Waking up dead with proprietary software

Open source wins even when it loses, due to what it does to proprietary vendors.

I've been hearing more and more that proprietary companies are fighting back against open-source companies by giving away their software. "We can compete with free!" they chortle as they discount their license fees to zero, occasionally winning deals (with customers who don't yet fully understand that open source is far more than price tag).

But with every deal they win on these terms, they lose. Their cost structure can't support giving away million-dollar deals that cost (literally, at times) a million dollars to close. Talking with a friend at Oracle, he tells me they expend upwards of 18 months and 100 or so people working on their million-dollar deals.

In other words, they spend money like crazy so that they can win the deal and hold onto that maintenance revenue.

I hope proprietary companies win more of these deals. At some point, "winning" a $0.00 license deal when you're spending tens of thousands of dollars to close it is going to weigh on the bottom line. This is why I've had opposing salespeople - proprietary salespeople that have actually won the occasional deal against me - email me after the fact to ask for a job. Really.

Why? Because they can read the writing on the wall. That writing isn't favorable to proprietary software.

Even when open source loses, it wins. At some point the proprietary vendors may just wake up dead.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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