Capitalism and Carrion

An industry pundit with some serious delusions said that Open Source was "anti-capitalism."  His assertion was that Open Source would not only cripple commercial software companies, but that the dot-communism crowd was doing so on purpose.

Silly executive!  Increase your dosage and call me in the morning.

Every participant in every market reacts to every other participant both
individually and collectively.  Regardless of their stripes, participants place their bets on solutions they believe will serve them the best.  With technology, and especially IT technology, these are longer term wagers that may involve antes of capital, manpower, or sheer heartache.

I maintain the Open Source is a capitalist reaction to both new opportunities and market imbalances.

The opportunities afforded by Open Source are multifaceted.  On the purely commercial aspect of it, there are financial (i.e., cheap) motives as well as strategic (i.e., CxOs want to consolidate IT skills, which in the long run saves money, which is cheap).

From the technical side, there are human desires to write systems code (every programmer secretly wants to be a systems programmer, and thus they will invest their time and talent for the joy and gory glory of contributing to Open Source projects).  In production, Open Source gives IT professionals desired latitude to implement solutions that will not drive them into an early grave due to pure frustration with vendors.

All of these aspects, since they are based on free will and requisite investments, are capitalist reactions to the market.  And the reaction is coming due to the perceived (if not actual) market imbalance held by vendors in general, and Microsoft in particular. 

Markets react negatively when any one company or set of companies gain too much power (take note Larry … a backlash awaits you).  If the market can invest in competing solutions, they do so, or at very least they will invest enough in competing solutions to   keep the primary vendor on guard (I used to keep coffee mugs from IBM, DEC, and HP in my office and would use a competitor’s mug on days when a sales person was scheduled to visit).  When voting with dollars fails, the market will employ the heavy club of government and unleash anti-trust hell hounds on the market leader.

Open Source is a market reaction to the dominance of a mindset — that the bulk of a solution set should come from a vendor.  Though Microsoft is the obvious villain in this tale, so too are HP, IBM, and Sun who (for servers at least) long tried to build barriers to customers investing in competing technologies.  Linux made the game nearly vender neutral, and eliminated the imbalance in the market.

Linux leveled existing markets that is.  In new markets, not even Microsoft Windows will be able to build escape barriers because those markets may never adopt proprietary products to begin with. 

It seems that in many emerging markets, where computing technology is a new phenomenon, people are uttering such quaint phrases as "Who is Microsoft?  What is Windows?"  Since wealth is an uncommon concept in these societies, they choose to implement what they can afford, and technocrats provide schools with Linux.  Thus, entire flocks of future IT and knowledge workers are growing up completely ignorant of Windows, AIX, HP-UX and Solaris.  In other word Microsoft, HP, Sun and IBM have no brand recognition in countries that may well outstrip North America in total IT software consumption in the decades to come.

As we all know, a lack of brand awareness defeats all subsequent marketing efforts.  At least HP, IBM and Sun have hardware to peddle.  Aside from keyboards and mice, Microsoft has does not, and may well be shut out of India, China, and other
neo-techno markets.

Bill Gates who?


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