4 Open Source Opens Its Wings As Linux battles Microsoft, another 86,000 open-source projects prepare to send shock waves through the rest of software.
By David Kirkpatrick

(FORTUNE Magazine) – The trends in this package all provide tantalizing markets for business and new ways for customers and consumers to spend money. Except this one: Open source, the free software movement that started with Linux, will become an inescapable margin eroder for just about every company doing anything in software.

This disruptive technology is finding its way into companies large and small as well as governments worldwide. Shipments of server computers loaded with Linux are growing 50% annually. The open-source Apache program controls 67% of the web-server market. MySQL, a fast-growing open-source database, has been downloaded by more than four million users.

The next frontier for open source--and the next battleground for the likes of Microsoft--will be on desktop PCs and other consumer devices. Linux-based cellphones are emerging; Japan's biggest mobile company, NTT DoCoMo, recently asked its phone suppliers to start using the software. And Linux already runs consumer-electronics gear like the TiVo digital video recorder. There's lots more to this trend--too much to include here. To see how Big Software is wrestling with this upstart free competition, read the following story, "How the Open-Source World Plans to Smack Down Microsoft, and Oracle, and ..." --David Kirkpatrick