Open-Core

Are ‘Open Source Companies’ Misleading the Consumer?

Jessica Thornsby

The rise of Open Source Companies and Open-Core.

Ian Skerrett has called for an end to the term ‘Open Source
Company.’

He is all for companies actively participating in open source,
in a manner that is beneficial to both the open source community
and the company’s product and business strategy but, in his
opinion, labelling a company “open source” is an attempt to exploit
the open source ideal for marketing and financial gain. Skerrett
takes a particularly dim view of this as, for the end user, an
“open source” company is no different to any other software
provider.

Skerrett’s view is echoed in Gartner analyst Brian Prentice’s
‘Open-Core: The Emperor’s New Clothes’ blog
post. “You’re licensing a proprietary solution from an organization
which builds it with fee open source components,” Prentice writes.
“The direction that happens – either open-to-proprietary or
proprietary-to-open – is meaningless to you.”

Furthermore, this is a common occurrence in the industry.
Skerrett implies that, to label your company as open source, is
quickly becoming meaningless: “Open source is now so fundamental to
the software industry that it is part of every software company’s
product and/or business strategy.”

Prentice points out that many proprietary solutions are built
using open source components, so these so-called “open source
companies” are offering nothing particularly unique. The open
source banner can even be potentially damaging, as when a company
requires a feature only available in the full version, everything
needs to be scaled up and re-costed to the full-cost offering. This
can cause major headaches for companies who have budgeted for the
community-supported open source version.

Prentice’s concludes with as assurance that, while there’s
nothing particularly underhand about open source software
companies, the problem is that there’s nothing new or innovative
about them either. To his mind, they’re a “bog standard software
provider trying to use the latest phraseology to cut through the
noise of a crowded marketplace.” That, to him, is the main problem
here.

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