Hat targeting small and medium-sized enterprises, and momentum in the Open Collaboration Client Solution powered by SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell that was announced in August 2007.”

Later in the release comes this zinger:

“IBM’s Open Collaboration Client Solution is … personal computing software that is based on open standards, providing businesses with a cost-effective and security-rich alternative to Microsoft desktops.”

Ouch! Those of us who remember those simple green character-mode command-line days (and the great keyboards that came with them — where are they now?) might be excused for uttering a snicker or two at the thought of IBM attacking Microsoft for being closed and proprietary. But times change, and as noted in Friday’s post, IBM has adopted open source underpinnings for many of its key products. Two additional thoughts:

  • Just how open is the “Open Collaboration Client Solution?” The release only mentions open source once, referring to the “open source Eclipse Rich Client Platform” on which Lotus Expeditor is based, Expeditor being the application framework for this solution, as near as I can tell from the release. “Open standards” is used three times, without referring to any specific standard, tool or application. Not counting these four uses, the word “open” appears 22 more times in the release. The Open Collaboration Client Solution components list begins with IBM Lotus Notes. The last time I checked Notes was not an especially open or even standards-based application. The point here is that simply throwing the word “open” at prospective customers does not an open solution make. It would be a shame if the old IBM tradition of marketing FUD suddenly took on a new “open” look.
  • The other comment is that in Friday’s post, I gave credit to IBM for knowing how to market open source. And they do — just not in this press release, which was a model of marketing obfustication. I guess I’ll have to wait to download the whole OCCS to see what it really can do. And that will probably happen when IBM decides to bring back those great keyboards in the name of open standards. Don’t hold your breath.

Marketing Open Source: What, We Market?

It’s what one might call a bit of headline serendipity. On the list of this week’s open source-related headlines, such as:

We also got this item:

Well, it would appear that Sun, Red Hat and IBM have figured that out, right? To be fair, the MD item is focused on marketing open source applications to consumers as part of a low-cost PC purchase — in other words, as an alternative to Windows. But I think it’s interesting to consider how enterprise open source solution vendors have dealt with this issue.Clearly, the IBMs, Red Hats, Suns, Alfrescos, SugarCRMs, EnterpriseDBs and a great many more firms involved in open source have spent heavily to promote their offerings to a business audience. One part of their message — like that of open source for consumers — is that open source has a lower cost of ownership: not free, but less. But the other part of the enterprise vendor message is that open source works better and can meet customer needs faster and more completely. Getting that speed and customization requires that a customer spend something to achieve those results — just less than might be spent with a closed, proprietary solution.It’s not easy to get consumers to adopt open source — just ask Linus Torvalds. Seems to me developers of consumer open source applications are not helping their users to spread the word. The marketing challenge for consumer open source is not putting “Linux vs. Windows” tent cards on shelves in Staples or Sears, but drawing attention to open source usage. Would it be too tacky to have an embedded “Emailed by open source Linux” in the footers of emails sent by the applications installed in all those Wal-Mart PCs?What do you think? Is traditional marketing important to open source success? Can open source be marketed to consumers or only to business users? Post your comments below.

Open Source MS-Project Killer? Projity OpenProj 1.0

More than one person has moaned aloud at the thought of having to review — or worse yet, update — a Microsoft Project file. Sure, there are online and downloadable Project file viewers, and plenty of competitors in the project management application space. But most of them cost money, have limited features or are otherwise wonky in some way.Until now. Welcome Projity’s OpenProj 1.0, a full-featured cross-platform open source project management application that reads/writes MS-Project .mpp, Project 2003 .XML and Projity’s own .pod files. This is no trial version or crippleware, it’s the real thing, and it comes in Linux, Unix, Mac (PPC/X86) and, yes, Windows versions. As others point out, this could be a welcome addition to the OpenOffice suite of enterprise open source productivity applications.I have just started tinkering with OpenProj — the 1.0 version launched recently — and so far, I’m impressed. According to the OpenProj site, so are the top guns at places like Sourceforge, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Sabayon Linux and Novell.Right now it’s an EOS Directory candidate, but we’re looking to rate it and add it to the directory. If you’ve got comments about OpenProj, add them below. I’ll keep checking to see if SteveB from Redmond posts a thumbs-down comment. Then we’ll know for sure it’s the real thing!

OpenProj 1.0 displays sample .mpp file

Enterprise Open Source News Roundup – 16 Jan 08

Here are some of the open source-related headlines this week — so far:

A New Year and a New Optaros Site

EOS Directory sponsor Optaros has launched a completely re-designed site with lots of Web 2.0 capabilities to showcase their Next Generation Internet (NGI) expertise.

The New Optaros Home Page

Check out:

Jeff Potts at also has some comments about the new Optaros site. As always, special thanks to Optaros for their support of the EOS Directory.

Will a Recession Cripple Open Source Growth?

Talk about a provocative headline! But suddenly, recession talk is all the rage amid rising U.S. credit woes and sinking earnings in the financial sector – at least for now. And what about tech? Well, if IBM’s unexpectedly strong 24% increase in Q4 earnings is any indication, things may look especially good for open source.ZDNet’s Open Sources blog asks if IBM’s results are due to open source?

“Should this count as an open source win, a validation of the open source concept?I think it should. But there’s more to it than that.IBM long-ago unified its product lines under Linux and open source. Through projects like Eclipse it has learned how to share basic costs and add value for its customers.

