Who has really profited from Open Source?

There have been many discussions about the benefits of Open Source – the usually mentioned cost reductions and reduced dependencies, or the positive impact on development and implementation speed (as just mentioned in a blog post by Jan Lyman from 451 Group). A key question though is who actually has really profited from the fact that since roughly 10 years with have viable Open Source technologies that can be used as components or as replacement of commercial software. – In my eyes it’s three groups that benefited the most:

  1. Startups and internet mega players – without Open Source Google, Youtube or Facebook wouldn’t be were they are today. Think about the license money they would have had to play to Sun or IBM.
  2. Enterprises – with the rise and success of Open Source technologies competing traditional commercial software had to lower prices substantially. Just look at the prices for content management or databases.
  3. Software companies – with Open Source development speed can be increased and the cost for new features has been going down thanks to the possibility to integrate Open Source software

Commerical Open Source companies are not (yet) on this list, as in my eyes only a few have been really successful (yet) and the amount of money they are making is certainly neglectable in comparison with what Google or IBM are pocketing.