(binary) Data is rapidly becoming the primary medium for information transmittal, desemination, and storage. Data can be used to represent pretty much anything. And while this is not particularly impressive, what IS impressive is the fact that the very nature of data is to be free.
I know I've probably just annoyed a large group of people with that statement. "Information wants to be free" is a common chant for those breaking copywrite laws, which some people resent. Whether or not it's right, it's definately true.
Data is easily replicated, cheaply stored, easily transmitted, manageable, and can represent almost anything. This makes the medium very prone to "sharing," which people will do as long as it's easy to do and carries little chance of reprecusion. Any attempts to control data will, I have no doubt, be soundly defeated.
Human nature aside, the fact is that Bill Gates was an anomoly. The fact that he was able to get people to spend their real money, on a series of ones and zeros is truly admirable. But the current level of data control is a bit different than it was when Billy was pushing his snake oil.
We can easily, and cheaply transmit gigabytes of information across the world very quickly. And by "we" I mean almost anyone. This lovely internet is mostly unpoliced, and that is a great thing; to allow anyone with as little as $9 a month to have access to this mind-blowing wealth of information, and instant world wide communication!
There's no doubt that the internet has changed our lives, well now it's changing some companies' business models. (or at least it should be)
Information doesn't want to be free.
Information will be free.
It will always be free. That's why I have no worries about Microsoft beating out Linux. Microsoft can't win. Their business model is obsolete. They may have been able to get away with selling data before, but with so much ease of data management available to everyone, there's no way they'll be able to keep it up. It's not a matter of if, but when.
All data will be free.