James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

Re: CAOS Theory Podcast 2008.05.30

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In response to:

The open source analysts at the 451 Group, Raven Zachary, Matt Aslett, and Jay Lyman have started bi-weekly podcasts. They offer an interesting perspective on open source and commercial open source and I have enjoyed the ones they have made so far. They have a pragmatic and balanced opinion on most things. I like the fact that they are only 30 minutes long, the most recent FLOSS weekly is 1:24 long I haven’t found the time to listen to it yet.

There were a few comments made in the May 30th podcast I do not agree with completely. These comments could have been ‘slip of the tongue’ or not come out as they intended them to so I’m not holding it against them.

Monetizing Developers
Jay Lyman (I think) said that ‘MySQL wants to widen its development community in order to have a larger opportunity to monetize’. To my mind this is the wrong model and not what MySQL is trying to do at all. The MySQL developer community is the one group of people who least need any product or service from MySQL.

Let’s say it became possible to physically copy a car and transport it anywhere in the world for near zero cost. Lets say your business model was to sell upgrade installations, oil changes, and tire rotations etc to people who took these ‘free’ cars. Your target market in this case is not auto-enthusiasts who have a garage full of tools and who love to tinker with engines. Your target market is people who do not have the time, the knowledge, or the inclination to get their hands dirty maintaining their car. Your target market is people who know little to nothing about cars and are happy to give you money so they can remain blissfully ignorant.

The market of users is far larger than the technically proficient population and each user is more likely to pay for a service. The other major issue is that the developers are individuals and the potential customers are organizations. Monetizing the developers directly is actually almost impossible. The developers don’t have any budget, but their manager, or manager’s manager might. In the last 10 years I personally have been monetized once for $40: I bought documentation for JFreeChart but never expensed it.

GPL Education
Raven Zachary (again I think) said that some legal teams have banned GPL for internal usage in companies but that this was an education issue that should resolve itself over time. The GPL is a viral license that was not created to meet the needs of businesses. The most popular dual license model amongst commercial open source vendors at the moment is the GPL/Commercial dual license. These licenses are chosen to provide options at either end of the spectrum: a very pro-open source option and a very pro-business option. The GPL is not deliberately anti-business but it is anti-intellectual-property. For certain usages in many businesses this equates to the same thing. In the absence of very careful governance and auditing corporate lawyers are taking steps to protect their companies from a credible and unquantified risk. I would say that governance and auditing and control is needed by these companies, not the education of their lawyers.

Written by James

June 4, 2008 at 1:41 pm

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