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Everyone needs open-source distribution in a down economy

Open source provides a low-cost way to penetrate new enterprise accounts. Why aren't more proprietary companies using it?

Open source rules in a bad economy, but perhaps not always for the reasons suggested.

Forget source code for a minute, and put development aside. One of the biggest assets that open source provides is a low-cost distribution model. In a bad economy, you want your software to find budgets still filled with cash, rather than spending money to chase money, and nine times out of 10 coming up empty.

Proprietary-but-free (as in cost) is one way to mimic the open-source model, but it's not nearly as effective, if for no other reason than it still requires prospective customers to come to your Web site to find the good. Open source, however, has several well-known repositories: Sourceforge, Google Code, Code Haus, etc. If I'm a company that is looking for low-cost software, I'm going to sourgeforge.net before I look at sap.com.

So, a question: why aren't proprietary software companies doing more of this, whether by creating new open-source projects that mesh with their proprietary products, or by acquiring open-source companies or investing in existing open-source projects? IBM has done it with Gluecode ("Websphere Light"), but it's the anomaly. Why not use open-source projects - commercial or otherwise - as on-ramps to "premium" proprietary products? This is a well-worn path for IBM, but why don't others use it?

Many open-source companies use commercial extensions to actually drive revenue, so it's not as if the business model is foreign to the would-be buyers of the Pentahos of the world. It's a way of seeding the market, however they may choose to reap.

The cost can be zero: you don't have to acquire an open-source company to participate. You just need to either create your own open-source project or invest in an existing one, most likely with an Apache-style license that would enable you to build the open-source components into your proprietary product.

Now, more than ever, cheap distribution is critical. Open source provides that distribution.