There’s also a larger problem with this approach – it sucks for small companies trying to become bigger.
If you are only able to profit off of service contracts, you can’t ‘write once, reach many’ like you can with COTS software. Moreover, companies like IBM and Novell which have large established sales and service teams will win all the larger contracts.
If you write a great peice of software, and then have to sell, educate the customer AND hire/train all the workforce, how much time are you going to have to devote to Rev. 2 of your world beating product?
Whenever folks talk about OSS in the context of markets, I think it should be with a jaundiced eye towards our “helpmates” at IBM, Novell, SAP/MySQL and Sun.
Ultimately, IBM et al are about making money for shareholders, if they didn’t see that as the likley outcome, they would not be out there pimping OSS.
I think a world where software is only ‘sold’ in the context of a service contract is bad for the next great idea. OSS is great in its place, but to preclude software for sale isn’t the answer.
The truth hurts for Free Software zealots, but it’s the truth.
Free Software isn’t about eliminating proprietary software, at least it shouldn’t be. It should be about developing a free system for development, learning, and sharing, because we can.