Subject: RE: Open Source Developer (Economics)
From: Chip Mefford <cpm@well.com>
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2003 13:06:49 -0800 (PST)



On Thu, 20 Mar 2003, Chris Maeda wrote:

> I've never seen an enterprise software sales cycle where
> sue-ability was a factor.

From a small/mid sized business perspective, the angst seems
to resolve around being sued by the software vendor, not
the other way around. GPLed software alleviates this.

> If an enterprise wants to use an open source line of business system
> today, they would have to pay armies of contractors to spend
> months writing and rewriting the system before they could even
> think about deploying it.

Pay the contractors, or pay the contractors. Nothing "shrink-wrapped"
ever works out of the box anyway, unless the spec is written
to fit the offering.

> Having said that, it may be the time for open source to build
> business software systems targeted at the needs of small businesses.

I completely concurr. I am also biased.
The large enterprise rollouts seemed tied to certain software
vendors, and many of these huge corporations don't actually seem
to be concerned with controlling costs. There is a point at which
large corporate economics escapes simple logic.

For the small/mid companies, with personel in the range of 5 to
500, they must make profits or perish. More than just few are staring
down both barrells of "License 6" and seeing the handwriting on the wall.

There seems to be a very real problem that I am unable to properly
articulate that has to do with Government and Large Enterprise buy-in
of a single platform/architechture that seems to exclude or at least
strongly discourage contractors and service vendors from using anything
other than what they use.

Case in point.
Currently, there is a pretty large project going on in the US that has to
do with mapping all of the environmental resources. All of them. This is
known as GIS.
GIS is defined as; "A system of computer software, hardware, data and
personel to help manipulate, analyze and present information that is tied
to a spatial location..."
GIS is in reality a family of products and derived data products tied
pretty much wholly to software published by ESRI. Folks who deal with GIS
products, must deal with ESRI. This includes all government agencies,
timber and mining companies, folks doing biological and foresty assesments
and surveys must be tied to this infrastructure. The way it works in the
field, is that when the USGS wants some data aquired, they contract their
service vendors, usually so-called non-profits that are partnered with ESRI
and Microsoft and pay and pay. The taxpayer foots the bill to keep the
Microsoft monopoly as healthy as possible.
ESRI is world-wide. Doing pretty much all the GIS work. In point of fact,
ESRI *is* GIS.

GIS is one place where GPLed software could have made a huge difference.
As ESRI moves toward MS Longhorn, the lock-in is complete.

The whole play is huge, but also out of the public eye for the most part,
and I sincerely expect that this type of techology tie-in is rampant
throughout all industries and US government projects.This is just one
small aspect that I am aware of. The end-game is not at all clear, and the smart money
is on the historical
winners.

IMHO, I really think that focusing on small-mid businesses and non-profits
will reap more rewards in the long run than going after the large
corporate customers who don't seem to care how much money they spend to
keep the big players fat and happy.


chipper