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What happens when a proprietary software company dies?

By on October 24, 2003 (8:00:00 AM)

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On October 3, 2003, Appgen disappeared. The company's Web site went offline and the phones were shut off. Suddenly dozens of VARs (value-added resellers) who had paid $2,000 or more for Appgen developer kits were left without the ability to generate license keys for customers or a stable source for support. And some of those VARs are hopping mad.
We can't show you the Appgen home page; it's now a 404. We can, however, show you a favorable LinuxJournal review of Appgen's PowerWindows for Linux written back in 2001.

Looks like a nice, reliable, extensible, easily-customized business accounting package, doesn't it?

Other people thought so, too, including William Grimm of Dublin, Ohio, who emailed NewsForge to say:

I have been an Appgen reseller since the Spring of this year. I paid my reseller fees and diligently learned the product and its programming language, and went about attempting to sell Appgen. I had 2 sales which would have finalized this month, had Appgen not closed its doors.

Here's the rest of Grimm's email to NewsForge:

Appgen closed its doors on 3 October 2003. The VARs were not notified of the closing. The only mention of its closing we received was a brief e-mail from Steve Elliott, who used to direct Appgen Tech Support. The e-mail was sent to us via a mailing list, appgen-dev@mirror.org. Last week, many of us were clamoring for what we had been promised in the eventuality that Appgen went out of business - the product's source code. Most if not all of us were told that the source was placed in escrow with a law firm in Dallas, TX, and would be handed over to the VARs if Appgen went out of business. Evidently some VARs have this promise in writing. The source code was never placed in escrow.

Last week, most VARs were clamoring for the source, and wished to open source this product. A small handful of the older VARs kept telling us to "wait for Steve and Errol's proposal." (I have mentioned Steve before, Errol was Appgen's CTO). When Steve and Errol called the VARs, they had little planned except for a vague desire to sell keys to us, and "fix problems in the code," something Appgen has not done well since I became a VAR.

To date, we have received no official communications from the officers of Appgen regarding the status of the company- whether it is in bankruptcy or what. None regarding the legal status of the product or of the legality if we attempt to resell the product. Without license keys, end users are in big trouble if their Appgen installation requires re-installation.

I have received several nasty e-mails from a small group of VARs who are telling me and the other VARs who want some answers to back off and "trust" Appgen. I do not trust Appgen, and believe that as a group, the VARs were defrauded. Appgen closed its doors on 3 October, but kept its sales efforts in high gear until the end of September 2003. Since I became a VAR, I have never received a single sales lead from Appgen; other VARs have told me that Appgen neglected its VAR channel and was selling direct to interested companies.

Grimm's out-of pocket loss -- essentially the cost of his developer kit -- pales besides other Appgen resellers' investments. One reportedly paid $10,000 to have Appgen ported to "SCO and UnixWare" in September, only weeks before the company went away.

Other resellers have staked their entire businesses on Appgen. Some have dozens, possibly even hundreds, of corporate Appgen users who depend on them for support.

Messages posted to the appgen-dev email list over the last few weeks show plenty of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, not to mention a certain amount of factionalism.

In general, it looks like "senior" Appgen resellers are hoping for an amicable resolution, possibly including former Appgen employees Steve Elliott and Errol Allahverdi, while some of the newer, less-established resellers want to take legal action.

There are questions about who now owns the Appgen code and the right to distribute activation keys. Appgen apparently didn't declare bankruptcy, but simply ceased to exist as a corporation. Some resellers claim the code is held in escrow by a law firm, but others say it is not; that this promise was made but never kept. Some want to open source the code if they can lay hands on copies of it, while others want to keep it proprietary and perhaps form some sort of consortium or new company to handle its distribution and support.

This isn't the first time Appgen has abandoned a product

Appgen Personal Software, a "sister company" to Appgen Business Software, once published Moneydance, a well-regarded cross-platform personal money management program. Appgen Personal Software then laid off all employees except Sean Reilly, the original Moneydance developer, and Appgen Business Software took over its marketing and support -- until early 2002, when Appgen totally abandoned Moneydance. Bye, bye, Moneydance.

(See this April 17, 2002 post to the gnome-office-list for a little more of the story.)

It wasn't until February 2003 that Sean Reilly managed to reassume full ownership of Moneydance. Soon afterwards, this NewsForge story appeared. Favorable mentions on NewsForge and other tech news outlets helped Moneydance sales bounce back and grow into what Reilly calls "a nice part-time income."

Perhaps some of Appgen's newer VARs should have checked out this bit of history before committing their money and time to the company.

