First, I do not intend this merely as a Microsoft bashing article. They are the most prevalent, and thus have been picked for my example.
Microsoft recently announced that they are going to buy Great Plains software. Great Plains is a company that specializes in hosting applications. If you buy into them, you must keep buying into them. Hosted applications are a lot like cocaine. Once started, the habit is hard to kick, very expensive and quitting has nasty repercussions. Your data is effectively held hostage. It may be reasonable for a consumer to take a loss on their data and simply switch to another product, but this could easily bankrupt a business. Once you join, rates can be raised, without reasonable limit, and the only practical option is to open your checkbook. This is the world of systems like .Net, a world in which licenses are leased for a limited time, and customer revenue streams continue for unlimited time.
Now, what sane IT manager would ever willingly enter into such an arrangement? Most likely the IT manager won't, but the PHB in charge, who sees only predictable fixed costs, along with slashing IT headcount will be tempted. Initially subscription based and or hosted apps will probably be optional for one version. Once Microsoft offers their product on a subscription basis only, revenue will continue, regardless of whether or not people upgrade. By having hosted applications that can only be run off of the software companies servers, strict enforcement of the exact letter of license agreements becomes possible. I see no reason why this practice would not be followed by Apple, Novell or the Unix market. Some of this may sound radical, but keep in mind that many companies, windows and *nix based, have already started to do this.
What will the repercussions of this be? In the server market, most likely Linux would flourish, as much out of spite as any of it's technical merits. However Linux is not yet ready for widespread use among the masses as a desktop. Most business desktops need to have an office suite. For practical purposes this is going to MS's office suite. The alternates do not even register on most IT managers radar screens. Concerns of the tie between MS and Caldera are enough to get the US Justice Dept to start an additional anti-trust investigation into the office suite market. In the home market, especially once manufactures only offer MS's subscription based OS, there is going to be widespread financial misery. While Linux will certainly gain growth in this market, WINE isn't yet ready for most computer games that the masses want to play. This alone will be enough to keep most people paying MS a subscription. The potential for exploitation of the public is absolutely enormous. Will this be enough to make GPL'd software and Linux become mainstream with the masses? What do people here see as the repercussions to this industry shift?