Microsoft's quarter booms--when will open source make a dent?

It seems that the proprietary world is doing just fine in the face of open source. But for how long?

Microsoft sure is taking its time dying. What with open-source cutting it off at the knees and all, I would have expected it to be packing its bags and heading home. But no, the company continues to frustrate my prophecies with great earnings. Microsoft's only weak area was online. Everything else is booming to the tune of $4.29 billion in profit.

Which begs the question: who wins in the standoff between open source and proprietary software? And when?

In the short term, the answer is clearly that open source and proprietary vendors will coexist relatively peacefully because there's still plenty of room for Oracle's consolidation play, Microsoft's ecosystem play, and IBM's...IBM play ("We're IBM, always have been, and always will be, so buy from us"). Open source has plenty of room to grow without unduly upsetting these three.

I don't think we'll have any head-on friction between these major players and open source until an open-source ecosystem player emerges. That's likely to be Red Hat, but not yet. It's fair to say that a commercial open-source ecosystem won't fully emerge until there are more "commercials" (money) involved. With MySQL angling toward $100 million and an IPO, we might not be that far off.

But a few years, anyway.

In the meantime, it's likely that open source will continue to skirmish with and beat the individual proprietary players (those not affiliated with Microsoft, Oracle, or IBM), but leave the Big Three (Big Four if we count SAP, which is increasingly plausible as it consolidates, too) relatively unscathed. For now. The writing is on the wall, however, as Microsoft's bellicose positioning against open source shows.

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