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Open source as a business model

  • Note: This topic was split off from this topic: "Software patents": because a discussion on open source as a business model (and a book on that) is a different topic than (software) patents, even though they are related. Andre

    The very strange question is that during last two years I am working ONLY with open-source products, creating ONLY open-source components and applications saving time and money and earning more than before.

    Not only but I have extended this concept not to the software only but also to some other activities I do i.e. Photography and other disciplines :)

  • That is not strange, is the way it was and it have to be.

  • I am absolutely sure!!! It's strange that the new generation have already doubt on this.

    Thus, I am writing a book on the opensource business. In this phase I am only collecting material and experiences: I move in the open-world by years in Italy before and now in Spain and worldwide. As I have a complete definition of this project I will involve the dev net members that like to join.

    Just an anticipation ... :)

  • I'd like to help, if I can!

  • Sure, one of the ideas was just to open the diffusion to the devnet fourms. Starting with a poll then with a set of interviews.

  • I wanna buy your book :)
    So far I've only been programming has a hobby, but I'm vey passionate about it and about Qt. I work 9 to 5, in other activity, after that I also work has a free lancer also in other areas, but in a future I ready would like to try coding for a living. I like Opensource, and entrepreneurship, but I have none experience in Open source as a business model area. If you have any blog about your experience or any others links to this subject feel free to share :)

    Thank you

  • At first I wasn't sure of Open Source as a business, mainly because I couldn't see how I was going to get money from an app that people could download compile and use, but now that I'm understanding how does a big company really make money, it's not just the software, you can get money from advertising (not my style..) or from supporting your customers (really important).. I would like to know how do you apply it to other things in your life, like you said Photography..

  • Well, I guess the situation is the same even for other artistic material. You do a job, you publish it under a license, and then somebody notices your job. If he thinks it is a good job maybe will hire you to do a different version, or a customization, or a completely new job. Or will hire you as a consultant to teach other employees how to do works similar to your. Or will publicize your work so that other people could do the above.

  • Hi guys, I am reading your posts, later I will answer (now busy).

    The idea to collect experiences and open here a pre-book discussion find the reasons that I have tried for years finding the way of the means "open" and how it was possible to join with the word "business", or at least job.

    See later.

  • When I graduate from University, started to work in electricity projects for buildings and I had no problem to share my knowledge, and my project files with my collegues. Specially one guy come to me asking help for a project, which I did. After that he come back with a proposal for a partnership in some other works he had, which turned out to be profitable. Of course this is not related to software, but it's related to the concept of Open source.

  • Correct! The idea about open source is, after all, sharing knowledge, capabilities, designs and implementations. One thing that make me sad is that a lot of educational seems not to take care about this, and so a lot of young students are ill-formed to not share too much about their results. Luckily the landscape is rapidly changing, and you can see a lot of more undergraduates that become active in open source community. What you usually don't see in the community are their professors....

  • @fluca: despite that as for my age I will be of the "previous" generation, it's almost true. You can't see their professors.But I think also that you set limits to the Italian business model that is a distorted view of any possible politically correct business model. I am trying to keep the discussion open :) to a wide point of view. Italian developers in Italian big companies up to the last ten years are exposed to two main scenarios: to be incorporated in external big companies or see their company to die. It is not a catastrofic view, it is a reality that don't need more examples than what you read on the papers.

    The general concept I followed when I started was when I was living mostly in Italy. Where is the business of opensource? And you can be sure that the business should exist. For the same concept of how opensource is growing. Following a timeline the opensource started worldwide in a period around the middle '80s on top of a diffuse undergrond hacking of end user software. Time ago, before the laws was moved protecting the source and software patents.
    This was the time of C64, Amiga, Atari and so on.
    World has gonr ahead and the open source in terms of knowledge sharing started his diffusion. In Italy - this is the reason that today the Italian position is already quite uninfluent - what remains today in the common concept can be sintesyzed in two points:

    Open source = free (and it is totally different)

    Free = low quality

    This is the actual most diffuse mentality.

    What I am experiencing during last years is that it is possible the coexistence of a shared knowledge together. And I amd living with this business model.
    I think that this is a good startup point.

    A final note, where we can exclude software. As photographer I work and create photography for commitment when possible. Then I have some images sold by international agencies. If you have some minutes go to and search the keyword "enrico miglino". You find about 100 images of mine. Alamy represent my images worldwide. One of these images was sold by Alamy for 550$. A good price for a single photography.
    But... but as - all the international agecencies - they take about 60% of the revenues. This means that I earn around 240$ from this shoot.
    How less I had earned putting these images downloadable for free with the clause that the users will pay .. 1$ (? not more than 5) for every commercial usage? I think not less than with those guys of Alami.

