The current debate about the open core licensing strategy is as tedious as it is predictable. As soon as Jorg Janke published his excellent post on the lessons learned from the “failure” of Compiere’s open source strategy it was inevitable that someone would argue that the reason behind the company’s failure was the open core strategy itself.
Simon Phipps rose to the challenge, in doing so also countering some recent statements in favor of the open core approach from Marten Mickos. While Simon makes some very valid points, and Compiere’s strategy was undeniably open core, it does not necessarily follow that all open core strategies are doomed to fail (as Jorg himself stated “execution is everything”).
Besides the debate about open core, as Stephen O’Grady rightly points out, is futile. We have been over the debates about freedom many times before but ultimately, as I recently discussed, it will be market forces that decide whether open core remains a winning strategy in the long-term.
However, the whole debate on open core is trapped in an assumption that proprietary products or support/subscription services are the only ways to generate revenue from open source software. I am much more interested in emerging business strategies that offer alternatives to traditional product-led revenue generation and explore the potential of new software usage models.
An example is the strategy being followed at Appcelerator. The company is best known for its Titanium open source application development platform for creating mobile, tablet and desktop applications.
Titanium is freely available under the Apache 2 license, but the company also offers two paid subscription editions, Professional and Enterprise. Rather than adding proprietary features, Professional and Enterprise add early access to new features, premium support and training (and in the latter case critical issue resolution).
They also provide access to more data from Appcelerator’s Titanium Analytics – an analytics platform that provides application developers with data to track and measure adoption, as well as session data.
As well as developing Titanium, Appcelerator has invested in creating its own analytics engine that is capable of delivering the sort of session and usage data you expect from Web applications on mobile, tablet and desktop applications.
Users of the free Community Edition get one week of data free, while Professional Edition users get six months’ of data as part of their subscription. Enterprise Edition users get 36 months’ of data.
What is most attractive about this strategy is that it manages to provide additional value to paying subscribers without actually witholding any of the features or functionality of the core product from the community edition users.
It is also evident that the concept could be applied in other areas – while Titanium Analytics has been developed specifically to deliver user and session data based on applications developed by the user, there would appear to be similar opportunities for open source software providers to deliver users with analytics data related to software performance, usage and other key metrics.
Open source software monitoring and management services delivered as part of a subscription package are not uncommon. Could it be that the key to differentiation in the long-term is not products or services, but data? That’s one possibility. What are the others?