Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has weighed into the open-source billionaire debate with a great piece on where to find the open-source billionaires. Steven notes that and other companies that depend upon open source to build their businesses, but his analysis goes a bit deeper:
Developers can make millions, even hundreds of millions, but technical brilliance almost never come with the business genius and/or amorality required to make billions. They're really completely different skills sets....
The open-source developers become millionaires. The old-school hardware, Sun; software, Novell; and Internet, Yahoo companies take a major step towards open source. Everybody's happy....
Generally speaking the programmers and IT staffers are a much happier bunch than the filthy rich crew. Given a choice between billions and enjoying life, I'll take a good, happy life every time.
As one of my favorite columnists, Jonathan Clements (formerly of the Wall Street Journal) writes, money truly doesn't buy one happiness, and the studies back up that adage. As Steven hints at, it could well be that one major reason we don't have open-source billionaires is the thirst for money is trumped by the fun of code. Could Linus Torvalds be a heck of a lot richer than he is? You bet.
I don't think open source is inimical to making money - quite the opposite. But it may be that it's less of a ego boost for an open-source developer? I'm not trying to wax philosophical here. I genuinely think there may be something in that thought.
Now, for you open-source developers out there who only want to make millions and are happy to place the burden of billions on someone else, I'm your man. You have cool technology? Give me a call. I imagine I can help you on the business side. :-)