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Open source is a platform, not a product

Open source has become a critical component of virtually all software and will continue to be such.

The platform wars are over, and open source has won. It's not that open source has displaced Windows or the iPhone or anything else, but that every platform will necessarily include open source. It's simply too expensive and too difficult to go it alone anymore, whether you're an aspiring start-up or Microsoft.

IDC captures this thought in a recent Asia Pacific survey, which highlights open-source software as a foundation for flexible platforms, rather than as point solutions:

Vendors position [open source] as a solution, rather than a point product, by customizing to the needs of specific verticals....Other perceived benefits of adopting open source, apart from the traditional cost savings, include no vendor lock-in, access to the source code, and the flexibility to further customize the software to match individual needs. All these in turn increase the ease of integration with the existing infrastructure of an organization, as well as the compatibility with different platforms. This gives the organization an opportunity to use and test open source without changing their whole IT infrastructure.

It's this flexibility that is arguably open source's biggest benefit, and why companies like Yahoo are actively contributing to open-source projects. Yahoo's senior vice president of cloud computing, Shelton Shugar, argues,

We believe that the developer community is a key component in making Yahoo! a success. The challenges the industry is facing today in terms of large-scale, global cloud solutions are bigger than any one company (big or small) is able to solve on its own. As we contribute to the [open-source] community, we also learn from the community, and third party developers are a valuable resource helping to speed innovation.

Companies that care about developers must care about open source. Like Amazon with its Kindle. Or Microsoft, whose CEO famously sang the praises of developers. So long as Google and its crowd compete using open source, Microsoft will, of necessity, follow suit.

It's not about peace and love. It's about capitalism and competition. That's the new face of open source.

This isn't to suggest that the world will go 100 percent open source tomorrow. But we'll see a lot more open source as vendors strive to meet CIO's need to cut costs while boosting productivity, and as they seek to become flexible platforms to meet the demands of increasingly complex enterprise IT requirements.