An interesting snippet of news swung by my RSS reader the other day.
Authorities in the southeastern Chinese city of Nanchang are requiring all local Internet cafes to replace their Microsoft Windows XP operating systems with a Chinese-made system, Red Flag Linux, according to officials and Internet cafe owners.
An official with the Nanchang Cultural Discipline Team, which oversees the roughly 600 Internet cafes operating in Nanchang city, said the new operating systems were mandatory. "We have already started installing the new software in all Internet cafes. All of them must have this new one," the official said.
While one may wonder if the main motives behind this move are less than noble for open source, given that it is after all mandated by the Nanchang Cultural Discipline Team, which sounds ominously like big brother. Nevertheless, this signals a growing move towards bringing open source desktops closer to the end user and to students.
If something similar were to be done in the town of Wuhan, for example, where there are many universities and colleges, you would be assured of a generation of graduates all well versed in using Gnome or KDE on the desktop. This would be a skill they would take to their jobs and to their homes, thereby further propagating the use of open source desktops.
While the mainstream media and the technology rags have stopped talking so much about open source adoption and its encroachment into the enterprise, I see a silver lining in this. It is not because open source is no longer the flavour of the day, but because it has become so common, it is no longer novelty news. The ubiquity which we have long sought, has finally arrived, one would say.
This however does not mean that the fight has ended. In fact, it should intensify, as with the economic recession looming, the battle for enterprise IT dollars will become much more closely fought. With its lower TCO, open source based solutions have a growing edge. We need to be cognizant however that complacency can only hurt the inroads we have made into the enterprise. We must strive to continue delivering higher quality systems and applications to stem the tide of proprietary software.
On the local front, it does seem like MDeC is now beginning to embrace open source within MSC companies and to promote those from within that stable who are open source companies. While this is laudable, I have been down the same path with them before, and that more or less fizzled out as MDeC lost interest. I wonder if they will have the staying power this time around, and have learnt the lesson of the past that it is the community which builds open source. A stronger and more open engagement initiative would be strongly welcomed.
MSC companies should also take the opportunity open source provides and use that to jumpstart their businesses in the software industry. Why reinvent the wheel, when there are perfectly good wheels you can take and modify to build the systems you need to deliver your customers ? Why forsake a global community of developers, users and testers who will assist you in doing just that ?
With the release of Android and Google's entry into the 3G/GSM handset market, even mobile communications is now open source ready and capable. I wonder if this will be taken advantage of, and Android based systems with its potential of harbouring thousands of third party applications will supercede the iPhone as the coolest handset to be seen carrying.
Time, and the effort and innovation required, are the only things which will tell on this.