Please, no more ‘Open Source Company’

I have never liked the term ‘Open Source Company”.  It is an attempt by a few to hijack the open source label for essentially marketing and maybe financing (venture capitalist) purposes.  Let me be clear, I have no problem with companies actively participating and promoting open source as part of their product and business strategy.   However, there are lots of ways for companies to participate in open source, so labeling your way as being the ‘true’ open source company way is just wrong.

Given my biases I was therefore pleased to see Gartner analyst Brian Prentice’s latest blog post ‘Open-Core: The Emperor’s New Clothes’.   In particular his conclusion:

You see, when you start peeling back some of the value propositions being attached to open core business models what starts to appear is a picture of a bog standard software provider trying to use the latest phraseology to cut through the noise of a crowded marketplace. Be clear, there’s nothing nefarious going on with open core. It’s just that there’s just nothing particularly new or innovative going on either.

In summary, for end user companies an open source company is no different from any software company you will be dealing with.  I have long believed open source companies are really just aggressive software start-ups that are attempting to lower the barriers to customer awareness and adoption.  Again, nothing wrong with that but open source is much more than this particular strategy.

A good resource for the different strategies is Matt Aslett from 451 Group  His recent OSBC presentation does a nice job illustrating the different strategies.

In fact, open source is now so fundamental to the software industry that it is part of every software company’s product and/or business strategy.  The industry needs to start thinking of open source as being the software commons for the entire industry, not just one small group of companies.  Therefore, it is my hope that in the next 12-18 month the term ‘open source company’ will quickly fade away.

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