Open Source Business Models and Palm Development

by Marc Hedlund

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It's great to see, a Palm developer tools company, use a simple open source business model to such beneficial effect. Not only is their product by far the best tool for developing PalmOS applications, they've drawn a perfect line between supporting and giving back to the open source community, and creating a revenue opportunity that will drive their business. They deserve support and acknowledgement.

The company's flagship product, DeveloperStudio for PalmOS, is a Windows IDE that sits on top of PRC-Tools, a gcc-based compiler for PalmOS applications, and PilRC, a PalmOS resource generator. Both PRC-Tools and PilRC are GPL'd. employs a full-time programmer to maintain PRC-Tools. On top of these packages, has built all the things at which open source tends to fail: double-clickable installers, professional user interfaces, visual forms designers, and so on. The result? Grassroots, open-source packages that anyone can use and learn from for free, encouraged and helped by a company that expands the user base of these projects by lowering the hurdles to using them.

Perfect. Notice that this company did not need to write a new license or run screaming away from the GPL in order to make open source work for their business. Nor did they need to abandon the idea of product sales and "resort" to a support-based model. They just found the right balance between supporting the community and profiting from their products. More companies should do the same.