Open source profits debate rages

The issue of how to be profitable through open source remains the elephant in the middle of the the living room that no one wants to talk about. Well, not always, anyway.

Panelists at the EclipseCon 2005 conference in Burlingame, Calif. on Tuesday chatted up the issue. The prognosis, I have to say, was not all that good.

The usual services and support options were suggested, but just how much revenues can be generated through these avenues? Couldn't overseas providers offer these cheaper than what would be charged in the United States?

There are other ways, such as offering open source teasers to commercial products, but how far will that go if users only want the free functionality and don't much need the extras?

Panelists made comments noting the difficulties in open source profitability and raised questions about how to build a large company based on open source.

Still, vendors such as JBoss, which announced its Hibernate 3.0 middleware this week, are marching on, as are companies such as MySQL and Red Hat.

It remains to be seen how large these companies can become.

The next few years ought to provide an answer of how far the software industry can go giving away its wares.

(Written by Paul Krill, reporting from EclipseCon 2005)

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.