Forrester on 2009 IT goals and free vs. freedom

Lower costs, improved integration, and increased innovation are at the top of IT decision maker's minds in 2009, and for most developers the end matters more than the means

Earlier this week Forrester released a report titled "Open Source Software Goes Mainstream." While the title may not be breaking news to readers of Open Sources, the data backing up the report is well worth the read. The report is based on responses from over 1,100 software development decision makers in North American and European enterprises and SMBs. According to the survey, the top three planning goals for 2009 are:

Credit: Forrester

It's no surprise that lower costs, improved integration, and increased innovation are at the top of IT decision makers' minds in 2009. It would be interesting to see how these three goals were rated by respondents who were increasing their usage of open source versus respondents who didn't use open source or who were decreasing open source usage. Since reducing IT costs is the No. 1 goal for 2009, I found this quote particularly interesting:

For most developers, the end matters more than the means. Forrester has seen this trend in multiple surveys over the past two years. For the vast majority of application development professionals, OSS is simply a means to an end. Most developers don't really care that OSS is libre (free as in freedom); they care that it's gratis (free as in beer). If there's a direct relationship between an OSS component and the top three planning goals from our recent survey, developers will tactically adopt it. If not, most won't adopt OSS for its own sake.

I don't have the depth of data that Forrester does, but this finding supports several customer discussions I've had recently. If free is beginning to matter more than freedom, I'm beginning to wonder if established software vendors can attract developer adoption of new products without offering an open source version of the product?

I'm torn because of the new survey and anecdotal data on this topic. Maybe it's because open source adoption has crossed the chasm between the religious adopters and regular developers. If a free closed source product is more aligned with project needs, then it seems "regular developers" are at least willing to seriously consider it over a less well-suited open source product. Historically, an established closed source product has been overkill for the usage scenarios where open source products were being considered. But this seems likely to change as established vendors build lighter weight next generation versions of their products to better compete with open source products.

What do you think?

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p.s.: I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."