Gordon Haff: “Imagine, if you will, that it’s the late Nineties. A certain software company based in Redmond, Washington has recently released Visual Studio 97—thereby bundling together many of its development tools for the first time. Now imagine that the company decided to release those tools for free. What do you think the general reaction would have been? Applause for Microsoft’s generosity? Or widespread condemnation for using its market power to make such a transparently anti-competitive attack on other makers of development tools?”
Thought provoking observations. Note, however, that “open source as competitive weapon” isn’t limited to large vendors—it works equally well (and, in many ways, better) for the upstarts (see Red Hat, MySQL, JBoss, etc.). In fact, it works so well for the upstarts that even the upstarts have upstarts (see, e.g., Canonical). Can something that levels the playing field so dramatically be called predatory? Predatory has one-sided, unfair advantage connotations. In open source, it goes both ways. With Eclipse, it was IBM doing the disrupting; but with MySQL and JBoss, IBM is on the other end of it. At the end of the day, the real winner is all of us—after all, who can argue that the state of IDEs and middleware isn’t better today than it’s ever been?