Open Source as a Fragmented Market

Dana Blankenhorn blogged about a recent Evans Data report that described the open source market as fragmented. He goes on to say, “The whole premise of the study shows just how little most analysts know about open source as a concept.” (Blankenhorn). He ends the article with these questions, “Who are the leaders? I have no idea. The game has just started. Who do you think the leaders are?” (Blankenhorn). If I am reading this right, he is saying that open source is not fragmented, but that it is too early to tell who the leaders are.

Interesting. I suspect that he might be misunderstanding some of the terminology used in the study. A fragmented market or industry is defined as an environment where “no firm has a significant market share … usually fragmented industries are populated by a large number of small- and medium-sized companies” (Michael Porter, Competitive Strategy, p. 191). In other words, a market where there are no clear leaders.

In some cases, the market will eventually consolidate and in other cases it will not. This does not in any way reflect poorly on open source or imply that the open source communities themselves are fragmented. By most definitions, open source is a fragmented market with many smaller organizations providing a wealth of products, but with few clear market leaders. Fragmentation within a market is common when the market has diverse needs and when it is new (Porter), and open source seems to align with both of these ideas. I do agree with Dana that it is too early to identify any clear leaders, and over time we will see how open source software evolves.