The power of diversity in FLOSS

There is quite a bit of talk about the Microsoft-Novell deal, Oracle's support for RedHat Linux, Sun's release of Java as FLOSS using the GNU GPL, and many other Linux and Open Source stories. They got me to thinking: We don't know which strategies being carried out by various companies are likely to succeed in the marketplace, but we do know that whoever wins they can't help but be part of the Linux/FLOSS ecosystem.

Microsoft is unique in the marketplace, and if they fail it will likely take with them the ideological hold that software business models based on artificial marginal costs had on them. Some other company might buy the source code currently owned by Microsoft, but it is unlikely that any successor would follow their narrow vision.

If the strategies of any of the current companies building their businesses on top of FLOSS fail, there will continue to be many other companies able to continue development of the software and provide a wide variety of different support options.

When I was interviewed for the article in ITWorld Canada it was soon after I had read about the deal that morning, and long before Novell stopped allowing Microsoft to speak on their behalf. As a policy person I was most concerned about the politics around the cancer in the software industry represented by software patents, and only evaluated the deal in those terms. Reflecting on the deal later in the week when Novell released their FAQ, I saw it as a different strategy being attempted by Novell that could easily benefit the larger FLOSS ecosystem, rather than anything that could have a long-term negative impact.

Will the current strategies by these companies work out for them in the long run? Time will tell, but as long as time moves forward and not in reverse we know we will see continued growth in the overall FLOSS marketplace of companies and ideas.