Open Minds Meet at Freeware Summit (cont.)

What the barons of free software were proponing was using their open source model to make commercial software faster, better and cheaper than any vendor can using a closed model, because proprietary software stagnates between
releases.


“The Internet is growing at an incredible speed and the need for
reliability and added features is greater than it’s ever been,” said Guido
van Rossum, creator of the Python scripting language.


Many businesses are already making good money off from free software
products–O’Reilly estimates his company makes as much as two-thirds of its
publishing revenue selling documentation for freeware products like the
Perl scripting language, Apache, Sendmail, Unix, and GNU.


And other companies are using the free source code to lower barriers to entry for new businesses to sell service and support, or tools and extensions, for popular free software. Still others make millions just repackaging software that’s freely available over the Internet.


Although open source software may have spread like wild fire, it has not
evolved into a market in the traditional sense. One big turnoff for large
customers is the lack of enterprise-level service and support. Freeware
advocates are confident that services will arise in response to customer
demand.


“The next step is to combine the best of the open source development model
with the kind of service and support a big company has,” said John
Ousterhout, CEO of Scriptics Corp., in Palo Alto.


Another problem is that in an army of volunteers, everyone wants the fun
work, and maintaining enterprise applications like relational databases is
not exactly the stuff hacker dreams are made of.


“Finding a bug is one thing. Fixing it is another,” van Rossum said.


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