Open Source Business Model: No, Seriously

by David Sims


I took in a panel on Wednesday morning at the Open Source Strategies Summit (one of the tracks at the Open Source Convention) about open source business models for the
next-generation Internet.


In introducing the panel, Tim O'Reilly asked everyone to "think pretty hard about interoperability," which depending on how you hear that, could be a gentle reminder of the need for standards, or could be an attack on proprietary systems that lock out competitors. "The war is not between open source and Microsoft," Tim said. "It's a war between an interoperable world, where there's room for many players, and a winner-take-all world."


So how about this room for many players business? Who could deny that the Internet-driven boom of the late '90s was made possible by an open system with a low barrier of entry? And yet the last year or so has been something less than inspiring for the open source business model, with the failure of Eazel, and hard times for many Linux companies.


The panelists, whom along with Tim included economist Hal Varian from UC Berkeley's School of Information Management Science, CollabNet CEO Brian Behlendorf, and Michael Olson, vice president of marketing for Sleepycat Software, offered advice that sounded ... well, awfully familiar. Start with open source code, develop it, give it back to the community. Then make your money off of services, consulting, some small amount of shrink wrap.


Some think you should hold onto core enhancements (Behlendorf), others think you shouldn't (Tim). Either way, there has to be a clear focus on some competitive angle that makes the effort of your labors something more than a commodity. Not because we've all become hard-nosed, ungenerous misers in the past year, but simply because the conditions for using other people's money (that is, investment or venture capital) have changed (some would say "matured"). That mythical future, when we promised that the benefits of largesse would be returned tenfold, is upon us. And then some.



1 Comments

Darryl
2006-10-23 08:52:54
Why would the OSS people want to produce products that are easy to use, configure, install, and support.


as the Open Source business model as you pointed out is based on "PRODUCT HELO".


so the Sysadmins make the money, and the coders dont.
the coders are not paid to create easy to use, or functional software. they dont get paid at all. What is "free labour" called, volenteer or slave ?? i forget.


If you try to translate the OSS business model into a "real world" industry, it seems to fall in a hole.


Automotive industry:
would require the care manufactures to make cars, and GIVE THEM AWAY, great you get a free car.. bewdy. !!


but the catch is, the car is so complex to drive, start, maintain, or repair. that the car manufacture has to come and DRIVE YOUR CAR FOR YOU.
for $200 per hour,


its not in the car manufactures interest to build a car that EVERYONE CAN DRIVE. if they did they would lose their only revinue stream. (the "product halo").


this "Open Source car", comes with a complete set of blue prints and if you want you can build your own.


also once the designers of the "OSS car" have finished their design, they have to give up being car designers (coders), and become System administrators to put food on the table. !!.


ofcourse, if you make your living from fixing problems with the software you've developed, what is the incentive of FIXING this problem before it occures, (ie correcting the bug),, NONE,, thats what. !!.


a programmer makes his living from configuring, maintaining, and supporting flaky code, but get paid NOTHING for writing code that is NOT flaky. see where im coming from.


Closed cose model. the creator of the code HAS to release something that is:


1. easily usable by the masses.
2. is a complete application. (ie finished product).


their product (closed source), HAS to be GOOD ENOUGH for someone to PAY FOR IT.


IT IS,, and we do. in greater and greater numbers.


My closed software OS, and my applications are 100% stable, NEVER does my Winbox crash nor do applications hang.
and the applications available, propritory code, IS GREAT.


driver support, application quality, security, stability, and linux (sorry) GNU/Linux elitism is what is killing the OSS movement. apart from a flawed model.


that "devalues" programmers. and promotes crappy, sloppy code.