Earlier this week, I attempted to provide some analysis of how Yahoo is going to get its money worth from the purchase of Zimbra. The point I was trying to drive home was that Yahoo bought the Zimbra ecosystem as much as the software, an ecosystem structured around open source. The point got me thinking that the trend of larger proprietary companies buying commercial open source companies hints at an inflection point where open source is evolving as a disruptive force into what amounts to a competitive necessity. Maybe it's too early in the game to question whether facilitating the development of software using a given model is compulsory to effectively competing, but it's an interesting thought nonetheless.
I've never subscribed to the school of thought it'll be a totally open source world but I do believe that the nature of the proprietary software development model will continue to undergo a metamorphosis, one which will bring new definition to the word, hybrid. Plainly put, open source is becoming a valuable strategic play for closed source companies, especially larger ones. For companies like Citrix and Yahoo, the prospect of developing an open product ecosystem is actually less than the financial costs paid for smaller companies that have that openness built into their business models. The fact that it makes very little sense for Yahoo, an internet media company, or Citrix to make the transition into an open source software company matters very little. Instead the diverse benefits of aligning with open channels outweighs differences in approach.
Questions about the level of commitment to the open source model by these types of larger companies, should be countered by understanding that open source is a competitive aid. There's less to gain from co-opting the flow of an open source ecosystems than from leveraging its inherent value. As similar acquisitions occur and smaller commercial open source vendors become divisions and/or components of larger companies perhaps a broader understanding of open source and its role will emerge.