Others reject predictions of drastic change in the software industry. "Open source software will be expected and required by a large percentage of the marketplace," Evans says. "But there will also still be a significant portion of people who will not know, or care, if the software or application or Web site they use is open source or not."
True enough. But there's no escaping the fact that the software industry is in a time of enormous transition. Open source isn't the only challenge facing proprietary software. Although the market for Web-based software as a service (SaaS) is at an even earlier stage than commercial open source, it could potentially prove just as disruptive when the technology fully matures. For established players, the challenges are coming from all sides.
"When Japanese carmakers came upon a better formula for value in the 1970s and '80s – more cost-effective production, higher quality, lower pricing – many of the same protectionist behaviors that are seen today [in the software industry] kicked in," says Evans. Customers reacted. And in some respects, the American manufacturers have never fully recovered.
Today's proprietary software companies can't afford to make the same mistakes. New business models have already made their mark on the software industry, and the changes are here to stay. The days when vendors could get by on vendor lock-in, lack of interoperability, and other protectionist tactics are drawing to a close. The call for a new relationship between customers and software makers is loud and clear, and the industry has no choice but to respond and adapt.