All the tech world's a duopoly, but how do Microsoft and open source fit?

If all the world boils down to two choices, where does that leave Microsoft and Red Hat?

I really like Larry Dignan's posts on ZDNet, and his post Tuesday on the natural state of software markets (duopoly) is probably accurate, though I wish it weren't so. Customers lose in many ways when industries consolidate. Having said that, it's also nice to not have to contemplate a blizzard of choices when you just want to know whether to wear brown shoes or black shoes on a given day.

Regardless of whether it's good or not, Larry identifies a slew of software (and hardware) markets that have been "duopolized." From among many:

Enterprise software: SAP and Oracle. Sure, HP and IBM are rapidly beefing up their software units. But once that dance of music chairs ends, a midlevel software company can take comfort (or not) in the belief that it'll be a subsidiary of Oracle someday.

Maybe. Or could there be an open-source pretender to this duopoly throne? And where is Microsoft in Larry's two-seated enterprise throne?

I believe that we'll have an open-source vendor vying with Oracle and SAP for the enterprise crown, but it will take time. A long time. Perhaps 10 years. Or it's possible that Oracle will simply buy Red Hat (plus MySQL, etc.) well before it poses a credible threat to the company's dominance. Oracle, for all its bluster, actually appreciates and understands open source. I think it could credibly make a strong open-source pitch to the market. But first it would have to get rid of that bluster...

More surprising is where Larry thinks Microsoft belongs. He has them owning operating systems (mobile, desktop, and server), browsers, search engines, and Rich Internet Applications. Not databases or enterprise applications? I'm surprised.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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