Is 2009 the year for open source?

Companies are shedding jobs like crazy, including strategic ones in IT (which to me IS crazy) and of course my own recentlyNovember 2008 job losses indicate the United States may soon be retesting near-Depression era unemployment rates. President-elect Obama says he has an ambitious infrastructure-oriented plan (which we desperately need) that in part addresses our nationwide broadband capabilities as well as energy-savings potential.  But why not go further in that area?

A surefire way to get operating costs down is to incorporate more and more open source tools into the systems backbone.  This includes Linux on servers and the desktop for starters.  Purchasing Maemo Linux-driven Nokia internet tablets to replace desktop phones (using Voice over IP, or VOIP) is a good next step– especially since the tablets are essentially highly mobile mini laptops with myriad uses.  The N810 WiMAX Edition model would be perfect for the DC area since the service is being deployed there.

The US government is the ideal candidate for this sort of move for many reasons, cost savings to taxpayers just being one.  The fed is said to still employ many antiquated systems and software so there is far less legacy and inertia involved in going open than in a commercial situation.  In addition, taking the open source route could remove at least one layer of potential conflict-of-interest that may lie with vendors who have contributed to political campaigns.  I doubt open source developers and distributors contribute on the same scale!

There is encouragement to be found in analysis showing open source enterprises to be prospering in this economic downturn.  I would view that as common sense, but it’s good to see validation.

If incoming president Barack Obama is serious about putting Americans to work, saving energy and cutting cost, it’s time the fed took open source seriously.  That would be change we geeks can believe in.

Update: the N810 WiMAX Edition tablet has been cancelled by Nokia.


12 responses to “Is 2009 the year for open source?


    hmm, i cant find it right now, but i recall reading about some home terminal system based on linux, having a very iphone like interface, and being primarily a mail, im/voip, web interface.

    something you could basically put on a table and forget about as it looked like one of those digital picture-frames…

  2. Are you maybe referring to Nokia’s upcoming system that was recently announced?


    nope, its older then that.

    iirc, it was some american company showing it of at some point.


    seems i may have misremembered its linux base:

    but i finally found it anyways.

  5. Interesting. But use of Intel’s Atom as opposed to OMAP means more power consumed. What I’d rather see is Nokia take its own ecosystem to the next step and provide this sort of integration between the tablets, wifi/bluetooth cell phones, and even the upcoming home automation system. Ovi could even become part of that ecosystem, as the cloud-based synchronizer. Hmmm… thanks tso, you’ve inspired a future article… 😀

  6. That would be something to see Tex, but believe me it’s not easy.
    I should know, as we’ve been doing just that for the last few years over here.
    I work in a (French) public administration which, despite much downsizing during the last couple of decades, is still about 70,000 strong nationwide.
    Started like everywhere as semi-clandestine, local grass roots efforts, open source tools have become mandatory official policy since 2004.
    In those four years we’ve replaced most proprietary software with OSS solutions :

    MS Office –> OpenOffice
    MS Exchange+Outlook –> LDAP, Postfix, IMAP, POP3, HORDE+Thunderbird
    MSIE –> Firefox
    Servers : MS NT4 –> Linux + Samba + LDAP
    Intranets : IIS+ASP –> Apache + PHP CMS
    Corporate apps : Web framework (Apache + Java +…)
    Oracle –> PostgreSQL

    There is a lot left to do still, especially with legacy apps, and the glaring hole of course is the desktop OS, which is still Windows, except for some hardened laptops. Like many we’re skipping Vista though, and hoping it will give us the time and opportunity to launch a large-scale desktop switch-over.

    Now for the lessons learned :

    1 – you do this *for* the users, in more ways than one… but you do it *against* them, that’s for sure. Weaning the typical office jock from his usual tools is a never-ending uphill battle.

    2 – corporate/federal/whatever policy does not guarantee a landslide, especially if the next government can change it again. When we got started there was an administration-wide “mot d’ordre”, mostly based on financial gain. If you look around now, we’re not alone : there are several other large ministries with big projects under way, and high-profile symbolic coups like our Parliament. But we’re still not the majority either : resistance has been, and still is, immense.

    Most of it I believe is simple inertia : these things take *work*, you know, sometimes imagination and creativity, or at least a vision, all of which are more of a hassle than dumping taxpayer money in Microsoft or Oracle’s pockets 🙂

    Some of it is active infighting, ideological or political, fuelled by active lobbying. Our new administration is a bit schizophrenic in the sense that it is an active cost-cutter, to the point of brutality, yet is very receptive to big business interests. In particular, efforts had been made to turn these OSS “recommendations” into binding regulations for public services ; the decrees were ready but were not signed before the elections last year, and nothing more has been heard of them since.

    Seeing the power of US software majors in our political and business circles, I wonder if even the American President could have his way inside his own administration…


    glad to be of service 🙂

  8. Thanks for the comments so far.

    fpp, as I pointed out at Internet Tablet Talk, I’m trying to be optimistic. There’s an opportunity– let’s see what becomes of it.

  9. It was very interesting to esteem about it

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