Representatives from open-source companies discussed new territories for open source and the limitations for using it at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit at Stanford on Wednesday.
Panelists agreed that the cutting edge of open-source innovation is now happening in services and shared applications like Flickr, Wikipedia and YouTube.
Now is the time when open-source innovation really gets going, said Mark Spencer, founder and president of Digium, an open-source company focused on the telcom market. Spencer sees movement from where open source has simply replaced outdated technologies, to cost-reducing those systems that were already at hand, to now innovating completely new applications. While open-source earlier was used for building traditional call centers, a new open-source program lets people pay for parking by the phone.
Matt Ettus, founder of Ettus Research, which manufactures open-source radio systems, sees open source moving into hardware. In England, for example, an open-source radio system has been used to optimize the design of shopping centers. It determines where stores should be placed by tracking how shoppers move around in the mall and how long they stop in front of each window display--an indication of which displays attract the most interest.
But is open source good for everything? Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL, thinks so. "There is no technical argument for keeping the code closed. It can never deteriorate from opening, only get better," he said. Even if Mickos thinks the open-source model has proven to be technically superior, he sees the need for a more sustainable business model. He thinks that in five to 10 years, the model will be in place; all code will be open and money will be made from it.
Spencer said Digium's approach is that financial sustainability will be reached through developing whole, packaged products--like phone systems--that don't take a lot of Linux know-how to be created.