An article in today’s New York Times shows how Oracle’s pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems reveals an inconvenient truth about the open source movement: with only one exception (Red Hat), free software has proven economically unsuccessful. Open source companies don’t make money on their own, even by selling ancillary products and services. Nor are they apt to make money for the companies who buy them, as Sun did MySQL and Citrix did XenSource, a virtualization company. Rather than generate cash, these acquisitions provide technology that would otherwise have to be developed internally over a much longer time period.
Furthermore, as the article says, “Many of the top open-source developers are anything but volunteers tinkering in their spare time. Companies like I.B.M., Google, Oracle and Intel these developers top salaries to work on open-source projects and further the companies’ strategic objectives.”
Just because the software is “open” -- i.e., open to outside collaboration -- doesn’t mean it has to be free. In fact, the more successful the software the less free it tends to be. Eventually, there has to be real money involved (or strategic advantage, which is the same thing). Simply the opportunity to contribute is insufficient by itself
This says a lot about successful open collaboration in general -- with clear parallels to cumulusIQ. For example, rather than a big company (like IBM or SAP) paying collaborators, our users pay. The collaboration is equally “open,” however. In fact, you could say it is even more open since it is clear who is paying. That’s the same person whose agenda is being served: the user. Other advantages of the “open” model also apply -- like the freedom to choose from among multiple collaborators for the best answer to a question.That may also be the best answer for open source: Users pay collaborators. In fact, users might even pay other users, who could also be considered collaborators just for asking the right question or raising the right issue.