Open Source Strategies

A blog about open source software and business models, enterprise software, and the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM Suite.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Boring Prediction

Someday I'd like to be a historian. I picture myself donning a tweed jacket, wearing a sweater vest, and delivering a stirring lecture about the Napoleonic Wars or the Ming dynasty in front of a blackboard (and hopefully some students, too.)

Unfortunately, people think historians are boring (doubly unfortunately, my wife is one of these people.) The reason is that historians have a dull, analytical perspective on events. They (we?) boil events down to cut and dry technological and demographic trends, devoid of any passion, idealism, intrigue, or heroism. Who wants to read about advances in metallurgy or seed planting techniques?

So, while I bide my time, I'll perform a boring historian's analysis about open source software:

Today, open source software is seen as an epic struggle of freedom versus property, empowerment versus establishment, even community versus capitalism. It is described as a fundamentally disruptive force, a transition to a gift culture, etc. Even manifestos are written about open source software.

When we look back a few years from now, though, we will realize that open source software was simply the result of two bigger trends:
  1. The internet, which has created a globally connected software industry; and
  2. The "blog generation," a more general demographic trend of greater user and consumer participation across all major industries.
The former makes a highly distributed model of production and distribution possible. The latter has made users activley participate in the development of their software.

That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. If this sounds boring to you, well it is. In time, open source will be a normal part of the software industry, indeed all technology industries. Having an open source strategy in, say 2010, will be no more groundbreaking than having a website today.

And here's my boring prediction:

In five years time (2010), there will no longer be a meaningful distinction between "open source" and "closed source" software vendors. All major software companies will:
  1. Actively support some open source projects;
  2. Actively adopt and use some open source projects as part of their products; and
  3. Fight off some other open source projects' assaults on their products.
What about Microsoft, you ask? Well, in fact, they are already doing all three.

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