In the last post, I mentioned that I’d seen the open/closed fight play out in gaming and enterprise software, with different results.
I’m all done with the gaming side for now, so back to the enterprise…
On the enterprise side of things, I’ve worked with CAD and document management systems. In both, when I got started, incredibly closed proprietary systems were the norm. In CAD, some companies made their own hardware to run their software and sold the whole thing in one expensive package. In document management, the real money was in system integration which was deliberately kept hard so clients couldn’t do the work themselves. But data exchange became increasingly important, plugin architectures got created and quite suddenly enterprise players found themselves stuck with openess.
Again, this wasn’t open source, but it was a new kind of openess that hadn’t existed before. Eco-systems flourished, hundreds of developers sprang up for every platform, much money was made and customers gained all kinds of new abilities they’d never had before.
You could make a reasonable argument (especially if you weren’t as lazy as me and actually researched numbers that bear out this thesis) that the closed players mostly died out and the big successes were the platforms that became more open. i.e. the exact opposite of the games industry.
So the question that’s bugging me is this: why did closed work so well in games but open was the solution in enterprise?
My current thoughts:
- Enterprise software is more mature in its development than the games industry. Perhaps every industry goes through a cycle of random noise/wild west craziness, evolution of successful closed systems, the eventual destruction of those systems and their replacement by more open systems.
- The nature of the usage of the technology dictates which will work. Enterprise software was inevitably going to have to become broadly interoperative and collaborative in nature. That forced openness. Gaming (and perhaps mobile) can live with interoperability at its fringe and not at its core, allowing closed systems to continue to survive.
- It just is. Sometimes you need one, other times you need the other. Sadly, you’ll never know in advance which is right for any given industry, but hindsight will be 20/20.
All comments welcome!
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, if that’s something you happen to celebrate.