We had a great time in Paris at our Third Open Source Think Tank this year! We had over 120 attendees, primarily from Europe http://thinktankeu.olliancegroup.com/index.php.
The two case studies were very different and illuminated the range of the open source market: Airbus and the Danish Government. The Airbus discussion was particularly fascinating as they described a product development cycle of twenty years with a product life cycle of forty years. Software has become critical to their planes, but given these time periods, proprietary software has significant disadvantages: (1) most proprietary software companies are likely to be acquired or go out of business during such a long period and (2) even if the proprietary software company still exists, the technology will be dated and the company may be reluctant to invest in maintaining it. An open source approach overcomes many of these problems.
The Danish Government described their efforts to encourage the use of open source in the government, including developing a forge. They faced many of the same challenges described by the State of California which we discussed at the Open Source think Tank in Napa.
We once again had a great discussion of M&A. This panel was particularly useful for startup CEOs because merger is the exit strategy for over 90% of venture backed startups. The panelists emphasized the need to ensure that the company has clear title to the intellectual property in the product. The failure to do so can result in significant delays and possibly reductions in the purchase price. They also noted that one problem that target companies rarely consider is the negative effect of large potential contract liabilities: the most common problem is unlimited liability for intellectual property infringement. Many acquiring companies will not accept such liability. In one case, the acquiring company structured the transaction as an “asset purchase” rather than a merger (much less favorable from a tax point of view for the acquired company) in order to leave the contract with unlimited liability behind. We also addressed these issues in the legal panel (see our presentation at http://www.scribd.com/doc/40133936/Open-Source-Paris-Think-Tank-2010-Final).
The cloud computing panel was supplemented by a real time poll. The attendees were more optimistic about the effect of cloud computing on the use of open source software than the attendees in the Napa Open Source Think Tank in the Spring. A large majority stated that the advance of cloud computing has not effected the adoption of open source software. Both groups agreed that security was the most significant barrier to the adoption of cloud computing. I am sure that this topic will continue to be important at future Open Source Think Tanks.
After the last presentation, we joined attendees of the Open World Forum for a cocktail party in the Paris City Hall and then had a wonderful dinner on a barge on the Seine. We look forward to seeing you next year.