I am not a great fan of the open source movement. I had been always asking for a reality check of the potential of the open source movement. Several months back, I made the argument that open source software which does not make commercial sense, or at least indirectly contribute towards the commercial strategies of the software vendors and their corporate markets, is doomed to a dead end. As I wrote earlier, for some, the monopolistic domination of few commercial vendors may make the open source movement look desirable, but the fact remains that in the modern world, efficient use of capital,creativity and innovation are the key to sustained success – that is what commercial technology enterprises strive to accomplish.
The few recent acquisitions of open source vendors have not, in my opinion, changed anything substantial. As Tom Foremski points out, the software giants could stop much of the open-software movement dead in its tracks through acquisitions, and stifle the rest of it by making it difficult to recruit a developer community. No group would want to do free development work for Oracle if it turns out that Oracle could very well acquire the open-source company in the future. In general, the open source communities would not be motivated to act as unpaid developers for corporations. Period.
George Ou raises a key point – the response won’t be so lackluster if Microsoft went out and bought OpenOffice.org which competes with Microsoft Office or if Microsoft bought out Open-Xchange which competes with Microsoft Exchange server.Chances of failure with hostile controls are always very high. As I see it, even existing users of open source would be worried about the change of character of the open source movement, deserting it further. These moves would dent at the push and pull effects of open source.
It is clearly the case that arresting loss of potential business seems to be the motto in these acquisitions –not necessarily building new business around the acquired product. Open source leadership is determined by a sense of camaraderie, bonding and fostering collaborative leadership. I do not think that brand value or community network strength would be important factors if the fundamental characteristics get changed , as in the case of open source acquisitions. With a lot of these purchases happening at the commodity level, lower end of the stack, the faint hope hope of these acquisitions triggering a chain of innovation in the enterprise software also looks farfetched . In the long run, these developments would be seen as merely tactical and would be treated as such.