I often get asked "What open source software should I use?" and depending on who's asking it can mean one of two things.
The first way it gets asked really means this open source stuff sounds interesting, how do I try it out? In that case, you have to look at who is asking. Most likely they don't know much about open source and most likely they are already using it and don't know it. So first I probe to see if maybe they are already using something like FireFox. If they are a home consumer, I'll often point out that they can use OpenOffice and save $300+. That usually gets people's attention.
The second way "What open source software should I use?" gets asked really means I'd like to use open source software at work and I'm not sure where we'd save the most money, what is everyone else doing? Usually this person already knows that they are using open source software (what company isn't these days? Apache, anyone?) but they want to make sure they are using it advantageously. So I talk about how open source software started on the fringes with web servers (apache), firewalls and file and print servers and is slowly working its way into the organization through developers and then onto the data center (Oracle on Linux, MySQL.) The next areas coming up are the desktop (Linux and OpenOffice) and business applications (SugarCRM, Alfresco).
I never get asked this question by developers. Software developers are not only well aware of all the open source software that can help them but they are actively pushing to get others to use it. Usually their question is "how can I convince my manager to use open source software?"
Interestingly enough, open source on the desktop has gotten the most press (or more accurately anything that sounds remotely like it might threaten Microsoft's desktop monopoly has gotten the most press) but it hasn't been one of the biggest areas for open source software. Most people using open source software on a desktop are software developers using Linux and software development tools. I think this will change over time (I installed OpenOffice on my dad's laptop to save him the forementioned $300) but it's got to be really easy for the end user. And I don't mean just really easy to use, I mean really easy to acquire. Right now if I go buy a laptop nobody asks me what operating system I want. Buying a computer is a daunting enough task for most people (which brand? which model? how much memory? what's a CPU? RAM? do I need that?) that if we add yet another step they are going to pick either the easiest or most familiar route.
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