Open source software continues the march toward world domination, but the bright open promise dims
One of the best ways to see the success of the open source philosophy is to pick up a cellphone. If you happen to grab an Android phone -- the most popular in the smartphone class -- you'll have a device running a package built by Google and sitting on top of Linux. Almost all of the source code in the stack is released under a generous open source license.
If you grab an iPhone, you can marvel at the beautiful shell that Apple has wrapped around the core operating system descended from the BSD releases of Unix oh so many years ago. Even the Nokia phones are running some code that was open source for a brief instant as Nokia created the Symbian Foundation and then absorbed it.
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The smartphones are the platform of the future, and open source advocates are proud of the fact that many of the smartphones at the top of the pyramid are built around source code that is protected by open source licenses. Aside from RIM BlackBerrys and Microsoft's phones, open source code is everywhere.
The success of open source is so huge that Linus Torvalds has stopped kidding about it. "I don't say world domination anymore," Torvalds remarked at LinuxCon Japan this year. "It was funny 15 years ago because it was so obviously a joke. For the last 10 years it's not been so much a joke anymore, so it's no longer funny, so I stopped saying it."
Torvalds was speaking about Linux in particular, but open source is just as dominant in general. Web repositories like Sourceforge and GitHub are overflowing with source code ready for anyone to download, revise, and extend. The TiVo and other appliances with open source foundations dominate the living room, while practically every new website is built around a large collection of open source packages, not to mention all of the tools for the desktop and the data center. Torvalds is right to avoid appearing too arrogant.
For a healthy sampling of open source success, just follow the links below to profiles of InfoWorld's 2011 Bossie Award winners:
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