    Another example: a real test that I have done with mobile market. Think to a couple of months ago: N950 was already in distribution in very few units to the developers only and Harmattan was already a curious term, nothing of certain.

    I have published Qt-Complex 1.1.0 for Harmattan: it is not a product, a game, a utility, you can download a package on ovi store of a development framework - so a very reduced audience - that is the demo of the project itself that can be downloadable as open source with LGPL 3.0 license at
    The limit is that you can use it for open source and non-commercial applicaitons. If you want use it for commercial applications, you should but the commercial license of the framework. The package - also sold on ovi store - has a cost of 5Euro. Then you can use the license for any commercial project.

    Well, when there was a number of N950 on the market between 1000 and 2000 (not sellable, only for development) Qt-Complex was downloaded in 300 units from all the countries I saw the N950 was distributed
    Estimated average of 15-30% of the developers was at least trying to see what it was.
    Then in the last 1,5 months I have sold 4 units of the commercial license.

    Well. This is a result, demonstrating at least that if I see something useful, and as "collegue" I see that someother has solved a probelm for me, I am happy to share some of my earning with him. And sure that the network of contents is growing.
    About this particular experiement, I will update more data in the next future, because N9 is distributing and I am releasign the Qt Complex 2.0 in few weeks, including a lot of useful things.
    This was a rare occasion to do a similar test worldwide with the support of a company like Nokia so I think that this is a good indicator.

    Further I will update this thread with other examples, recent and interesting of a business path strictly related to this experience.

    See ya

  • [quote author="Alicemirror" date="1317656183"]@fluca: despite that as for my age I will be of the "previous" generation, it's almost true. You can't see their professors.But I think also that you set limits to the Italian business model that is a distorted view of any possible politically correct business model. I am trying to keep the discussion open :) to a wide point of view. Italian developers in Italian big companies up to the last ten years are exposed to two main scenarios: to be incorporated in external big companies or see their company to die. It is not a catastrofic view, it is a reality that don't need more examples than what you read on the papers.[/quote]

    Well, yes and no.
    Academic environments usually don't want to develope an application just to satisfy a customer, as a database or image processing application can be. They want to develop something to demonstrate their designs, algorithms, ideas are better and can lead to a new way of application development/deployment/interaction. As an example, universities do not want to develop an application photo album, but developing a photo album with a specific similarity search algorithm can be interesting. After all, industries are there to satisfy customers, universities are there to facilitate the industry life (or something like that). This means that universities are in a race condition to develop a better-higher quality-faster-more reliable-easy to understand-one line implementation algorithm to obtain a complex result. In such a race, universities tend to act as factories: the do not want to share their results until they have credits for. After all, publishing a new research result will require a few years, there are scientific journals that have a queue of 2+ years. I have submitted a paper to SPE in late 2010, it will be published in early 2012. So during this limbo time you don't have a lot of interest in sharing your results, or better, you share your results but not the way you obtained it. Is really difficult to find out a professor that says "ok, we have results, we don't have yet the credits for them, but who cares? Just publish it as open source and see if someone else can do better". This usually happens after the credits. And this is almost the same in almost every university around the world.
    Sounds harsh? It is, but this is my experience (not only with Italian university).
    Hey, wait a minute, what about that great software coming from places like UCB? Well, you see pretty much only end-user software (operating systems, network protocols, databases...), not strict research stuff.

    What about companies in Italy (and in other parts of the world)? As you said, they often do not open source and usually their life starts independently and ends with either an aggregation to other factories or the die of the factory itself. What if the factory has done open source? Well, if it is incorporated it has a chance to continue doing open source. I say it has a chance because the Oracle-Sun is THE example of how a closed source company can destroy a few open source projects from another company. If the factory dies, the open source software can survive. But here there is also a problem with licenses. GPL for instance forces the new developers to follow the license, that is another factory rather starts a project using a died gpl project (or if does, starts a dual licensing or a support contract). After all, the rent must be payed. Other licenses are more tolerant, e.g., BSD, that allows another factory to pick up the sources, do a new product and sell it. This allows the project to survice as both closed and open source. After all you have to convince users that your closed source version is better than the open source one...

    It is a very complex subject, with several solutions to the same problem. After all, it is a matter of wills.

  • Too much interesting discussion, I will answer later :)

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