Weblog:   The Myth of Open Source Support Tactics
Subject:   Smaller commercial players beware?
Date:   2003-04-19 16:38:21
From:   anonymous2
Many "open source" arguments such as this focus exclusively on large players, in either the commercial or open source world.

It seems to me that the losers are invariably the small commercial players who are trying to create some innovative software product.

If small commercial players are focused on delivering new software (as opposed to services attached to software), they stand to lose from both the negative attitude to commercial players from the more extreme open source fans and also from marketplace bullying from the large commercial vendors, who are able to afford (and justify to their boards) strong arm tactics.

Speaking for myself, a more important issue than open source vs. is that there be an open software market than whether the products be open source or not. That is, competition in all sectors, including the commerical sector, be open and fair. The customer can purchase whatever product they like (not withstanding the OPs implied lock-ins, etc.). Businesses feel nervous about purchasing small vendors software in part because they doubt the on-going nature of the product. This doubt, in turn, is in part due to the bullying nature of the commerical market; the customers perceive that the small player will be bullied out of the market by some larger player.

Small commercial operators need equal access to the marketplace, not based on legal budgets, but on the "product space". (Open source neatly ducks much of this, as the software is "free".) Were this put right (as if it ever would!), I believe much of the open source vs. arguments would fade away as the market would be more focused on product features and less on marketplace dominance. I suspect this would require substantial changes and in any event it would be unlikely to have the support of the large commercial operators. The *public* however should in their own interests support it.

One of the big problems that I have with open source vs. arguments is that they frequently imply that small players should only be doing support - as is this post did (albiet only in a small way!). This effectively implies that the large commercial players have a "right to rule" the commercial product sphere. This argument is very damaging to small companies and the development of innovative products.

Finally, commercial players *do* add value in the form of consistent on-going development, support, quality assurance, testing, documentation, knowledge in that specialist domain, etc., etc. Open source projects are frequently quite erratic in these aspects. Its frustrating to see so many open source projects act as if once a working program is there "its ready for use".