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Open Source is Different

Submitted by donna on 17 April, 2009 - 09:34

Is different too scary for small business?

I was at a meeting yesterday - and I came up with an analogy about how Open Source presents a different model of competition to the market. Open source software, and open standards lets everyone compete on the same terms and lowers the barriers to entry for new players. Literally anyone can take the same tools and innovate in the way they deliver results for their customers.

What's different about the open source industry, is that sometimes we compete together, not against each other. We compete like athletes do. There's only one first place in the race, but sometimes it makes sense to train together. To strive together, to share strategies for improvement and to help each other fix the flaws that might hold us all back.

Open Source Software powers my business and I can't imagine going backwards to the lock in I used to endure. What astounds me, is how few other small companies are benefiting from this revolution. Are they just too risk averse? Or are they simply unaware of how easy it really is, or how much value it can deliver?

Tools previously only accessible to large corporations are now accessible to the smallest businesses. For free. Perhaps the owners of these little enterprises simply lack the confidence or the time to investigate what this could mean for them. In a shrinking economy, it pays to get thoughtful about doing more with less. Open Source Software is a natural travel partner for that journey.

If you're not already doing so - check out these Open Source options.

  • OpenOffice.org - Software for word-processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawing, and a basic database app.
  • Inkscape - Vector drawing for diagrams, improving graphs, creating your own clip art and illustration.
  • GIMP - Powerful, professional level photo editing and enhancement software.
  • Audacity - Edit audio as easily as editing words. Create audio newsletters, how-tos, or your own 'on hold' messages.
  • Firefox - a web browser with a huge community developing a vast range of extensions to get the most out of the web.
  • Thunderbird - email software by the same people developing firefox.
  • GnuCash - a standalone accounting package, perfect for small businesses doing their own book-keeping.
  • Linux - on the desktop or on the server - this operating system is now running on tiny embedded devices and monster super computers. Linux comes in lots of different flavours - Check out Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSuse to start with.
  • Drupal - A powerful and flexible web content management system which makes running a website very simple.
  • Wordpress - Blogging software for running your own company blog.
  • Moodle - An elearning management system - run your own courses for staff or customers.
  • Asterisk - Voice over IP - software for managing phone calls and voice messages.
  • Zimbra - An in-house email solution that also lets you access email via the web & run shared contacts and calendars.
  • KnowledgeTree - A system for tracking, sharing and securingall your business documents.

 

Comments

...it'll be blogged on. In fact - I think you just did!

Yeah, I think you're right Donna and it excites me greatly. It seems now that the greatest profits are coming to businesses who are open, sharing, and growing as a result of cooperation and giving back. 

Microsoft are a beautiful study in the two conflicting philosophies - they pioneered cheap software on as many machines possible, but then they got very inward looking and while the Google's of this world were opening up huge new markets by involving, sharing and giving, Microsoft became more and more archaic looking. 

Now, I see Microsoft are opening up again and making some code available and so on. They'll have to, they are competing againstsome great open source tools now.

The current business wisdom (if you are to take the mountains of biz books in Angus and Robertson seriously) all points to this revolution in business thinking. It used to be - patent your ideas, keep your projects in house, a tough eye on your competitors, keep a tight fist on your outgoings and Don't Trust Anyone.

Now it is - there is plenty for everyone, give and you'll get back, share and build something greater than only you yourself could do. 

Will this sustain itself in the current economic climate? We'll have to see, but I think as you outlined, tough times may attract even more people to open source. 

Exciting!!

Caitlin - http://emspace.com.au