I went to our local large retail store today, rushing to get a few items for my latest household project while my daughter Katie was in the Wegman's food store at the other end of the shopping center. I was rushing because I didn't think Katie would be pleased if I took too long deciding on just how big a paint brush I needed to paint some outside windows.
I live in a town that can best be described as a college suburb surrounded by rural farms, so the range of snippets of conversations that you overhear is very broad. Ahead of William and me as we wheeled our cart to the paint aisle was a mother with two teenage daughters. One of the daughters was carefully explaining something to her mother, and I couldn't help overhearing some of it. While I thought I would be hearing about something having to do with their shopping trip, what the daughter was actually saying was, and I paraphrase: "So you can just go on the web, and get it for free. It's something called open source so you can see everything that makes it do what it does, but more important, it does what you would otherwise have to pay for in Office. And it's free."
At that point William and I turned to go elsewhere, but all day since I heard that conversation, I've been thinking what it meant. It would be easy to over-generalize (and I'm about to), but these ideas about alternative software development and distribution are starting to take hold in the next generation who will be the parents and consumers. This is the target group for getting on open source desktops in the the five to ten year timeframe. This is the group, if they were properly informed, who should be screaming about limitations on non-open document formats and media types that will prevent them from hearing what they want and seeing what they want on the platform of their choice in a few years. This is the group, I hope, who simply won't stand for those types of limitations.