in Open Source

Is Open Source killing small developers?

Do they need to remodel strategies?

Photo by KProgram

DevelopersDo they need to remodel strategies?

What comes to your mind if you ever think of the future of software prices? Experts have often predicted that software in the future will be available for free. One would need to pay just for the support. Brian Gardner‘s famous WP themes is just an example! This would result in the reduction in business profits of millions of software developers across the globe. One of the prime reasons for this is the Open Source technology. It actually should give all Open Source lovers a reason to smile as most of the software may be available to all for free in the future.

Does this actually indicate the developers to locate new domains to earn money in the virtual world? With the software being available for free on the net, the area where money can be generated is the software support. Not only software, even operating systems would face the same consequence. It will be soon when companies earn their breads through support because it is now common logic to everyone that software is eventually going the open source way to an extent, if not completely as yet. Testimony to this assumption is the presence and emergence of a plethora of browsers, e-mail clients and office suites which play a significant role. Every new morning a new problem and another new solution comes up, the credos for which should go to the Open Source users. OpenChange would be an apt example of how it has been revolutionized.

There may be many a times when there is a need for an extra plug-in or a feature which would be needed to give adequate support. This is where a marketing jargon “Up-selling” comes into play. Wikipedia says
Up-selling is a sales technique whereby a salesman attempts to have the customer purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale.

In other words, “simply exposing the customer to other options he or she may not have considered previously”. The Open Source community can take this cue form marketers and try to implement up-selling as the way Red Hat and Fedora have started doing it. Jack Wallen simplifies this as

Red Hat helps to develop Fedora to release to the community for free. This helps to gain both interest and favor of those possible enterprise customers. They try Fedora but long for extra, enterprise-level features. Those same customers realize they can get this with Red Hat Enterprise-level operating systems.

Another possible domain for companies to earn huge profits is Gaming. The gaming market is on an all time high and it is of simple business logic to cash on this opportunity. The tenacity for customers to pay for games will always be more. The gaming industry also acts as a morale booster to the hardware industry to make safer and better products.

Thus, the emphasis is on differentiation. Differentiate your products from your competitors and be sure to earn more revenues. Remember, it is the software support that will yield returns in the future and not the base code as it has been in the past.

14 Comments

  1. Being a open source enthusiast and Developer both, Ironically i still don`t agree to many points in the article. Outlining them below:-

    1. All software will become open source:- This is a hypothesis that eventually i don`t think is going to be true in my lifetime as a developer . The fully openness ecosystem which was prevailed in earlier days of RMS is very tough to be implemented again.

    2. Developer has to find another alternative :- Very wrong, Open source is never a business approach, Open source is a development approach. And there are companies that have full fledged development staff for their open source products Magento ecommerce http://www.magentocommerce.com/ is a perfect example of it.

    3.Axe will be on small developers:- Not sure why small developers will be axed ?, Small developers in my understanding are fresh developers or developers with lesser experience. How Small developers are related to product development ?

  2. Being a open source enthusiast and Developer both, Ironically i still don`t agree to many points in the article. Outlining them below:-

    1. All software will become open source:- This is a hypothesis that eventually i don`t think is going to be true in my lifetime as a developer . The fully openness ecosystem which was prevailed in earlier days of RMS is very tough to be implemented again.

    2. Developer has to find another alternative :- Very wrong, Open source is never a business approach, Open source is a development approach. And there are companies that have full fledged development staff for their open source products Magento ecommerce http://www.magentocommerce.com/ is a perfect example of it.

    3.Axe will be on small developers:- Not sure why small developers will be axed ?, Small developers in my understanding are fresh developers or developers with lesser experience. How Small developers are related to product development ?

  3. @ Gaurav: Good to see an Open Source developer here!

    Answering your pointers,

    1) All softwares can never become open source, that obvious. Lest, MS would no longer be the leader of software market :p
    The post says, "Experts have often predicted that software in the future will be available for free" - not just all softwares.

    2) "Developer has to find another alternative" - This refers to freelance developers/ noobs who work on a smaller scale. Everyone can't just work for an open source firm like "Magento"!

    3) Small developers make small apps and often sell them to their clients (often small enterprises). With open source getting vivid, larger developers may have similar tools/apps available under a FOSS license. It's just like - if you're a good freelance developer and go on to build a rocking browser to sell it in the market - I would love to stick to freely available browsers like FF and user GM to get my tasks done!

    I hope I was clear enough. :)

  4. @ Gaurav: Good to see an Open Source developer here!

    Answering your pointers,

    1) All softwares can never become open source, that obvious. Lest, MS would no longer be the leader of software market :p
    The post says, "Experts have often predicted that software in the future will be available for free" - not just all softwares.

    2) "Developer has to find another alternative" - This refers to freelance developers/ noobs who work on a smaller scale. Everyone can't just work for an open source firm like "Magento"!

    3) Small developers make small apps and often sell them to their clients (often small enterprises). With open source getting vivid, larger developers may have similar tools/apps available under a FOSS license. It's just like - if you're a good freelance developer and go on to build a rocking browser to sell it in the market - I would love to stick to freely available browsers like FF and user GM to get my tasks done!

    I hope I was clear enough. :)

  5. If Linux is any indication, then one thing we can expect to see is a very slowly developed platform with minimum polish becoming the baseline. Don't get me wrong, I love it as a web development platform, but it's not a suitable replacement for any serious desktop operating system. It takes a lot of R&D dollars to get to that level of polish and quality, and Microsoft and Apple have both spent many billions of dollars just on the desktop components that end users are going to be interacting with on a daily basis.

