Why should I be worried?

Once upon a time the computer industry was ruled by a few major vendors who pretty much ran the show with very little competition. Secure in their knowledge that they had their own little (or large) niche they were able to operate within boundaries they were able to set for themselves with very little threat from the outside world.

With the advent of the Internet and moreover Open Source, the game has changed and companies who used to rule the roost are now feeling the pressure. Historically competitors always had costs and resource limitations which meant ultimately that if a competitor became too strong, all you had to do was to make them a financial offer they couldn’t refuse, and Hey Presto! no more competition.

Although it wouldn’t be fair to describe this as the History of Microsoft, it is true to say that many very successful products over the years that were developed by independent companies now live on as Microsoft products, whereas the companies themselves do not.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal.

James T Kirk, 1967

Unfortunately, Open Source software, being free, is effectively not owned by anyone. Hence not available to be purchased. As an Open Source project does not typically rely on any one company, there are no theoretical limits on how much resource can be applied. Ultimately, the effort that can be brought to bear on an Open Source project can easily outstrip the resources of most traditional software vendors. So all of a sudden, major software vendors have competitors they can’t compete with, can’t buy, and who are potentially making better software that is being given away.

Is there a future for such large companies in the face of Open Source? Yes, of course, but not to the same extent as previously and certainly not with the same monopolistic grip on the market.

Some companies consider losing such a degree of control a mortal blow to their business and hence will do (and sometimes risk) anything to try to keep Open Source down. Take for example SCO (who effectively are no more), although directly they were taking on IBM, some would say IBM and Linux, in real terms they were taking on Open Source – it’s no surprise they lost nor that they are now bankrupt.

We are all, at our cores, the sum of our fears. To embrace destiny we must inevitably face those fears and conquer them. Whether they come from the familiar or the unknown.

Tim Kring, “Heroes”

Fighting Open Source is a battle that is already lost. It remains to be seen which if the commercial giants will be left when the dust settles, and which of the smaller organisations and countries will have invested sufficiently and at the right time to become Kings in the reality to come.

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