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Income of Open Source Software

Nothing except the Grace of God is free! A huge misnomer in the technology community is that Open Source software is free. While the ability to download the software is free for you to use, the infrastructure that is utilized to store the software project, transmit the software project, manage change control for the software project, backup the software project, is anything but free. The time that you as a user spend in learning and using Open Source software is not free. Even if one goes to communist China, they will soon realize that servers and bandwidth cost money there as well.
If Open Source software isn’t free, then how does it stay in existence? Again, it is the “ecosystem” at work that pays for Open Source. Much of the cost of Open Source software is absorbed by the individual developers. These are people who have a passion for the project they are working on and to which they are contributing. Once a project is available for use the community of users then provides testing and feedback. The cool aspect of Open Source is that the software development life cycle is akin to what is done with any commercial software development.
Finally, you have companies like Ambit Solutions that see the value of an Open Source project and determine there is a need to be met in the marketplace. This leads to developing a business model for the end user around the Open Source project. In the case of VoIP, Ambit derives its revenue from professional services (implementation, training, and support). Here lies one of the great aspects of the Open Source “ecosystem”; with the software being effectively free to the consumer, it puts the onus of success on the person or organization implementing the Open Source platform! It’s an old concept referred to as ACCOUNTABILITY.
Commercial software has now adopted the model of ‘Develop, Market, Build a Reseller or Direct Sales Channel, Build Market Share, Sell the Company, Cash In, Do something else’. Guess who is accountable in this model? Yes – you the consumer! It is not that this model is better or worse than the Open Source model; it is the fact that the Open Source model gives the market an alternative to do business on its terms.
Herein lies the issue with Open Source projects that adopt the dual licensing approach. Those developers want the passion of the project to be used and accepted by the marketplace, but they also want personal financial rewards as well. So, the new strategy is to produce a “clipped” version of the software for the market to get a “taste” of the software product, but then jam it to the market when they buy into the project. I am amazed at how similar this model is to the drug trade. Wouldn’t you prefer to deal with a physician that determines the best medicine for your condition based on your needs? And not the medicine you need based on the product that produces extra income for themselves; never happens, right. I think I found my next blog.

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