    Contract development and support work are not very profitable businesses compared to selling a product. One thing I fear is that if contract and support wok become the norm, we will end up seeing less money being invested in developing the platforms that we use because it simply won't be there due to the lower profitability of the new business model.

    Additionally, non-enterprise users tend to be pretty stingy with their money. They typically won't donate even a few dollars on average to help out open source developers. All in all, I just don't see the mainstreaming of open source software for most things as a future that is bright for most developers. I guess that's the reason why part of me has been thinking about taking some bioinformatics classes if and when I start on a CS masters degree.

  6. If Linux is any indication, then one thing we can expect to see is a very slowly developed platform with minimum polish becoming the baseline. Don't get me wrong, I love it as a web development platform, but it's not a suitable replacement for any serious desktop operating system. It takes a lot of R&D dollars to get to that level of polish and quality, and Microsoft and Apple have both spent many billions of dollars just on the desktop components that end users are going to be interacting with on a daily basis.

    Contract development and support work are not very profitable businesses compared to selling a product. One thing I fear is that if contract and support wok become the norm, we will end up seeing less money being invested in developing the platforms that we use because it simply won't be there due to the lower profitability of the new business model.

    Additionally, non-enterprise users tend to be pretty stingy with their money. They typically won't donate even a few dollars on average to help out open source developers. All in all, I just don't see the mainstreaming of open source software for most things as a future that is bright for most developers. I guess that's the reason why part of me has been thinking about taking some bioinformatics classes if and when I start on a CS masters degree.

  7. I think your post may be a bit misleading.

    1) "All software will become open source":
    As long as there is customers willing to pay money for a compiled executables and that market has enough money to pay the bills for the developers creating it (read: gaming industry) we'll never be in a situation where everything is open sourced, but according to Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organisations and Users in 2008 and Beyond: "By 2012, 80 per cent of all commercial software will include elements of open-source technology"
    - we are in the middle of the open source revolution.

    2) "Developer has to find another alternative": I strongly believe that if you love what you do you'll be successful no matter what. If you love being a dedicated open source developer you'll always have that passion with you and push the same buttons even if you work for yourself or another company.

    "Free software is not an ideology or philosophy, but a business model"
    - Aleksander Farstad, CEO, eZ Systems

    While open source is an ideology and philosophy, not a business model.

  8. I think your post may be a bit misleading.

    1) "All software will become open source":
    As long as there is customers willing to pay money for a compiled executables and that market has enough money to pay the bills for the developers creating it (read: gaming industry) we'll never be in a situation where everything is open sourced, but according to Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organisations and Users in 2008 and Beyond: "By 2012, 80 per cent of all commercial software will include elements of open-source technology"
    - we are in the middle of the open source revolution.

    2) "Developer has to find another alternative": I strongly believe that if you love what you do you'll be successful no matter what. If you love being a dedicated open source developer you'll always have that passion with you and push the same buttons even if you work for yourself or another company.

    "Free software is not an ideology or philosophy, but a business model"
    - Aleksander Farstad, CEO, eZ Systems

    While open source is an ideology and philosophy, not a business model.

  9. @ Knut: I would like to ask you to have a read once again. The article doesn't say anywhere that " All software will become open source". Instead it says, "most of the software may be available to all for free in the future."

    I hope you realize the difference.

    Regarding (2), each one has a different opinion. I doubt how many guys would stick to one programming paradigm when the world works on a different framework. Passion is good, but bread & butter are must!

  10. @ Knut: I would like to ask you to have a read once again. The article doesn't say anywhere that " All software will become open source". Instead it says, "most of the software may be available to all for free in the future."

    I hope you realize the difference.

    Regarding (2), each one has a different opinion. I doubt how many guys would stick to one programming paradigm when the world works on a different framework. Passion is good, but bread & butter are must!

  11. Hey Paval, I am employed full time as software developer and I am developing an app at my free time which is open source. I just wanted to point out this is an approach for earning money. And there are other approaches for freelancing software developers, like the MySQL license. My point is there are a lot of people in this field and there are known ways now for earning money. But the main problem is how do you keep people from violating you license when you provide the source code with the app.

    And by the way open source does not mean free software, there are applications out there that are open source but are not free. And there are licenses that permit you to see the code for educational purposes but not modify it, like the license Microsoft uses for its .NET Framework.

  12. Hey Paval, I am employed full time as software developer and I am developing an app at my free time which is open source. I just wanted to point out this is an approach for earning money. And there are other approaches for freelancing software developers, like the MySQL license. My point is there are a lot of people in this field and there are known ways now for earning money. But the main problem is how do you keep people from violating you license when you provide the source code with the app.

    And by the way open source does not mean free software, there are applications out there that are open source but are not free. And there are licenses that permit you to see the code for educational purposes but not modify it, like the license Microsoft uses for its .NET Framework.

  13. @Amgad: Very true, free software and open source softwares are two different entities. But collectively termed as FOSS. Good to see you as a full time developer, but my point was making money for freelance/part-time developers. MS's .NET framework allows viewing the code, but the post is in context with softwares for free and open sourced, both. Hence, FOSS.

  14. @Amgad: Very true, free software and open source softwares are two different entities. But collectively termed as FOSS. Good to see you as a full time developer, but my point was making money for freelance/part-time developers. MS's .NET framework allows viewing the code, but the post is in context with softwares for free and open sourced, both. Hence, FOSS.

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