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Microsoft and Drupal

Last week at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON), Microsoft and SpikeSource announced their intention to work together to certify a number of Open Source projects on the Microsoft Windows platform. According to the press release, Drupal is the first application that has been tested and certified for Microsoft Windows ...

Because I didn't know this partnership was in the works, and because it's not clear what this really means, I figured I'd let the story develop for a couple of days. It has since been picked up on a number of blogs and news sites, and I got a couple of inquiries about it as well. I guess now is a good time to share what I think about it.

First, Microsoft's willingness to work with Open Source applications to ensure that they work on Microsoft Windows Server with MSSQL and Active Directory support is great –- it helps us bring Open Source software to the corporate world. Microsoft's announcement brings credibility to Open Source software and validates Drupal as one of the leading Open Source CMS applications. That is a good thing.

Second, I've never been close to either SpikeSource or Microsoft's business but hopefully it won't stop with an announcement. It remains to be seen whether they live up their marketing drum. With the help of Larry Garfield we already started planning a redesign of Drupal's database abstraction layer. I'm curious to see if they'll contribute to that, and if they will help us add and maintain MSSQL support in future versions of Drupal core. In the Open Source world, contributions speak louder than press releases.

NowPublic gets 10.6 million USD

The press embargo finally lifted, so I'm happy to share that NowPublic closed a 10.6 milion USD series A round from Rho Ventures/Rho Canada, Brightspark, and the Working Opportunity Fund.

That's a lot of money and a big series A. However, since NowPublic's start two years ago, it has become one of the fastest growing news organizations in the world. By harnessing the wisdom of crowds and tapping into the news reporting potential of the hundreds of millions of internet users, eye witnesses, bloggers and photography enthusiasts, NowPublic is changing the way news is produced and distributed.

Step by step, NowPublic is building the platform that lets major news agencies outsource their news gathering process, and that is not to be taken lightly and not to be confused with sites like Digg or Slashdot. It won't be long until more major news agencies realize that NowPublic's on-the-ground network of news contributors will help them break more and better news stories at lower costs.

And of course, as NowPublic is built on Drupal, this is good news for Drupal too.

(Disclosure: I am an advisor to NowPublic.)

Bring it on, IBM!

IBM just announced Lotus Connections. According to this article in Business Week, Lotus Connections wraps five social networking technologies up into one integrated package: profiles, where employees post information about their expertise and interests; communities, which are formed and managed by people with common interests; activities, which are used to manage group projects; bookmarks, where people share documents and websites with others; and blogs.

Microsoft was quick to reply with a press release announcing new tools that will help IBM Lotus Notes users migrate to Microsoft SharePoint 2007.

So we have Microsoft SharePoint 2007 versus IBM's Lotus Connections. But how is IBM going to compete with SharePoint's many third-party hosted service providers? Or with Google for that matter (think Google calendar, Google spreadsheets, Google's Blogger, Google search, Google pages, Google wiki/JotSpot, ...)?

With that in mind, now consider this. Many organizations have been experimenting with Drupal and see real benefits from using it. They are begging for reliable support. One or two years from now, they'll be begging for better integration with their existing tools and platforms.

It doesn't take a whole lot of IBM'ers to get Drupal to talk with Lotus Connections, to get Drupal up to par with SharePoint, or for IBM to become the world's premier Drupal support company. It is a small investment for a win-win situation.

IBM embraced Linux so they know how to do this, and they know how well that worked. It helped IBM turn around some of its business and strengthened their position in the server market. The battle has since moved up the stack and Lotus is to Drupal what AS/400 was to Linux. It will be interesting to see if IBM is going to repeat history and embrace an open source alternative.

Open Source in Europe

The European Commission published an interesting study on the impact of Free and Open Source Software on the European economy (PDF, 287 pages). Based on an empirical study of the European IT market and forecasting techniques, the following is one of many interesting conclusions:

Proprietary packaged software firms account for well below 10% of employment of software developers in the US, and "IT user" firms account for over 70% of software developers employed with a similar salary (and thus skill) level. This suggests a relatively low potential for cannibalisation of proprietary software jobs by FLOSS, and suggests a relatively high potential for software developer jobs to become increasingly FLOSS-related. FLOSS and proprietary software show a ratio of 30:70 (overlapping) in recent job postings indicating significant demand for FLOSS-related skills.

I can't speak for other projects but Drupal is in high demand, and there is a shortage of talented Drupal developers and consultants on the market.

Either way, make sure you can put "solid understanding of open source software development" on your resume. It increases your market value. And you'll have more fun too.

SharePoint 2007

Bert Boerland predicts: Within 3 years the acronym "CMS" won't mean "Content Management System" anymore but will be redefined to "Community Management System".

Markets are more likely to fragment than to consolidate so I think both will co-exist and inevitably overlap. That said, I agree with the notion that community software will continue to emerge and that content isn't king. And to contribute to the disorderly jumble that is the CMS acronym, may I suggest a third term: Collaboration Management System. It might be a better match.

Especially the introduction of SharePoint 2007 might have significant impact on this particular market. SharePoint 2007 adds features like forums, blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, news aggregation, surveys, issue tracking ... but also install profiles and custom content types. Clearly, Microsoft decided to play catch up. And rumor has it that the improved integration with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook is jaw-dropping.

Drupal's document management functionality and integration with tools like Microsoft Office and OpenOffice is severely lacking. As it stands, Drupal is not a good SharePoint alternative, yet there is quite a bit of overlap in terms of functionality. It sure makes for an interesting situation.

I wonder what impact the introduction of SharePoint 2007 will have. What was once an important Drupal differentiator (i.e. bundling a wide variety of functionality into a single platform) will finally become commodity in 2007. Instead, seamless integration with other applications might become essential to compete? Interesting times!

Mass Drupal hosting

Taken from this press release at News Yahoo!:

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said on Monday his for-profit company, Wikia Inc., is ready to give away -- for free -- all the software, computing, storage and network access that website builders need to create community collaboration sites.

The press release mentions that Wikia considers including support for Drupal. I have since talked briefly to Jimmy Wales, and they would like to reach out to the Drupal community and Drupal experts to help figure out how they can make that happen ...

As web content management systems and blogging tools become commodity, mass hosting and deployment services (i.e. installation, configuration, upgrading, patching, cloning, import and export, backup and restore, customization, compliance tracking, etc) will become increasingly important.

Smart as we are, we already started taking Drupal into that direction, and much of that will be rolled out with Drupal 5. ;-) There is a tremendous amount of experience to be gained, but also a significant amount of Drupal work left to be done. I'm looking forward to help work on this more and I hope other people do too. Hot stuff!

Community in the 21st century

Eben Moglen (Professor of Law and General Counsel for the Free Software Foundation) delivered an incredibly interesting keynote at the Plone conference.

Eben explained the Plone community why he thinks that managing content is not important, and why managing community is. He believes that community-driven development will become increasingly popular and vastly superior compared to software developed by a single commercial entity. Hence the need for software and infrastructure that allow organizations to build large communities for a certain period of time.

We are moving to a world in which in the 21st century the most important activities that produce, occur not in factories, and not by individual initiative, but in communities, held together by software.


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