2010's Four Biggest Open Source Stories

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 22, 2010

This year marked many milestones for open source, and among the four biggest stories of all, as Datamation notes, one of them was not the rise of the Linux desktop. That goal, in fact, may be a permanent pipe dream, because Linux-based open source offerings are gaining much success off the computing desktop--a trend that could continue for quite a long time--even as Microsoft's dominance on computing desktops continues. In the open source arena, four stories in particular towered over everything else in terms of significance. Here they are.

The Rise of Android.  Originally released at the very end of 2007 and gaining some mention as 2008 began, Android qualified as little more than an experiment from Google in 2008, although there was an early hardware commitment from HTC, which continues to make many Android handsets. As 2009 started to unfold, as late as March of that year, Android still had very little momentum. We wrote this story then, which pondered why Android was stalled after so much initial hype.

Of course, fast-forward to today, and Android is one of the biggest hits in the history of operating systems. Based on Linux, it is also a home run for Linux and the open source concept. Research firm IDC forecasts a coming surge in smartphone sales, and singles out Android as one of the big expected winners.   A lot can happen in a year, and did for Android.

Open Source Browsers Redefine Browser Competition.  As 2010 draws to a close, one of the biggest open source stories of the year continues to be the ongoing decline in market share of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, as Google Chrome and Firefox take share from it. According to new data from Net Applications, Internet Explorer, which once had over 80 percent share among browsers, dropped to 58.44 percent share in the month of November, compared to over 63 percent share at the same time last year. Meanwhile, Google Chrome and Firefox have healthy share in one of the most vital application spaces. Chrome is grabbing market share faster than Firefox is, and may qualify on its own as one of open source's star-studded stories of 2010.

Red Hat's Proven Support Model Shows its Legs. With Sun Microsystems now swallowed up by Oracle, and Novell losing its independence as Attachmate acquires it, Red Hat is the only public U.S. company focused primarily on open source. Red Hat continues to illustrate the viability of a business model built around selling support and training for free software. Throughout the recession, Red Hat put together quarter after quarter of winning financial results, including winning results reported this week, and the trend has not ended. Other open source companies, ranging from Cloudera to Acquia, are putting in place business models similar to Red Hat's, emphasizing support and services for free software.

The End of the Public Open Source Trifecta. As mentioned above, with Novell and Sun Microsystems losing their independence this year, only Red Hat is standing as a public, U.S. company focused on open source. Novell's Linux business has questions swirling around its future, and there are lots of reasons to doubt Oracle's commitment to Sun's open source roots. Novell and Sun were old technology companies with long histories of innovation, and their newfound lack of independence will undoubtedly shake the world of open source for years to come. 

2011 will undoubtedly mark more milestones for open source, as will some of the technologies, companies and trends mentioned here. The great news is that the overall pace of open source innovation is increasing.