Sounds to me like IBM has learned to leverage both the developer and customer communities for the benefit of all — including Big Blue. It’s worth noting that IBM’s results have a sizable foreign currency component, which means non-US customers made a significant contribution to the bottom line.On the other hand, ZDNet’s Hardware 2.0 blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes post — “Is open source recession-proof?” — offers a different take.

“Well, first off, I think that any business model that relies on volunteers could certainly see interest decline if times get tough. … The flip-side of this though is that being an active part of an open source project is a lot different to spending all day on YouTube or Flickr …”

One reader, Slashdot’s SatanicPuppy, responded this way:

“Far from being bad for OSS, recessions are GOOD for OSS. You lose your job, and freelance while looking for another one…What are you going to use? Companies have a need, and no budget to fill it with commercial software…What are they going to use? Sure, if you specialize in zillion dollar OSS deployments, you’ve got problems (problem #1: You’re mythical), but the true strength of OSS isn’t in giant deployments, but in filling in the gaps…When the gaps get bigger, there we are.”

Last week’s post on open source CEO forecasts for 2008 didn’t spend much time worrying about a recession. But what about you? How will an economic slowdown affect enterprise open source companies? Will they fare better, worse or the same as closed source firms? Post your comments below.

Enterprise Open Source News Roundup – 11 Jan 08

Product news and other items from the past week:

And while it’s not strictly-speaking enterprise open source, here’s a wonderful item from the Wall Street Journal’s BoomTown quip-tress Kara Swisher on the ongoing Microsoft-Yahoo merger rumors:

“Here’s what is going on and has long been going on: Microsoft continues to cast about for a viable Internet strategy, as it always does, and Yahoo is probably the numero-uno solution on its business development fix-it list.Why? Well, the software behemoth just can’t catch Google in the lucrative search-ad market no matter how hard it tries and how much money it spends.If it presumably put together it and No. 2 Yahoo, then presto chango, a real horse race.But that’s kind of like stitching together Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich and getting a potential front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Uproar Over Open Source Security Story Continues

The headline “Open Source Code Contains Security Holes” on an InformationWeek article has grabbed a lot of attention. Two more blog posts on the topic:

And today there’s a followup blog post by “Security Holes” author Charles Babcock and a response from Paul Beach, a developer and administrator for one of the open source projects mentioned in Babcock’s original article:

Still missing is an answer to the key question: do open source applications have more security flaws than closed source? The Department of Homeland Security, sponsor of the open source testing, states the estimated error rate at one security flaw for every 1000 lines of code among tested open source software. How does this compare to closed source? Coverity’s announcement makes no mention of closed source error rates.Can someone cite some statistics showing a difference between the two types? Post your stats, sources and comments below.

Open Source Uproar Over Security Testing

The tech press and open source blogosphere shifted into overdrive today on the news that software security firm Coverity — at the behest of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — had released the results of security tests on a number of popular open source applications. You can see some of news and comment here:

In the last item, I give Dana Blankenhorn credit for pointing out the obvious — identifying security flaws is a good thing — and open source projects may be more likely to get fixed quickly than their closed source counterparts. For an in-depth look at the whole issue of government-sponsored software security testing (it’s not just about open source), check out these articles from SDTimes:

So here’s a point to ponder and comment upon: do you worry more about security issues with open source software than you do with proprietary/closed source code? Post your thoughts below.

Open Source Forecasts for 2008: CEO Predictions 10-Pack

Everyone says you get more with open source. So here you go — ten CEOs of open source companies offering their views on the enterprise open source outlook for the New Year. Sponsored by the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA), the CEOs of member companies responded to four questions about open source issues for 2008. Some sample prognostications:1. What will trigger increasing adoption of open source in the enterprise in 2008?

“There will be an increasing confluence between the open source and software as a service models. These are the two most powerful trends in software today, and while they’ve traditionally been seen as separate, parallel developments, they are rapidly combining to create the new business model for enterprise software. The combination is not just at the development level – BaaS companies adopting open source technologies to lower the cost of operations and R&D – but more importantly, on the distribution side.” — William A. Soward, CEO, Adaptive Planning

2. What is the biggest challenge for the open source software industry in 2008?

“More lawsuits will be brought against large corporations and technology companies in 2008 as open source advocates step up enforcement of the APL v2, v and other open source licenses.” — Doug Levin, CEO, Black Duck

“Figuring out business models that will produce viable, long term software companies rather than ‘flash in the pan’ ubiquity plays. Merely racing to see who can give the most away to a buyer who will take as much as the can get before paying money will not produce viable software companies.” — Javier Soltero, CEO, Hyperic

3. How big an effect will licensing have on open-source software in 2008?

“Open source licensing will continue to bother enterprise users but the dissemination of best implementation practices including license management will reduce this issue somewhat.” — Michael Grove, CEO, OpenIT Works

“We don’t see much impact here. Customers continue to get educated about the code they use and about open source licensing in general, so FUD will have less of a factor than in the past.” — Kim Polese, CEO, SpikeSource

4. What will be the biggest surprise in open source in 2008?

“During ’08, the pressures CIOs will face to drive greater business innovation with a fixed (or low growth) IT budget will conspire to challenge every possible traditional software license. The 80% of the IT budget used to maintain existing or legacy systems must become more productive in order to satisfy the business goal of improved innovation.” — Brian Gentile, CEO, JasperSoft

“The biggest surprise in 2008 will be to see Open Source players register three-digit growth rates!” — Bertrand Diard, CEO, Talend

Get the complete list of questions and responses from the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) site. (PDF)