Thought for the day: An open source of anxiety for business

The popularity of open source among small businesses has been vastly exaggerated, Simon Moores believes.

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The popularity of open source among small businesses has been vastly exaggerated, Simon Moores believes.




Oracle and Sun have announced a partnership that will see Oracle's software running on lower-cost Sun hardware and which has been certified on both Sun's Solaris and supports Linux too, giving Sun customers a choice of platforms, UltraSparc or x86 processors.

One feature in particular is a Microsoft-Exchange-like e-mail server features, which can be accessed by Microsoft's Outlook client.

This has led some commentators to suggest that small businesses will dump the Exchange Server and migrate towards this Sun/Oracle partnership instead.

My experience tells me that businesses just want messaging without most of the extra collaborative bells and whistles, which incur extra and expensive development work. Businesses are conservative and they buy into things called standards because they are safe, not because they are more expensive.

When DTI minister Steven Timms backs open source "as future for UK business users", I think he is jumping both the gun and the reality gap at the same time.

UK business, like UK government, may be looking at open source alternatives to the so-called Microsoft monopoly but it does not mean that they are likely to use them to any significant degree in the near term.

In my own mind, Microsoft represents the BMW of the business software world. When you buy Microsoft software you know what you are buying, there are no mysteries, there is a huge service industry to support your investment and you know it's going to be an expensive, long and possibly uneventful relationship. Should the wheels fall off your mail server, then there is always someone available to fix the problem and have you back on the road again.

Alternatively, you could buy an Alfa Romeo. It looks great. It sounds great and you've always wanted one, but it's an Alfa Romeo and you just know what's going to happen one day and the result will be very expensive.

Companies like standards. They like "safe" and they don't mind expensive so much if safety is included in the price tag.

No amount of cheap horse power will convince small to medium-sized businesses to jump away from Microsoft Exchange towards a cheaper and more attractive Open Standards alternative until society has finished with the existing business computing paradigm completely and that's at least five years away. Until then, Sun and Oracle may need to come up with a more tempting package.

What do you think?

Do you think the concept of open-source adoption en masse has been over-hyped? Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit

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