It will be interesting to watch the evolution of open source software (OSS) in the next few years. On the one hand it’s a fabulous, powerful new way of working. But will it displace slightly less fabulous ways of working – like Microsoft’s. I’ve always been sceptical that MS will be easy for OSS to knock over – even in the long run – because it can always open source itself to the extent to which competitive pressures require it.
That is it can publish part or all of its source code and licence its users to modify it. It could still retain copyright over the code and so protect the price sliding to marginal cost as it does with OSS.
It can then then accept back modified code from users into the core program if it wants. It even has some advantages – namely that it can pay people to do it if it wants. Still maybe the geek readers of this blog can fill me in – I’d be surprised if some firms aren’t doing this already.
Then again, a proprietory software company can’t fully open the source code – that is publish it under a GPL licence – as this will prevent it retaining control. Still, Microsoft has just taken the first step along the path that one would expect it to take according to this analysis. According to an online industry pundit “the software powerhouse is, for the first time, including open-source technology in one of its shipping products.”