I've heard a lot of companies over the past few years tell me that having access to source code is critical as they seek to innovate in IT rather than merely imitate others' business software. As I heard from a senior IT executive at the Bank of New York last year, open source is the new innovation platform for enterprises.
But perhaps this represents the thinking of the innovators, early adopters, and even early majority. The late majority? It's happy to benefit from others' access to the source:
Open or closed source, if we touch the source code we are idiots. The whole reason we are buying product instead of developing it in-house is to pass the ownership for upgrades, QA/Testing, etc. to a company and paying a fee for that. As soon as we touch the source code we take all that back in house and kill our ROI. If we need to get to the code level we should go back to review the business problem we are trying to solve.
I've heard the argument made for years that the more commercial open source becomes, the less disruptive it will be as it will start to look more and more like proprietary software. As an example, if you modify Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you violate your support agreement and so effectively lose the benefits to modify the source.
While I believe that the right to access source code is a useful surrogate for the actual exercise of that right (because I benefit from the improvements others make, as well as the improved code quality that results from public exposure), it's interesting to see this enterprise perspective on the exercise of that right. The company is buying a business solution, which represents much of the "late majority" of adoption.
What does this mean? It means the open-source movement may want to consider tweaking its marketing messages as open source goes mainstream. It may be less about the right to modify, and more about the right to permanent escrow, safety in open access, etc.