Open source innovation on the cutting edge

Think open source doesn’t innovate? Here are seven projects exploring exciting new directions in computing -- for free

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Open source innovation: eyeOS
Web-based productivity suites such as Google Docs and Zoho have been gaining attention lately, both for their ease of maintenance and their cloud-based storage and collaboration capabilities. But the current offerings all share the same drawback: To use the applications, you must store your data on an outside party's servers, and in some cases you must agree to allow that data to be indexed for marketing purposes.

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Users who want the flexibility of cloud apps but prefer to retain control of their own data should check out eyeOS. It aims to offer a complete, Web-based desktop built on readily available open source technologies, including Apache and PHP -- which means you can either use a hosted version for convenience or install your own copy in-house.

But eyeOS is more than just a prepackaged application suite. It's based on a sophisticated RIA (rich Internet application) framework, and because it's open source, it's almost infinitely customizable. Users can not only use the eyeOS framework to develop their own Web-based applications, but they can also configure the user experience with custom widgets or branding to create bespoke desktops for their customers or employees.

As the suite currently stands, power users won't find eyeOS a suitable replacement for a traditional desktop OS. It can, however, offer a worthwhile alternative for volume call center or help desk applications. More importantly, as portable Web-based terminals begin to proliferate, including Apple's iPad and Google Chrome OS devices, eyeOS may provide a much-needed bridge between the Web-only vision and a more traditional desktop computing experience.

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