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Open Source: Not Everyone Is A Winner

· Java Zone

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Like most Java developers, I wouldn't have gotten very far without the help of open source software. The variety of tools and frameworks available is an important factor for the success of the industry. However, the amount of tools that move to an open source model increase, there is an adverse effect on part of the software world: the competitiors.

When Google announced that they were taking over Instantiations, and giving the tools away for free, like all developers I thought that this was great. In the back of my mind though, I knew that this was going to take some competitors out of the market. WindowTester is one of the leading UI automation tools, but I can think of another 3 companies off the top of my head that provide similar solutions.  I'm not sure if enough people will flock to WindowTester to cause damage to their business, but you can imagine it will have a dent in their profits at least. WindowBuilder might be less of an issue, as there was not too much competition on the visual editor front.  WindowBuilder is now going on to be open sourced, with Genuitec, creators of MyEclipse, providing commerical support for the tool.

This trend has been developing over the past few years. All major IDEs are now free. Some tools that you've paid for in the past are now available for free. 

The main point here is that for every bit of good news you get about free or open source tools, there's a segment of the software market that will suffer. There's no doubt that new entrants in the software market have to look at more innovative plans to make money, and would initially need to give away, or open source, their work. Relying on commercial support is probably the most common way to make a profit in this type of software economy. 

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever felt bad for companies who have the try and compete with free software? Are there more innovative approaches to making money from free software that we haven't seen emerge yet?

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