In my view, one of the most important questions in the space of open innovation is how closed companies can make the transition to being open. One of my favorite cases on this topic is Baldwin, O’Mahony, and Quinn’s IBM and Linux(HBS-Case 9-903-083). As the title suggests, this case describes events in 1998 leading up to a critical moment in IBM’s recent history – whether or not to participate in the development of the open source software (OSS) operating system Linux.
IBM nowadays probably being the largest commercial supporter of OSS and Linux, many of you will know the outcome of this decision. However, the case paints a rich and convincing picture that these developments could not have been foreseen at all in 1998. Rather, at that time, IBM is the first major player thinking about putting its weight behind Linux and, rightfully, IBM is very worried about the consequences this move might have for the company as well as for Linux and its community.
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