His last $2,000 down the drain

When he decided to sign up as an Appgen VAR in 2001, Darren Remington didn't mind spending $2,250 for a developer kit and VAR license he hoped would give him the base he needed to write a financial application specifically for law offices that could challenge the leading legal industry financial management package, Juris.

But almost immediately after Remington sent Appgen his money he was laid off from his day job, and lack of that $2,250 suddenly hurt terribly. "It was like I spent my last $2,000 on this," he says. "My wife is still angry about it."

Remington says, personal situation aside, Appgen gave him heartburn from the start. "I got the development kit, but no development manuals," he says. "I had to call and wait three days for my license keys."

He says he never did get development manuals, just excuses about why they couldn't be sent to him, and then -- just to make things worse -- he says the incomplete Appgen VAR page that was his only source of information not only never got completed, but totally disappeared from the company's site in the spring of 2002.

But Remington's biggest complaint is that he claims he was promised access to the source code for Appgen's core products (under NDA) but only got source code for a couple of modules, which wasn't much help for his anticipated Appgen-based custom software project.

Remington has never made an actual Appgen sale. The big customer objection he ran into, he says, was that for most businesses, "QuickBooks was cheaper and would do the same thing."

What if Appgen had been open source?

Moneydance developer Sean Reilly says he'd be happy to help Appgen VARs with any unresolved code issues "a few hours a week, anyway," if he was sure of the legal status of Appgen's code -- a barrier that wouldn't exist if it was open source.

Many of the VARs have enough programming expertise to carry the support flag, and if Appgen's source had been open all along, or if there had at least been a solid escrow arrangement of some sort that would have given the VARs code ownership when Appgen went out of business, Appgen VARs and users wouldn't be biting their nails today.

Reilly says he wonders how the company could simply cease doing business; that while he hasn't had any recent contact with them ("They stopped returning my calls some time ago"), he believes they have creditors they have not paid.

Those creditors could argue in court that if the company's source code is one of its remaining assets, they should own it or at least force its sale at auction to help satisfy any debts Appgen left behind.

If the code had been open source from the start, this would not be a possibility. Perhaps Appgen's failure should serve as a cautionary tale to any person or company that considers buying proprietary software. How many software buyers think about this sort of problem? How many make sure they have contracts that give them source code access if their software vendor goes out of business? How many Windows users realize that Steve Ballmer, under oath, threatened to stop selling Windows if the Microsoft antitrust trial had produced a final verdict the company found unacceptable?

I often suspect that Ballmer's chilling threat to withdraw Windows from the market and, presumably, stop supporting it, was the tipping point that made so many large financial institutions decide to start moving their critical infrastructure to Linux.

The open source business model?

Let's start with a closed source business model:

1. Invest time and money to become a software VAR
2. Software publisher goes broke.
3. Big loss, no profit!
Now contrast this with an open source business model:
1. Modify an open source software package to fit a niche market
2. Sell installations, manuals, customization service, and support to that market
3. Profit!
A growing number of independent software developers and resellers seem to be choosing the open source direction.

After looking at what is happening to Appgen's resellers (and users), do you blame them?

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on What happens when a proprietary software company dies?

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Have the appgen box, opening for other projects

Posted by: Fonze on October 24, 2003 05:22 PM
I have the MyBooks box unopened. Should I save it as a collector item?



This gives an opening for other foss projects. The article talks about others wanting to do development for appgen products. Time to look at foss projects, especially now that this serves as a prime example to others.



<A HREF="http://www.sql-ledger.org/" TITLE="sql-ledger.org">SQL Ledger</a sql-ledger.org> was a foss accounting project I was aware of last year. Are they still around? Is it still Free Software? Want to do development?
Maybe it deserves a look...



The sweet part about Appgen failing, besides the fact that they will be the poster boys for why not to rely on closed source, is that their software ran on (puke)java. That's another reason to rejoice in their failure.




Did I mention the new site sucks?




btw, if you limit stories to only one word per line, you can squeeze in even larger ad$...

#

Re:Have the appgen box, opening for other projects

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 03:42 AM

SQL-Ledger is not only around but its quite good and has spawned another project that uses the SQL-Ledger API, XRMS http://xrms.sourceforge.net/ (which has just released its first files) is based on SQL-Ledger API.

Certainly one I'm looking at for my 1-man band company so many others would too.

#

Re:Have the appgen box, opening for other projects

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 06:48 AM
SQL Ledger is distributed under the GPL, so it will always be free software.

#

Re:Have the appgen box, opening for other projects

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 07:11 AM
Hey Fonze,

I like the new format. the old format was a little cluttered, IMHO. I can digest the news in this format faster. I agree with your other opinions, but not the "this site sucks" opinion.

