Thursday, March 23, 2006

Open Source will takeover say Open Source evangelist

In this article it is reported by Apache head Greg Stein that there will be no Commercial software in the future.

Apparently, according to Stein, people will make money in the software industry by selling support, installation, configuration and maintenance.

Bollocks, I say. Does he truly believe that the literally millions of professional developers are going to work for free, and hope they can make a living out selling support?

It may be true in the future where companies may give away a base software package and charge for customisation and support, but it would more than likely be closed source. In this case why would you give away your source to a competitor, when all you are charging for is your time. They could undercut you, using your source.

The other thing that doesn't make sense to me as a developer with his model. I can see how you could make money customising an Open Source application for a client's needs. I for one wouldn't enjoy doing that. It's horrible working with other people's code, no matter how good it is.

Call me old fashioned and unenlightening, and this may come back to haunt me in the future, but I don't see a time in my professional life span where there will be no Commercial software houses.
I come from a small marketplace, which may be leading my thinking. You have to work bloody hard to get and keep clients. You do all you can to lock them into using your software. Making the source of that software freely available to all and sundry just wouldn't happen.

So, I think there will always be a place for commercial software.

However, I can see the value of using OSS and customising it for the customers needs. This would be the most likely way of making money - whether most developers would like to take someone elses code and build on it is the question.

I suspect most would not.


Greg Stein said...

I think you're looking at just a small slice of the money flow. End customers will pay for install, customization, management, and all that. Some developers will be doing just that, and for "us geeks" that is unattractive. But there are a lot of junior level programmers who do not have sophisticated training, so that kind of work will be just fine at keeping food on the table.

But the other money flow is employers paying the geeks to improve the software that gets deployed to those customers. There is a lot of infrastructure that needs to be continually built and improved upon, for later deployment. That won't go away.

What will go away is the notion that the all/most of that infrastructure will be closed source. Even if a dev shop wants to keep it closed, its competitor is going to grab an open one. They'll work with the community to enhance that code. Meaning, their productivity is higher than the shop working on their closed codebase. That competitor is going to be able to have fewer "in house" developers, and use their savings to hire more consultants to deploy software. They'll have more customers and make more money. In short: to be competitive, moving to Open Source is going to be necessary.

And this really applies to everything, not just infrastructure. In a lot of deployments, people are delivering full systems. To be competitive, you're going to deliver an OSS solution. And if part of that solution is broken or doesn't suit your customers' needs, then you send your geeks in to fix it.

Have no fear... your geeky life isn't going anywhere :-)


Anonymous said...

I think you are looking at it from the wrong angle. You are looking at it from the developers side. But the customers call the shots. If someone in your niche produces a good open source package, will customers migrate? Ultimately, it's not really up to you. All you can do is make sure your solution is very good, and hope no one produces an open source "good enough" version.

peter said...

All these open source arguments overlook one basic fundemental fact of humans - we are greedy and selfish. Making a profit will ALLWAYS take preference over any other motives.

It's very naive to beleive that OS will completely elimitate commercial software but it does have it's place - most notably when it helps developers create non OS software.