Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The service war begins ...

Whilst Google have fired a tentative shot and Bungee Labs might still be working out the best sort of ammo, Facebook has just thrown a small grenade into the platform as a service world.

Rather than a set of agreed APIs that need to be implemented, such as opensocial, Facebook is providing a functioning platform. The move towards open source not only attacks some of the issues around portability but provides the fastest way for other providers to adopt this platform as an emerging standard.

Though this move is bold it is far from perfect. The platform is not complete and the licenses suffer from the same issues as AGPL.

Nevertheless, this move takes us closer to the day that open sourcing the entire platform and trying to forge a competitive marketplace becomes the norm. This is what we should expect as we move from a product to a service based economy.

In the service world, reputation is everything. Unfortunately many companies who have strong reputations today will not make the transition as they will find it difficult to change to a new value network.

The one company which has the most to gain and yet the most to lose from this transition is probably Microsoft. The key to its future success is its once mortal enemy, open source.

If Microsoft fully embraced open source and the service world whilst providing support to the community and potential competitors, then Microsoft would dominate this space. Even Google and Amazon's foray into the service world would be trampled by such a move. Microsoft has the ability to own this space, not through IP but through reputation and trademarks.

However, as with all things, the first fight is always with yourself.

Whilst the path may be obvious to a few and the company has certainly made moves in that direction, the question is whether the rest of the organisation could ever accept that its greatest success is likely to come from its former foe. Can such a company ever embrace the new value networks? Could such a company ever let go of its most valued products?

It would be irony indeed if Microsoft turned out to be Microsoft's greatest enemy and Open Source its greatest ally.

Time will tell.

I know I don't make predictions but I thought I'd just say, that in my opinion:

"By 2025 either Microsoft will be one of the largest contributors to open source software or it will have become tomorrow's Polaroid / SCO / Commodore / ...".

Bar a desperate attempt to introduce some monstrous lock-in nightmare that spirals us quickly down the route of government intervention, the end of the open source war is starting and a new war is just beginning.

[Addition: I was asked for some clarification on my "prediction". First thing I'd like to note, is that I don't make predictions. In my view, by 2025, the most significant IT market will consist of utility computing services based upon open sourced standards. In my view, Microsoft will have a major position in this service market. Hence, in my view, Microsoft will be one of the largest contributors to open source software by 2025. As far as I am concerned, the likelihood of Microsoft not having a major position in such a market is about the same as it becoming the next Polaroid / SCO / Commodore etc. ]