May 29, 2016

Editor's Note: Industry vs. Movement

It's Par for the Course

  • July 24, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard

Indulge me, for a moment, in a rememberance of all the great software companies that popped up after the initial release of Microsoft Windows 3.1, when the software industry was abuzz with startups looking to cash in on that trendy new software.

Hmm., they're out of business.

Same with that other company.

Corel? No, they were around before Windows. Same with WordPerfect.

OK, so maybe there weren't a slew of great software companies that focused on Windows software development that actually survived. Of course, some of that is due to Microsoft's predatory actions (it's hard to survive when Microsoft decides to cut you off at the knees by copying your functionality in the operating system), but the bigger reason is that the cycle of boom/consolidation is relatively common in a free-market economy. Not just in the software field, mind you: in the United States, we went from hundreds of car companies to four--and then three--in a relatively short amount of time.

So that's why I am not too distressed when I see consolidation occur in the Linux/open source world. Witness the latest: Caldera buying SCO. Such a deal actually makes sense: SCO has a support and research infrastructure that is rarely found in the youngish Linux industry, and Caldera has a clearly defined business plan combining server-based development (focused on e-commerce) and retail distribution through partnerships with larger firms. It's not exactly clear what would happen in the short term (Linux has pretty much wiped out sales of SCO UNIX and and UnixWare, and I'm not sure that the UNIX trademark has a ton of value now), but in the long term it would seem that this is potentially a good marriage.

As we go along, don't be surprised to see similar mergers of equals. It won't mean anything except that the Linux/open-source world is growing up and acting like every other movement that eventually merges into the mainstream.

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