Back in the 1990s, the technology world seemed alive with companies that had chosen to monetise an open-source project and get behind it. However, for Intel Capital vice president and managing director of services, open source, and machine to machine Lisa Lambert, the startup landscape today is quite barren, despite the number of open-source projects being higher than ever.
Lambert told ZDNet at the Intel Capital Global Summit that any startup looking to succeed with open source needs to break new ground and be the first to claim it.
"You've got to be on the leading edge, and out there, and right," she said. "I think [the successful startup] is going to be the first that disrupts. You're not going to see a whole bunch of companies win, and honestly, in the LAMP stack era in the '90s, that was probably the case too."
One of the key moments in the rise of GNU/Linux was when software companies producing their own variant of Unix realised that it made no sense for them all to work on something that was no longer providing any competitive advantage - it was simply part of the digital plumbing that had to be provided in some form. That meant they could usefully collaborate on a common platform, and differentiate themselves in other ways - higher up the software stack, or through services, for example.
Then the question became: whose Unix should they all standardise on? To choose any one of the available commercial Unixes would naturally give the company offering it a big advantage; what was needed was a neutral middle-ground. That middle-ground was GNU/Linux. Not only did it have all the advantages of traditional Unix, but its openness meant that it could be easily customised without requiring complicated licensing agreements.
Commoditisation has now spread to many other areas, notably in the smartphone and embedded sectors, as companies realise that it makes sense to collaborate on the common elements, which saves money and time, and frees up resources to work on more specialised aspects which might produce bigger paybacks.
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