Recession a Boon for Open Source?

Recently a friend of this website observed that the economic downturn, however down it turns, will probably mean the end of all those free goodies we’ve come to expect on the Internet.  But Jim Whitehurst of Red Hat thinks different.  Since the downturn will force companies to spend less on new technology infrastructure, innovation and improvement may well come through Open Source (which basically means “free”) solutions, which if not always free, are dramatically less expensive than Microsoft and other profit-driven, proprietary models.

Its an interesting and probably sensible theory.  Since Open Source developers are working largely for their own personal intellectual satisfaction rather than to create copyrighted software, OS development will probably not be significantly impacted by the economic downturn.  Conversely, since profit-driven companies will need both companies willing to shell out cash and R&D projects which rely on that cash, they’re likely to take a big hit.  Internet innovation is likely to continue unabated, whereas the next generation Microsoft Operating System will be significantly slowed down.

On the other hand, gaming this notion a bit further, its just as likely that the loss of revenues in the IT market will spring new fights over copyright and new litigation warfare from Microsoft.  Even when hurting, Microsoft can afford the lawyers to keep winning in court, but Open Source projects would need to divert valuable resources to such a fight.

Time will tell, but things are going to get interesting in the IT world.