Open Source has arrived... where's the money?
Uh oh. It seems my blog posting frequency is dropping even below my modest minimum target of one per month. I didn't post anything at all in my summer vacation. Well, a small child plus a house to re-decorate does take its share of energy I guess.
I thought I'd still follow up with were we left before holidays:
What I'm left with is the question: Are we there? Is this it? Is all that is left just some minor cleaning up after the big battle has already been won? I think it might be. For me, somehow the day I read the news of the release of Symbian as Open Source marks the milestone when it was clear that we had "won". [...]
Therefore, the history of Open Source could be written as:
1970-1983: Development of C, UNIX, Internet (implicitly a Free Software culture)
1984-1997: "Free Software and the GNU project era", actively furthering Free Software ideals by individuals developing Free Software
1998-2008: "Open Source era", companies getting involved in Open Source projects and releasing their own code as Open Source.
2009-....: The world is Open Source. There is therefore nothing revolutionary about being in an Open Source business, it is weird if you're not. But new and better business models are still innovated in response to the changed dynamics in the new world.
I've been thinking of this during my vacation, and while I've regained some of my energy to return to work, some of that feeling still stick. 2 months ago I was in it for the revolution, for the conquest. The conquest is over, now we are just left with discovering what it is we conquered... ie. seeing which Open Source business models work the best, not "if" they work. And being on a discovery is kinda interesting too, though not as thrilling as being amidst the revolution.
While on that subject, there has been some interesting blog posts in the planetmysql community at least on how Open Source business models are turning out. It started with Matthew Ashlett's post Asking the right questions about Open Source whereupon Lukas Kahwe Smith hits the nail with his head with Open Source isn't making enough rich people richer. The point being, Open Source software certainly is being successful, about the businesses remains to be seen...
After all, if you again take MySQL as an example, our message always was to commoditize the database market, to deliver comparable products with 10% of TCO. Now it logically follows that even if we had completely replaced Oracle and Microsoft in the 15 billion dollar database market... Well, by then all there was left was a 1+ billion dollar market! So it is good for customers, but maybe the whole point of Open Source is that it will never generate the kind of ridiculous ROI that proprietary software did, especially if you compare to lock-in monopolies like Microsoft.
This is a good question for Sun, which is like a big version of MySQL in its business model. Unlike Linux distributions like Red Hat and Novell who aggregate software from other sources and unlike service companies ranging from small shops to big ones like IBM and HP, Sun is very much an "IPR creating" company, kinda like MySQL, Alfresco, EBox which I call "Open Source product companies", with the consultants and support playing a supporting role. The question to ask here is, is there really a way to "sell" Open Source software, created mainly by one company, or is that just a legacy from the proprietary days? Is there more than just "selling services" as we used to say in the 90's?
As I said, we'll see in 10 years.