Proprietary Open Source Proprietary Open Source Proprietary Open Source Proprietary Open Source…there, Marc said it, so I can also ;-)

Matt will say:

“OK. “Words, words, words,” as Hamlet might say. I’m not worried about the nomenclature here.”

Interesting, just nomenclature eh? Imagine this situation:

  1. I buy a license for RHEL
  2. I find a bug or want a new feature
  3. Lucky for me, I have the source code to RHEL
  4. I also have the technical skills to pay the billz
  5. I fix the bug and add that new feature to my copy of RHEL
  6. I no longer have RHEL, I have RHEL*

Can I get support for RHEL* from Red Hat? A candy bar to readers who answer, “nope, you’re out of luck, Red Hat won’t support you on anything other than RHEL (i.e. RHEL* != RHEL)”.

I don’t know about every commercial OSS product out there, but the above situation holds for more OSS products than you’d think. And you’d be surprised to find several leading OSS vendors whose Proprietary Open Source products are Proprietary and closed source (so you’d be stuck at #2 above). Don’t take my word for it. If you’re interested spend a few minutes checking out the product pages of the most popular commercial OSS vendors.

Look, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Proprietary Open Source model. I have stressed the value of products and tried to explain that support minimizes the value of the product itself.

If support is the item of value that OSS vendors deliver why gate access to OSS/OSS-based products? Why have higher-value features in the gated products? Why offer these higher-value products under a proprietary license? (Note, not all OSS vendors utilize all 3 of these tactics…some do, some use only 1 or 2 of these tactics to encourage customers to pay for value).

There is nothing wrong for OSS vendors to expect that customers receiving value pay for the value received. The best way to convince these customers to “pay for value” is through a Proprietary Open Source product.

Let me repeat, there is nothing wrong with Proprietary Open Source. I just wish more OSS vendors and OSS proponents were more transparent about the business model that works, and the resulting customer impact.