In The Missing Future, Eric Kidd laments the foreseen disappearance of small, independent software developers:
But this dream is nearly gone. It’s getting crushed between the awful power of Microsoft, and the onrushing juggernaut of open source. A 30-person company can’t compete with Microsoft. And a 30-person company will have a hard time competing with 300 open source contributors giving software away for free and making their living as in-house developers (though it can be done).
Assuming the notion of intellectual property and copyright doesn’t just go down the drain, I think there will continue to be a healthy market for small developers, made even healthier through open source.
Putting an appropriate fit-and-finish on software takes a lot of work, and very few open source projects successfully make a product that any random person can use. I don’t think that’s likely to change any time soon, because it usually doesn’t scratch a programmer’s itch to write good documentation and help pages, make things pretty, and support the tool after it’s released.
Some of the best open source software available comes in the form of libraries that help people produce software faster. These libraries can come to the aid of small, commercial software developers who can put them together and build on them in novel ways to produce complete, finished products. And it’s usually to the benefit of those developers to contribute their patches back to the library projects so that their changes can be improved upon and to make it easier to integrate future versions of the library.