Open Source: The Sustainable Business Model

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How do you make software development dramatically more eco-friendly?

Two Words: Open Source.

With the Open Source model, you can:

  • Use less packaging.
  • Increase the efficiency of shipping and receiving.
  • Speed up product development.
  • Get rid of resource-heavy validation management services and expensive anti-piracy campaigns.
  • Cut back on unnecessary print advertising.
  • Don’t force customers to purchase more product than they need.

I ran across an article posted at Download Squad recently that really got me thinking about the Open Source development model and how eco-friendly it is.

What Is Open Source?

Open Source software is very different from commercial software you might purchase from, say, Microsoft.

To begin with, it’s free. Yes, free. There’s no need for software validation (think Microsoft Genuine Advantage) or anti-piracy technologies because… it’s free. And it’s mostly distributed online, meaning no wasteful packaging.

Development tends to happen faster in the hands of a few dedicated developers and the feedback of a dedicated community of users than it does in corporate cubicles ruled by Gantt charts and cross-functional meetings.

Does Free Mean it’s Not As Good?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because it’s free it must be of lesser quality than commercial software. There are many Open Source applications that are just as good — if not better — than any commercial software that competes with it.

Just do a Google search for OpenOffice.org, PHP & MySQL, or Drupal to see what I mean. Open Source software accounts for millions of users worldwide.

So, What Does That Mean for Us and Our Environment?

Simply put, the Open Source model is friendlier to our environment than comparable commercial software. I’m not saying that everyone should go out protest against software that comes in a box. I’m also not saying that all Open Source software is better than it’s commercial counterparts.

But I am saying is that perhaps the software industry should take a look at its model.

Should You Explore Open Source? Yes!

A great place to start is with OpenOffice.org. This is a completely free office software suite that offers most of what you get from Microsoft Office, plus a few features that you don’t get from Microsoft Office. You can install it on your computer along with any of your current software, and it even opens and saves Microsoft file formats like Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.

Another great resource is the OpenDisc project. This is an entire CD packed with Open Source software for Windows (sorry Mac Users…) that spans everything from desktop publishing to antivirus software. Did I mention that it’s free?

One Final Request.

Open Source software is free, but it takes the time, energy, and oftentimes the money, of dedicated individuals. If you decide that a particular program has earned a home on your computer, consider making a donation to it’s developers.

This not only keeps their computers running, but it encourages them to keep providing great Open Source software for us and our environment.

Mathew Murphy brings us Tech Tuesday each week. Matt blogs on technology, the environment and tea on his website at http://mattscuppa.wordpress.com.

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13 thoughts on “Open Source: The Sustainable Business Model

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  4. I totally agree about eco-friendly nature of OS, but when it comes to business models I think donation is not an option. Don’t get me wrong, I am involved in the Italian OpenOffice.org community from 5 years now, and as association we ask for donation. That money can’t really help the software production though, but ancillary services and tools. In order to keep the project going firms like Sun, Novell and IBM need to adopt viable business model taking advantage of OpenOffice.org. Is that easy? Probably not, despite it’s ecological Open Source is definitely not a magic wand, business still matters!

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