Is Open Source Product Development the Next Big Thing?

Chris Wanstrath, Co-Founder of GitHub

Open source – it’s a phrase for some that conjures images of the software equivalent to hippie communes in Vermont sharing in the fruits and labor of their co-op-grown organic kale. But if that’s really how you see open source, get over it. This is where the world is going, and the proof is in the proverbial pudding.

GitHub, the ubiquitous open-source development tool, is growing faster than anyone could have predicted, including its founders. If you aren’t familiar, take a few minutes to read up. What they’ve created is an environment where software developers everywhere can share their projects, ask for help with obstacles, and pull down publicly available plug-and-play code to avoid time-consuming foundational rework. But it’s more than that.

GitHub is fostering the reality of lean startups, and ultimately, small business growth. What used to take three engineers to develop from scratch can now be done by one engineer in an open source environment. Budding companies can work longer with less, facing fewer funding obstacles than ever before.

The point is this – why hasn’t this already caught on in the world of product design? To be clear, this is not an opportunity for solipsistic soapboxing; it is a legitimate question to anyone with insight.

Quirky has certainly opened the door to the idea of open sourced product design, but to create the same kind of pervasive GitHub-esque tool that CAD users can utilize may take an industry-wide change in consciousness.

Fast forward three years and the reality could be a garage-based engineer accessing publicly available frameworks, and rapidly prototyping with a desktop 3-D printer, pushing high-end product design towards the lean movement by an order of magnitude.

Maybe you don’t care about changing the model, but money speaks volumes. Considering GitHub’s valuation is closing in on a billion – is open source product development the next digital gold rush?

About Ben Apel

Washington-raised, Boston-based writer and marketing professional, intrigued by crowd behavior, in love with exercise induced endorphins, disgusted by urban sprawl, perplexed by politics, motivated by extremes and intensely focused on avoiding a life that could, in any way, be deemed ‘mediocre’. Try and keep up.
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One Response to Is Open Source Product Development the Next Big Thing?

  1. Chris says:

    Hi

    Open Source always sounds good especially in a economical environment where we think no more licence costs and support costs. However, many companies and even big ones who decided to drop convential software such as Windows, Internet Explorer and MS Office, went back to the solution. Implementing open source as an entreprise system is very expensive to implement and require the company to internally have highly skills people who in turn are also very expensive. When the company facing big problem, it is on its own, The community of open source will never spend days and weeks trying to fix the problem entirely. It may help on some bits and bobs but no one will invest enough time as a normal consultant will do to understand fully the problem. Further down, how can you guarantee that the integration between various software will work. I really can’t imagine a PLM open source be able to integrate seamlessly ProE and SAP !!!

    It is already difficult enough for PTC to integrate ProE with Windchill or SAP with SAP PLM and ERP, so just imagine open source software.
    Company needs security and stability, knowing they can rely on a solid supplier.

    Why are Internet Explorer and MS Office so well established in companies?. It is not because it comes with Windows (for IE) but it is the only who has always had entreprise support. the new politic of Mozilla with their short development cycle is a pain for companies !!!!

    Hopefully someone will prove me wrong and this will be good for the PLM market but I do not see open source superceding propritery softwares for a good decade !!

    Best regards

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