Is It A Fair Competitive Environment?
It’s really hard not to fall in love with the promise made by open source software.
Open source tools and technology are almost always advertised as free (or at least almost free), are billed as being built by developers really passionate about this project, and promised to give any individual user – no matter their technical experience or background – the opportunity to “poke around underneath the hood” to see the code that makes this software work.
Proprietary software, on the other hand, may as well be locked behind three or four different bank vault doors in comparison to open sourced solutions.
Almost always paid, almost always somewhat expensive, and always with a code that is completely locked down and protected from anyone that wants to have a look at what’s going on behind the scenes, proprietary software has been keyed up as the villain in the competition between open source and proprietary tools.
But is that the reality of the situation?
Let’s take a little deeper and find out!
The Great Open vs Proprietary Software Debate
From a pure market standpoint it’s tough to beat the benefits that open source software seems to have to offer compared to proprietary solutions, particularly if they offer the same or nearly the same features and functionality.
If all things are equal, most folks are going to flock to open source tools that are free or nearly free versus those that they have to pay for.
This definitely gives open source a huge advantage overpaid and sometimes expensive proprietary software.
On the flip side of things, proprietary software promises a whole host of benefits open source solutions cancer or usually don’t alongside their higher price tag. Better support, faster updates, and a more stable environment rather than something cobbled together by multiple groups or individuals are just some of the promises made by proprietary software services.
Open Source DEFINITELY Enjoys a Free Advantage
As we have already highlighted a couple of times, the fact that open source software is very often read gives it an almost unbelievable competitive advantage.
In fact, not only is the “free price tag” such a huge advantage for open source software but it’s also become a huge advantage for freemium proprietary software solutions as well.
A lot of proprietary software developers have learned to offer at least some of their offer functionality completely free of charge to level out the playing field with open source tools.
They usually have ways to recoup their money on the backend (with upgraded software levels and functionality, selling the data they collect through the free software, etc.) but they’ve learned a long time ago that free is next to impossible compete with.
Can Proprietary Software Compete with Open Source Options?
Obviously, software companies like Microsoft aren’t going belly up anytime soon – even in the face of maybe the most competitive open source software environment that’s ever existed.
Every year, millions of licenses for proprietary software like Microsoft Office are sold even though both Google and Open Office offer open source/free solutions that offer the exact same kind of functionality.
The biggest promises that proprietary software can offer come in the form of performance, stability, security, and advanced feature sets.
While dedicated groups of open source developers can pool their talents and experience together to create some really special solutions, nothing beats a technology giant like Microsoft (for example) throwing thousands of developers and millions or even billions of dollars behind proprietary software solutions.
Another example of proprietary software winning the competition war against open source comes in the form of Photoshop.
The folks at Adobe have cornered the market when it comes to photo editing software for a couple of decades now. A number of open source projects have popped up left and right to try and compete with Adobe Photoshop and all of them have fallen by the wayside – with smaller communities still using these tools – just because of the resources that Adobe is able to feed into their Photoshop team.
When you get right down to it, free is a hugely competitive advantage until you bump up against a premium, paid, proprietary software option that is much easier to use, more flexible, more powerful, and more reliable.
Sure, people will continue to use open source tools every day – and will likely continue to use more and more open source solutions as time goes on.
But as long as proprietary software solutions are available (and more feature rich) the tug-of-war game these two disparate approaches to monetizing software are playing will continue.