I’d recently posted about the reasons why enterprises should use opensource, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, just to switch the conversation from the “cheaper to buy/fix/run” reason traditionally provided. Many of you were kind enough to comment, and a couple of you raised some questions on my first point, on responsibility.
So I’d like to expand a bit on that. When I entered the industry nearly thirty years ago, people used to say “Nobody got fired for buying IBM”. When the battle moved from the mainframe to the desktop, the saying mutated to “Nobody got fired for buying Microsoft”.
So who’s next, I ask myself. And the answers that come aren’t that well-formed. Please flame them, criticise away. I will learn from you. And here they are:
Answer 1: There is no next, and there will never be a next. The industry has changed fundamentally and structurally, and there is no longer any space for a dominant platform. Where there is a platform, it will be an open many-sided low-barrier-to-entry malleable beast, run on classic NEA principles. (Nobody owns it, Everyone can use it, Anyone can improve it). Incidentally, there is no Wikipedia entry for NEA. There should be one. Any takers? Otherwise I will.
Answer 2: There is a next, and it’s here already. And it’s called Linux, and it’s NEA already. Distros can try and dominate, but they will fail. The market will ensure that no distro gets that power.
Answer 3: There is no next, but there will be one. It will emerge from that weird space where mobile meets palmtop meets desktop. The only question that’s left is whether an open iPhone can stave off the linux world for long enough, or whether later generations of iPhone will really go where James Gosling thought OSX would go: Linux with QA and style.
I’m probably biased, I think there really is only one answer. Linux with QA and style. What I’m not sure of is where that will come from.
There’s a lot more to the question of CIOs and responsibility and risk. We live in an age of The Risk Management of Everything; so much so that many CIOs seem to believe that outsourcing is a means of offloading risk. I don’t. Outsourcing and offshoring are ways ofÂ making sure you focus on the right things, making sure you have access to the right skills, making sure youÂ can do all this at the right price point.
But the risk remains yours. As long as the customer remains yours.
The day you manage to offload your risk successfully, you’ve offloaded your customer as well.
The customer stays with you because there is a relationship, a relationship of trust; there is a vulnerability within that relationship, a vulnerability that is born of the risks you face together, a vulnerability that underpins the relationship, that makes it human. When everything that is hardware and software is commoditised, there will still be something unique: the relationship. And customers will stay with you because of your service. Underpinned by that vulnerable relationship.