Open Source vs. Proprietary -- Category Perspective

by Mike Hendrickson

One of the dimensions we watch at O'Reilly is the "platform" category. At a high-level in our taxonomy, the Platform category can be split into two groups -- Open Source and Proprietary. The following charts represent the "platform" world for the first five months of each year [January thru May of 2003 - 2007].

This first Chart shows Dollars for the first 5 months of each year.

Open Vs Prop Dollars

The next Chart shows Units for the first 5 months of each year.

Open Vs Prop Units

Here is a little context for these charts. The data here is for the whole computer/technology publishing market, and not just O'Reilly. The data is actual cash-register sales in bookstores, as measured by Neilsen Bookscan, throughout the United States. Typically about 85% of this market is Amazon, Borders and Barnes and Noble.

The market as a whole is down about 10% compared to 2006. The open source and proprietary trends on the unit chart have closely mirrored each other except for this year. On the revenue chart, open source has produced more dollars for the past 4 years and looks like it will again this year. I thought you would find this data interesting.

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2007-06-12 04:53:58
Is there something special for retail sales about the first five months of a year? How does this trend hold up for other time windows (such as the last five months)?
Mike Hendrickson
2007-06-12 06:19:18
There is nothing special about the first five months, but since I gave a summary by "year" it would obviously make 2007 appear really down. I just plotted this data on a monthly chart and the trend lines are pretty much the same, except they are a finer-grained view of the above charts.
Tim O'Brien
2007-06-12 15:35:06
Hi Mike,

Question: Is Java included in the proprietary or open category?

Mike Hendrickson
2007-06-12 15:46:48
Java is in Open Source. This is true for historical data as well eventhough Java was not Open Source'd until recently.
2007-06-18 17:59:30
Interesting. I would've expected the proprietary stuff to have held up or even risen with all the new MS releases after a long quiet period - eg Vista, Office 2007, Exchange 2007 etc etc.

Does nobody care about MS anymore? ;)

2007-06-19 07:24:30
I have to take issue with this study. It leaves out the last 7 months of the year and everyone knows that nobody buys anything technology related between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also when was the last time you bought a copy of Ubuntu or Fedora??
Saint Fnordius
2007-11-20 04:40:54
Just to be clear, this is about the books referencing the platforms, not sales of the platforms themselves. Am I correct?

If that is the case, then it seems that there is less of a downtick in open-source publications than in those dealing with proprietary platforms. This could be due to several reasons. It just seems that open source platform books are a less volatile market at present. To read this as a gauge into the popularity of the systems would be a stretch, though.