Over time, more and more important SW markets get targeted by the Open Source Movement. Some piece of SW that is unecessarily “expensive” is recreated by volunteer engineers. Sometimes someone even “skins” the underlying software app to make it ~very~ similar to the targeted software. Gimpshop as a replacement for Photoshop being a compelling version of this to me. (If this group was a real commercial enterprise they would get sued, right?)
In the communications market, Asterisk, the open source PBX has been the most significant project. There are some VoIP communications clients ala Skype that feel like they should be just as big but to this point they have not. Apparently according to experts the underlying engine in Asterisk is “state of the art” although it still takes work and expertise to get going. It can go head to head with PBX solutions and the PBX market is in pretty bad shape although how much Asterisk is the cause is certainly debatable. (With infinite time I would sure love to try and set one up at my house. Geek alert!)
The latest in this line of Open Source destroying value, (and a potentially very important one) is the open source router being built with Vyatta.
As is frequently the case with these sorts of projects, consulting companies spring up around these open source tools to help businesses realize the value. They focus on the services necessary to enable the free software to provide value. It seems to me that without these service companies, it seems many of these projects flounder or sit in obscurity. They are just about as good as their commercial brethren but with no marketing push behind them and no comfy place for enterprises to go for support they just suffer for traction. I guess this begs the bigger question of where is the value of software. (Actually I should fill it in as we refer to it at my day job, “its just software.”)
In the end it is all about business models I guess and having someone drive the demand. The claim is “lack of support” is the biggest fear but I really somehow don’t buy that.
I actually think its more a matter of reputation and how the products make people feel. I am a serious engineer or IT guy if I paid alot for my tools. If they were free anyone could be me.