Last week was a good one for economic visionaries in Oregon. As Brian Wagner reported in BlueOregon, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof praised the WiFi network of Hermiston, Oregon as “the wave of the future.” And throughout last week, Oregon-based organizations had a high profile - and high impact presence - at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Portland.
As it should be.
The state of Oregon, home to Linux creator Linus Torvalds and the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), has made a commitment to open source-based businesses as one its key clusters for future economic growth. The city of Beaverton invested $1.2 million in the Open Technology Business Center to help incubate new open source software companies leveraging regional Linux powerhouses including Intel, IBM, as well as OSDL. At the Center’s January opening, Governor Kulongoski put it simply, “I truly believe this is the new technology wave.”
While the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department (OECDD) is working on a road map to drive business development around open technologies, several of the key players in Oregon were off to a good start at last week’s OSCON (probably the preeminent event in North America for Linux and open source developers.)
In the keynote and breakout sessions, OSDL and its members were well represented among the conference speakers. Over in the exhibits area, Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab (OSL) in Corvallis had a steady flow of visitors. OSL is working with many of the key open source projects driving development of the Linux operating system (Gentoo, Debian), web browsers (the Mozilla Foundation’s now omnipresent Firefox), the Apache web server, and many others. Thousands of users download these and other software packages from OSL servers every day. OSL’s growing prominence will be key to helping position OSU among Michigan, Indiana, Cornell, Duke, Carnegie Mellon and other leading universities driving both open source software development and innovative new consortium-based business models.
Away from the floor, Oregon’s open source agenda was advanced as well. The Open Technology Business Center had its own session at the event. Probably more important to the attendees of an open source developers conference, OSU, OSL and OTBC jointly hosted an evening reception well attended by both local industry leaders and the membership of the Portland Linux User Group.
Much remains to be done, of course, to bring about Oregon’s success as an open source mecca. Building on today’s strengths, Oregon must attract venture funds from across the country, develop and retain world class developers, and expand the region as a focal point for leading Linux vendors. Linux companies and developers alike need to see it as the place to be.
There is a long way to go. But for Oregon, last week was a good week.
(Full disclosure: I have done consulting projects for OSDL in the past.)