In his post about Microsoft open source, Jay Lyman, a 451 CAOS Theory analyst/blogger, pointed to how Microsoft's moves in the open source arena will result in the "usual Redmond-level scrutiny from developers and open source proponents." That there will be more than a few people watching the progression of both the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL), is indeed difficult to dispute. Interestingly enough, Jay's reference to the term "Microsoft open source" also breaches the subject of how a notable growth in the numbers of (formidable yet still proprietary-centric) players in the open source space will affect the definition of an open source brand.
For better or worse, brands have permeated a large majority of modern-life in the Information Age. Where, at a macro level, as physical boundaries are ceded by worldwide communication networks and increasingly diverse forms of connectivity there is an emerging class of global brands. In the same light, neither the software industry nor the open source marketplace is any different. Thus far Red Hat, Apache, Eclipse and MySQL are highly visible examples of names, which have blazed a path towards the concept of an open source brand. Each of the aforementioned has effectively parlayed an open source foundation into a strong association with the essence of what it means to be a vendor, an organization and/or a community associated with open source. Yet the question of how a new class of software heavyweights intent on becoming active along similar lines will change the definition of an open source brand, remains unanswered.
It remains to be seen if/how long it takes for various pundits, observers and other influencers to consider "[insert-name-of-prominent-software-company]'s support of open source" as grounds for another emerging open source brand on accord of the size/success/market cap of that company. Will what amounts to the long, winding path to relevance as a truly open/community friendly company be shortened by pre-conceived notions of ability? Likewise, will rising levels of commercially-oriented involvement obscure equally important forms efforts (i.e. non-commercial) upon which the open source genesis was based?
The question of, whether there will be another Apache type organization arises. Perhaps the definition of an open source brand will move towards being associated with for-profit success such that only commercial vendors will sport them. Obviously it doesn't hurt to have access to the resources and the attention of those qualified to spread word of progress, vision and aptitude. Still the distinct possibility exists that the process of structurally instilling the principles of transparency and openness, more similar to, as Cote put it, having [and raising] a baby than to swallowing a competitor, will be confused for the latter. As the new entrants in the space begin to resemble the size and image of the companies the open source model is to depose, will the fact that open source success isn't solely determined by balance sheet success be swept under the rug?
In a way, the current cycle of open source disruption has stimulated expectation for more widespread participation by the standard-bearers within the software industry. Participation that goes towards validating a new cycle of revolution while also acting as a metric for the rapidly changing rules of the game. Needless to say, only the passing of linear time will reveal whether the concept of a strong open source brand will remain something to be earned. I, at least, hope it does.