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Open source projects as incubators of innovation: From niche phenomenon to integral part of the software industry

Jan-Felix Schrape

No 2017-03, Research Contributions to Organizational Sociology and Innovation Studies, SOI Discussion Papers from University of Stuttgart, Institute for Social Sciences, Department of Organizational Sociology and Innovation Studies

Abstract: Over the last 20 years, open source development has become an integral part of the software industry and a key component of the innovation strategies of all major IT providers. Against this backdrop, this paper seeks to develop a systematic overview of open source communities and their socio-economic contexts. I begin with a reconstruction of the genesis of open source software projects and their changing relationships to established IT companies. This is followed by the identification of four ideal- typical variants of current open source projects that differ significantly in their modes of coordination and the degree of corporate involvement. Further, I examine why open source projects have mainly lost their subversive potential while, in contrast to former cases of collective invention, remaining viable beyond the emergence of predominant solutions and their commercial exploitation: In an industry that is characterized by very short innovation cycles, open source projects have proven to be important incubators for new product lines and branch-defining infrastructures. They do not compete against classical forms of production but instead complement and expand these.

Date: 2017
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-dcm, nep-ino, nep-ipr, nep-pay and nep-ppm
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