Friday, December 21, 2007

Experience with Open Source in Korea

In contrast to my experience in Hong Kong, the next stop in Korea presented a much more familiar view.

Not just the snow could have been in Boston, but also the discussions about using decision support processes to incorporate open source software in an effective and controlled manner. It was in fact very similar to many of the discussions I have had in the U.S. and in Europe.

However, the food and entertainment was at a completely different level than in Boston, but then again, I would expect nothing less from my previous experiences with Koreans!

Is it good for Korea to be like U.S and Europe

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Caring about AGPL - Open Source in Hong Kong

Just arrived in Hong Kong Tuesday night and besides being an amazing city, I had discussions here which triggered some thoughts.

In the US and Europe, it has been relatively seldom that an open source discussion has been centered around AGPL, but it Hong Kong, AGPL turns out to be a really hot topic. The number of "Rolex" watches you get offered when walking down the street in Hong Kong seems to justify why we often think of China and Hong Kong as caring little about intellectual property. However, Hong Kong has changed a lot over the last decade as noted by U.S. Consul General, Hong Kong, James B. Cunningham, and large international Hong Kong based companies appear to be at least as concerned with intellectual property as any large company in the West. In addition to that, the Western companies may actually be the one focused on yesterday's problem and not staying on top of intellectual property issues. The attention to AGPL and its implications is certainly an indicator of that.

Who understands software IP in the 21st century

Monday, December 10, 2007

Keeping Busy with GPL

BusyBox is upping the ante on GPL compliance with their new lawsuit against Verizon stating that Verizon is infringing on the GPL (here is the actual filing) when shipping their FiOS routers. For those of you who are not familiar with Verizon, Verizon is one of the biggest telecommunication provider in the United States and FiOS is their version of fiber-optic Internet all the way to the end-user.

Companies like Verizon should really learn not to ignore requests for open source license compliance (which allegedly they did). I suspect the direct and indirect costs they are going to incur for dealing with this publicity is much higher than the costs of any effort to comply with the GPL license. It appears that simple listing companies on a Hall of Shame, like BusyBox used to do, is not the way open source developers are going to enforce licenses going forward.

Should open source developers be:


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Is Venture Money Needed? The Changing Cost of Starting a Business

On a recent plane trip, a colleague of mine brought up something interesting. While attending conferences where speakers have presented or demonstrated open source products, he decided to observe the audience reaction just as much as the presentation itself.

For presentations of a non-commercial open source project, there is a point at which the audience realizes that the product is completely free - and their reaction is one of intriguing amazement. It is a long process, but people are slowly realizing how open source completely changes the cost of IT infrastructure, as in the case of Genuitec, who was able to avoid VC backing by keeping development costs down with open source. This was recently summarized by a former CIO, who said “You can start an emerging technology company for little money - $100k instead of $5M in the '90s - by using open source for most of the technology needs.

Just to remove any confusion, I am not talking about companies developing open source products, but mainly about utilizing open source in every day business as illustrated in "Open Source is a pillar of strength for all startups to build on."

In addition to savings for technology companies, simply using open source for basic desktop applications can generate initial savings of $10,000 for a company with just 10 employees. Then add the use of open source for standard business IT infrastructure, e.g. a directory server (OpenLDAP), file servers (Linux/Samba), a phone system (Asterisk), an email and collaboration server (Zimbra), a database server (MySQL/PostgreSQL), a CRM system (SugarCRM) and a Content Management System (Drupal/Joomla), and the savings can multiply.

I know that many arguments can be made around Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculations due to things like ongoing support and expertise, but we will not go into that discussion now - I will, however, leave you with a link to this TCO Tool. Also note another new development over the last couple of years, where many of these applications available as SaaS offerings - again eliminating many initial IT costs.

It's gone relatively unnoticed, but many small businesses are catching on, as numbers from the 2007 Desktop Linux Survey show. According to the survey, 69.5% of Linux desktops are deployed in home offices and small business settings (defined as up to 100 desktops) as opposed to in medium and large organizations.

The mainstream appears to be discovering what has been obvious to the few of us in the open source industry for a while. It is apparent that many businesses can be started with much smaller amount of capital – which in many cases can eliminate the need for the traditional pre-revenue Series A round. However, I believe that it does not eliminate the need for significant investment (and the network some investors bring to the table) in order to expand the business and build out sales channels, but today companies can get further in their early stages of life before looking for investment, and this could change the dynamic of an initial investment round.

Is it easier or harder to start a technology business in 2007 than 10 years ago?