#

What gives? The link works from the article

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 01, 2003 02:49 AM
as well as if I simply open a browser window and enter the url?

#

A statement on modding me flamebait.

Posted by: Fonze on November 15, 2003 03:10 PM
Did I mention the new site sucks?




Is this what I was modded down for flamebait?



Have you really taken a look at the new site when you modded me down?



Try logging in (one of the large goals of changing the site) and setting the view to two columns, like the old style, as was suggested by Roblimo. I don't have the post in front of me, but iirc, it was suggested we could make the site similar to the old two column site through preferences.



Not even close



  • The old site was readable in two column view. Now, you get a two columns with about four words across each column because the new format demands space for ads that the old site did not, and/or other layout reasons.



  • You used to be able to click on a link to a story to read the full story at the referenced site directly from the front page. Now you have to go to the Newsforge story page first, then click through. More page views, and less usability for viewers.



  • I can't recall other issues right now, so I'll leave it at that. The side by side layout was great, very usable. The new layout sucks. So mod me down for having a negative opinion. I used to work in a company that had a lot of Yes! men. It was a terrible place to work. Is that what Newsforge readers want? Yes!men?

    The site is beauuuuuutifullllll!


  • One thing that I'm trying to figure out is, Newsforge has a much lower readership than Slash. And just about everyone is posting anon. The new format came out with modding, and I posted my opinion in the post soon after. It wasn't really necessary to elaborate for regular viewers, as the regular viewers would notice the same things I did. And yet, regular viewers would be the most likely to have mod points...did someone really earn mod points almost immediately after modding was instituted? Or is there astroturfing going on at Newsforge, to help sway opinion to the new format because that's where the ad dollars/greater page views are?
  • #

    internet archive of apgen website ...

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 05:22 PM

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://appgen.com/

    #

    Data formats siezed in court - customers lose

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 05:35 PM
    Again to emphasize the distinction between data and applications, with well documented data formats it would be possible to go to a competitor or hire developers to fill in when the company goes belly up. StarOffice, Koffice, OpenOffice.org, and Abiword offer a more stable future.


    This is more relevant today than most people realize and than many others are willing to admit. If Microsoft goes to bankruptcy, the format specifications, XML schema and other secrets necessary to migrate from MS-Office 2003 will be locked up as "assets" so fast you'll hear a sonic boom as the lawyers arrive. What then? "It's in XML", squawk the marketeers. Sure but if you look more closely, the schema is not available and the file itself is still binary and encrypted.


    No big deal for businesses, they can file an insurance claim for the damage caused as their entire vertically integrated network -- from data to DRM-crippleware to Palladium to LaGrande CPUs -- gets thrown on the dung heap like so many Wangs from yester year.


    It'll hurt governments foolish enough to lock away court records, tax records, medical records, school records or charters in proprietary formats. While the data is locked away, citizens and businesses alike dependent on the information are S.O.L. Want a transcript to go to college? Tough. Your tax returns to get a small business loan? Tough. You Dad's military records for health care? Tough.


    So, reverse engineering the file format would be the immediate work around. But not with the DMCA/EUCD. For U.S. users, add in the EEA, too. See OASIS's work on the OpenOffice.org XML schema for a way out.

    #

    Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 07:23 PM
    Very few, not to say extremely few, developers makes any revenue of relevance on open source software.

    That's reality, no talking in the world will change reality.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anthony Awtrey on October 24, 2003 08:36 PM
    Uh... My company is cracking a million dollars in revenue this year... Linux, JBoss, MySQL, PostgreSQL... Nope, not a single proprietary vendor invoice here. We also contribute to open source projects, help run a LUG and advocate Open Source / Free Software everywhere we go. Sounds like we are an Open Source company to me.

    The problem with business that fail, is simply that they failed. In fact, most businesses fail. Period. People who are successful running a business would be successful if they were doing Open Source related work, as a proprietary software solution provider or running a pest control business. People who can't run a business would fail at running a McDonalds franchise. Has nothing to do with Open Source.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 09:40 PM
    "My company is cracking..."

    Maybe so but most of the people and companies working with open source software is doing it without pay.

    There are always exceptions to the rule but they are extremely rare in this field.

    "The problem with business that fail, is simply that they failed."

    The bankruptcy-rate in these businesses is enormously larger than in other businesses.

    After the last few years I can't imagine that there can be so many people left who doesn't understand that there is something wrong with the picture here.

