Thursday, September 25, 2008
Commercial Open Source - Europe vs. USAI am a big fan of Larry Augustin (specially since he invested in Funambol :-) and his blog. He does not write often. He writes in bursts. We have been blessed that September is a good one, hoping to see the next bursts before the end of the year.
Anyway, his last post is titled "Commercial Open Source in Europe Versus the US" and it analyzes the difference of attitude towards open source, in Europe compared with the US. It is an awesome post. The table below is the summary of his analysis and it is hard to disagree on any of the points.
United States View
Primary reason for adopting Open Source.
Avoid vendor lock-in.
Key driver of commercial Open Source business creation.
Creation of a local software industry.
Venture capital/entrepreneur driven to create a big business and make money for investors.
Dual licensing business models.
Not true open source. Proprietary business models using Open Source for PR and marketing.
Widely accepted as the most common Open Source business model.
Software sales model.
Channel oriented: VARs and SIs.
Open Source business models.
Service and support subscription focused; 100% open source software.
US companies don’t want to be in the services business. The focus is on products, typically proprietary add-ons or an Enterprise Edition paired with an Open Source product edition.
Expectations around "Open Source" products.
All code is available under Open Source. There is often a community governance of community participation model.
Same, but not necessarily all products are available under an Open Source license. Commercially licensed versions of the products are commonly available. Projects are managed by a commercial vendor.
Somehow, I found that Americans envy Europeans and viceversa. American are way more vocal about it. Europeans are not, actually they might tell you the opposite, but then underneath they would like to be Americans. I have the luxury to be both, so I can speak freely ;-)
Larry's conclusion is that Europe is ahead of the US because people understand the real value of open source. That is because he is an American... If you look at Commercial Open Source people from Europe, you might notice a slight difference: we all moved to the US. Marten of MySQL, Marc of JBoss, Haavard from Trolltech, Chris of DB4O, myself and many more. Why? Because here you can make a software company big. In Europe, you can't (or it is 10,000 times harder).
Larry is on the point:
- Key driver of commercial Open Source business creation in Europe: creation of a local software industry. Good luck with that... Maybe in Paris, with government subsidy. We'll get to a Silicon Valley in Italy one day, but it will require US capital first. Building large companies without VCs in this flat world is nearly impossible.
- Open Source business models in Europe: service and support, no dual licensing. Good luck with that... Not a chance you can build a large company with services. Again, there might be few exceptions, but without licensing you do not scale. You end up in a situation of hiring a new guy for every new customer, with the customer asking for the old guy (the one that knows the product) and the old guy about to leave the company for his new gig. NOTE: I used a male example, not because Europe is sexist... (Well, it is ;-)
Posted by Fabrizio at 09:02
Very interesting. What is an expample of a company that has grown large by providing services for support of open source software?
Comment Posted at 19:32
Yes, those trying to make just a software business in the transition are moving to the States. However, I fully agree with Larry that Open Source is something more.
...in fact, the industry has been quite reactive (if you cannot beat it join it!)
Comment Posted at 05:09
One should note .. all those people in Europe that are happy with having a small company that just pays their bills (and not a mansion on top) are probably less known. So lets say, most of the guys that worked to be recognized in the business community might be suffering from this "envy". The rest are just happy that the stuff they love pays their bills without them having to become all too tangled in marketing and PR.
Comment Posted at 05:27
Agreed, nothing wrong with that. I have founded two system integration companies that grew nicely. And I was not ashamed with that. It is a great way to make a living and do what one likes. However, if we are talking about building large global companies, the music changes. You need capital, PR and marketing. And sell a piece of your soul. It is called tight-rope walking ;-)
Comment Posted at 08:30
Interesting article, it's funny to see the differences in approach.
Just don't write that Europeans would secretly like to be Americans, because although you might feel that way I doubt many other Europeans do.
There is no hidden desire in most of us to be American, frankly I would rather die than stop being European. This is nothing against the USA, because I love working with Americans, but I am proud to be European. And I wouldn't trade that in for becoming an Asian or African either.
Comment Posted at 01:08
Business Opportunities said...
I would be interested to know whether the attitude in other regions such as South America are in line with the European view. If so this would particularly bolster the 'local software industry' argument underlining the desire not to be beholden to the US proprietary software giants.