A blog for the enterprise open source community
Open source is not a panaceaMatthew Aslett, December 17, 2008 @ 12:24 pm ET
“When it comes to a proprietary software vendor with a distressed business model taking
advantage of open source as a last-ditch effort to stay afloat, we do not see open source as a panacea.”
That statement was made in our third CAOS report Going Open, published in February 2007, but is significant today given recent headlines about new vendors engaging in open source.
“Can open source save gaming companies?” asked Dana Blankenhorn this week after Cyan Worlds announced that it was making the code for the servers, client and tools for MystOnline available as an open source project.
“Vudu Reveals Open-Source RIA Platform, But is it Enough to Survive Heavy Competition?” asked Jose Fermoso as streaming video hardware-maker Vudu reportedly released an open source RIA platform for its set-top box.
I don’t know enough about either company to declare their business models distressed with any authority, but Cyan Worlds has already detailed its ill-health, and Dana explains that “as with many past attempts to grasp open source the way a quicksand victim grasps a vine, Myst open source is an act of desperation”.
[UPDATE - As pointed out in the comments, the motivation behind open sourcing Myst is less about keeping Cyan Worlds alive and more about keeping the Myst Online community alive - UPDATE]
Meanwhile Chris Albrecht at newteevee details Vudu’s ongoing problems while Jose at Wired writes: “if all this sounds like a company desperately trying to stay relevant, you’re right”.
Which is not to say that open source plan will not help either company, as long as they are going open source for the right reasons. As noted in “Going Open”:
“Why go open? This is an important question, and the answer should be crystal clear. This is not a decision that can be easily reneged on. Once the source code is publicly available, there is a commitment to a long-term focus on the open source approach. The open source community does not take kindly to vendors that are whimsical in their approach to open source. Set clear expectations about what is to be accomplished from such a move.”
Which is essentially the same message I echoed recently while noting how ‘why’ is the most important question open source vendors should ask themselves.
Will open source deliver the goods for Cyan Worlds and Vudu? Maybe. I’m inclined to repeat our advice from February 2007, however: “It’s unlikely that a distressed business model in the proprietary software world will have much of a chance to resurrect itself simply by releasing the code as open source.”
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