CNET News blogger and Alfresco VP Matt Asay makes an interesting point in Tuesday's post, "Open Source Rules in a Bad Economy."
It's not the first time I've seen it, nor is it the first time I've written about it. But Asay doesn't say that open source rules because the companies that use it don't pay steep licensing fees. And he doesn't say companies that use open source save money because they don't have to pay developers to build in house software from scratch. He says open source rules because it provides a cheap distribution method. He explains:
In a bad economy, you want your software to find budgets still filled with cash, rather than spending money to chase money, and nine times out of 10 coming up empty. Proprietary-but-free (as in cost) is one way to mimic the open-source model, but it's not nearly as effective, if for no other reason than it still requires prospective customers to come to your Website to find the good. Open source, however, has several well-known repositories: Sourceforge, Google Code, Code Haus, etc. If I'm a company that is looking for low-cost software, I'm going to sourgeforge.net before I look at sap.com.
And, he adds, it could cost software companies nothing to take advantage of this method. All they have to do is start their own open source projects, or contribute to an existing one, upon which they could build (and gain revenue from) proprietary extensions.