years a Gandhi quote has welcomed visitors to Red Hat headquarters:
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they
fight you, then you win."
Over the last two decades, Linux and
the open-source industry has played the underdog to Microsoft and
other proprietary vendors. Suddenly, however, open source has moved
from underdog to top dog in technology's hottest markets.
that we're winning in so many markets, how do we avoid the very same
lethargy and decline that has troubled our proprietary peers?
hard to maintain hegemony. The incentives to continue to innovate and
improve diminish the minute cash comes in without doing much to earn it. It's monopoly
In 2012, Microsoft's Office business generated $24
billion in revenue, or 32.5% of the company's revenue. But if you
used Microsoft back in 2000, you won't notice much difference in
using it today. Sure, maybe you can save documents to the cloud. And
maybe you can even rent the program online. But the essential Office
programs haven't changed much in eons.
is one reason that business productivity has moved beyond Office.
More work happens on the web, or in email, or over social media.
Sure, people still inflict PowerPoint presentations on the world, and
Finance can't get by without Excel. But, innovation is happening
elsewhere, beyond Office.
like what happened with Internet Explorer. At one point, Microsoft
actually disbanded its IE development team, as it had such a
commanding market share that there was no more need to improve the
browser. Only after browser innovation moved to Firefox and,
eventually, Google Chrome did Microsoft pick up its IE game again.
this isn't an anti-Microsoft post. Microsoft was simply doing what
any dominant monopoly does, which is invest elsewhere while milking
money from its monopoly cash cow.
open source is immune?
theory, it should be. An open-source project may have a wide array of
contributors, all of them competing to steer a project's innovations
in their preferred direction.
Any company or community can grow lazy when not
faced with serious competition.
is particularly true when we realize that many of the most
interesting open-source projects are controlled or heavily influenced
by single companies. Android is winning in mobile, but Android is
written by Google. If Android comes to own 80% of the market, do you
really think it will continue to improve at the rate it does now?
Google simply won't need to expend those resources.
that open source sets the agenda in so many important markets, we
need to take care for the aftermath. We've been gunning for the
number-one spot in operating system, database, and other markets for
years. Once we've attained them, the big question will be how to
avoid becoming fat and lazy, ceding markets back to nimbler,
proprietary competitors or, hopefully, to other open-source
communities, similar to what nginx has been doing in the web server
way, we need to take care that we don't become victims of our own