Adoption-Led is not Shareware

Change and the Cathedral

In response to my article last week on the emerging adoption-led market, IBM's Savio Rodrigues suggests this is just a description of Shareware and asks why anyone would ever pay for what they got free.

I can't say I agree. Of course, there are similarities between the two - in fact, I was closely associated with a successful shareware business at the start of the 90s, so I have a fair insight into how that works. We actually had close to 10% of estimated users registering our software. But what I am describing is not the same model.

First, what I am describing is a change in the software lifecycle which is facilitated by open source, rather than a business model which is initiated by vendors. Software deployers will switch from procurement-driven to adoption-led patterns without any intervention from vendors; it's a natural consequence of software freedom. The question really is not whether or not this market will come, but how vendors will remain relevant in it.

Second, this is not a support-only model. The model assumes that enterprise users will want the value-added content of a "subscription" (the model most closely associated with Sun to date) or "enterprise version" (such as the RHAT model). Value-add can include patch management, performance tuning, additional utilities and more. Corporate governance regulations may make enterprises using software for a mission-critical purpose require a service contract, or seek a warranty for their software infrastructure. Those who are embedding software in their own product may require indemnity. Finally, many businesses are reluctant (for whatever reason) to use open source licenses and so want commercial licenses for their production systems.

So I think people are more than willing to pay if what they are paying for reduces costs or adds value. It's the software that's free of charge, not the people who work on it. They benefit from the freedom Free software brings, and their employers or customers benefit from the choices that freedom brings.

[Previous: The Adoption-led Market | Next: A Force Of Nature]

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Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.

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