In association with heise online

23 December 2008, 10:16

The Win, Fail and Meh of Open Source in 2008

Dj Walker-Morgan

With 2008 coming to an end, heise online UK picks what was full of win, who was waiting for the failboat, and who just made us go meh. So in no particular order, here are the Wins, the Fails and the Mehs of Open Source from 2008.

Win - Ubuntu 8.04LTS - Canonical shipping a long term support version of Ubuntu was a real win for the FOSS operating system. It gave those users who need the assurance a version of Ubuntu to deploy that has support for longer than the normal 18 months. While there have been Linux distributions with similar offerings, they are usually associated with services or subscriptions. Ubuntu has brought that level of support to a free operating system. Ubuntu has also done more to popularise Linux in 2008 than possibly any other vendor, creating an enthusiastic, inclusive community, around a Linux distribution that sets out to be easy to work with for the general user, rather than just those with a corporate cheque book to hand.

Fail - SCO - A fail for SCO, a win for open source, as another year passed and SCO continued to excavate the hole they began digging when they tried to claim Unix as theirs and threatened Linux for patent violations. What's left is a company that doesn't even have friends with big cheque books any more. Microsoft are hanging out with the Linux distributors like Novell/SUSE and the rumblings of a mass patent attack on Linux have calmed. The risk, thanks to the patent system, is still there, but in many ways, SCO's metaphorical head on a spike outside the city gates of Linux, acts as a warning to those who may consider following the SCO route.

Meh - Microsoft joining the Apache Foundation - Microsoft sent a shudder through the FOSS community in the summer when they announced they were joining the Apache Software Foundation. Some feared that Microsoft would "embrace and extend" Apache's projects while others suggested it was all a sham. Neither has appeared to be true to date. Microsoft have been releasing open source software through the year, though much of it is open source software that runs on Microsoft's proprietary runtime platforms, be it .Net or Windows itself. But Microsoft is not any more open than it was at the start of 2008. Open source is an activity reserved for the periphery of Microsoft's business, and often only exists to enable interoperability. The only change is that Microsoft are probably doing this to stop their platforms being locked out of running open source software; they don't have a Unix compatible operating system, making the task of getting Unix based open source running on Windows a lot harder.

On the next page, we present more Win, Fail and Meh of Open Source 2008

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