A Framework for Understanding the Open Revolution

November 22, 2004
Jeff Elpern

Presentation Synopsis

Presented November 22, 2004 by Jeff Elpern as part of the Fall 2004 Colloquia organized by the Computer Science & Engineering Department, UNR.

The Open Source Revolution is already having dramatic impact on the computer industry. Web services based on Open Source technologies play a major role in the Internet. The Linux operating system has achieved the dominating position within the embedded controller segment of the telecommunication industry. And, recently, Open Source applications have passed Mac applications in penetration into the PC market. Why is this happening? Should we be surprised? Is it a sustained phenomenon?

I’ll present a framework for understanding the Open Source Revolution by identifying a number of market forces driving the revolution and placing these forces within historical perspective. I’ll show that the Open Source Revolution is a natural response, and part of a continuing effort, by Users to increase their returns from technology by controlling the market power of commercial software developers. The core argument is based on economics. As Users pursue maximizing the economic returns of their software portfolios, they gravitate toward software solutions that limit the market power of commercial developers. An example of this is the movement toward more and more standards. The adoption of Open Source is a natural next step for Users in the battle for the control of market power.

Thus, the Open Source Revolution is the current “front line” in the battle between software developers and Users on how economic returns from technologies are allocated between the two. In addition, Open Source will be shown to be a "Disruptive" technology - as defined by Clayton Christensen in “The Innovator's Dilemma”. This market force explains the "why now" issue. As the current commercial software leaders’ efforts for "Sustaining Technology Innovations" exceeds the User's ability to absorb new features and power, the seeds for the entry of a disruptive technology are sowed. Open Source fits all three criteria for a disruptive technology, which will be discussed in the presentation. It is also important to note that a paradigm shift like this, the shift from proprietary code to Open Source, always changes the face of winners and losers, and this will affect everyone in the industry.

Finally, my presentation will include scenarios of why people and corporations participate in Open Source by defining Open Source business models, current and emerging.

Presentation Slides

Note: This presentation was developed with the slide presentation component of OpenOffice, an open source suite of productivity tools similar to Microsoft Office. OpenOffice is available, at no charge, for both Linux and Microsoft Windows. You can get information and downloads from [http://www.openoffice.org[www.openoffice.org]].


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  • The Cathedral & The Bazaar
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Jeff Elpern is a high tech executive and entrepreneur. Currently he is the V.P. of Software for a Silicon Valley telecommunications component manufacturer, founder and CEO of the Software Quality Institute (SQI, Inc.) based in Reno, and founder of the non-profit Open Source Nevada. He was founder of two startups and on the executive teams for two other start-ups. Earlier in his career, he ran the largest quantitative marketing operation on Madison Avenue and was part of the Lee Iacocca turn-around team at Chrysler. He is a native Nevadan. He did his undergraduate work at UNR and received a Masters of Science in Quantitative Analysis from Carnegie Mellon University.

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