Intuit’s sponsored open source community at code.intuit.com once again shows a commercial software vendor using open source to drive more business and increase the stickiness of its platform.

We were told stories of the day that open source would “win” the mythical “us vs. them” battle, and commercial software vendors would simply open source their products or face extinction.  Reality has veered heavily from that path.

Intuit is another in a string of vendors that are skillfully using open source around its closed-source product platform.  Intuit is embracing open source in a way that makes business sense for its shareholders and ecosystem.

Intuit is not open sourcing its core products.  Why would they?  Open source is great for building a large user base and vibrant ecosystem.  Intuit has both of these elements already.  Rather, Intuit’s open source play is to make it easier for its ecosystem to build solutions on Intuit’s partner platform.  I suspect this goal could have been achieved if Intuit released the code under a closed source license.  What percentage of Intuit’s partners license their own offering under an open source license?  A very small percentage I suspect.  However, by using an open source license, Intuit reduces a potential issue for their partners that do sell open source products on top of Intuit’s platform.  Intuit also makes it easier for their partners to customize the code for their own purposes, something that partners are likely to do.  Lastly, the open source license encourages Intuit’s ecosystem to contribute their own components and thereby helps raise all boats.  And all this without having to open source Intuit’s core products.  Seems like a win-win to me.

BTW, I can’t understand why Intuit chose to license the initial code drops under the CPL, especially since the OSI recently moved the CPL to inactive.  The only explanation is that Intuit had selected the CPL before the OSI announcement, and didn’t want to spend the time or resources required to make a switch away from the CPL, which could have held back today’s launch.

Kudos to the Redmonk guys, Coté specifically, for helping Intuit do right by its ecosystem and investors.

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PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”