    This is in no way limited to open source, there are a number of especially mistreated businesses. Online content providers are another example of businesses with huge bankruptcy-rates.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 01:57 AM
    Huh?

    Are you able to back up your statements with unbiased statistics? I didn't think so. This is just so much FUD.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 04:06 AM
    "The bankruptcy-rate in these businesses is enormously larger than in other businesses."

    Stats from the SBA; confirmed by many other sources: 80% of all startup businesses fail within the first 3 years.

    This has nothing to do with proprietary or open sourec, hardware or software, savings financed or venture capital, etc., etc.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: RJDohnert on October 25, 2003 01:58 PM
    Im going to write you off as an idiot. We employ over 62 developers and about 160 other staff members that play a significant role and yes they get paid. We work with Open Source, sell it and service it. I would like to know what reality you live in.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:46 PM
    "Maybe so but most of the people and companies working with open source software is doing it without pay."

    When you provide statistics about that, make sure you define "most" and
    "working". I want to see whether your definition also applies to Visual Basic tinkerers and Windows game modifiers/cheaters.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 08:40 PM
    bullshit.

    It works just fine - look at all the developers IBM/SGI/RH/MySQL/Sun/HP... pay.

    I think their programmers make "evenue of relevance on open source software."

    Not to mention all those government facilities, insurance companies,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... also pay for support, even if it is in-house.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 09:24 PM
    The number of developers working at open source projects at all those companies combined are still just a handfull.

    The major part (almost all that is) of people working on open source is unpaid.

    There is always exceptions to the rule. There are a small amount of people and companies able to work at open source and get paid for it but they are very few.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:34 AM
    Lies. We are working in lots of companies, installing, modifying, supporting open source software. Somtetimes the suits don't even know we are here.

    We contribute what we fix/modify back to the system.

    It works.

    I get paid.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:35 AM
    And "the major part" of software developers in general are not working on commercial, shrink-wrap software to be sold, but on internal software projects to suit their company's needs. Most people aren't aware of this, just like they're not aware that most people in America actually work for small companies. Take a business class, they're informative.

    So the bulk of developers would be helped by open source, as it gives them a huge "starter" library of code for them to modify for their own purposes. They don't even have to worry about GPL vs. BSD if they never release their version to the public.

    #

    Tell that to IBM, Apple, RedHat, etc.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 08:42 PM
    Tell that to IBM, Apple, RedHat and many small businesses. The few small businesses I still have contact with survived the dot-bomb crash simply becasue they worked with F/OSS solutions. No amount of wishful thinking from MS-Apologists will change that fact.

    #

    Re:Tell that to IBM, Apple, RedHat, etc.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 09:44 PM
    "IBM, Apple, RedHat "

    None of these develops open source software in any major way. They sell products including it.

    My post hasn't anything to do with Microsoft by the way.

    #

    Re:Tell that to IBM, Apple, RedHat, etc.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 10:31 PM
    You just proved you have absolutely NO clue what you're talking about. RedHat most certainly develops open source software in as major a way as it is possible to do.

    IBM also develops quite a bit of OSS, though they are far behind RedHat, who employs numerous core developers on such OSS projects as the linux kernel itself, glibc, gcc, gnome, etc etc. I doubt there is ANY single company that does as much OSS development as redhat. I have absolutely no idea where this idiotic and insulting delusion that they "only package other people's work" comes from. Do your goddamn research before you post.

    #

    Re:Tell that to IBM, Apple, RedHat, etc.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 10:45 PM
    "RedHat most certainly develops open source software in as major a way as it is possible to do."

    No they don't. There are just a handful of people developing open source software at Redhat, not more than 50.

    Redhat has stated publicly that they will never hire any significant part of the Linux developers. And they shouldn't, it's not their core business to develop software. For them to succeed it's vital that the major part of the development is unpaid, otherwise the price would have to go up a lot.

    I'm not flaming Redhat or anything, they sell a complete product and do it fairly well but they are _not_ an open source company.

    #

    Re:Tell that to IBM, Apple, RedHat, etc.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 07:34 AM
    No, the parent poster was right, you really don't know what you're talking about. Red Hat employs the glibc maintainer, several major gcc developers, many major kernel developers, the gtk maintainers, several gnome developers, etc, etc. They may not employ a lot of people, but nearly every one they employ is a huge contributor to open source projects. If you can think of another company which employs the maintainers or lead developers of so many open source projects, you should speak up.

    #

    Re:Tell that to IBM, Apple, RedHat, etc.

    Posted by: RJDohnert on October 25, 2003 01:54 PM
    I work with Open Source software, my company is based on it and we sell it. We do fairly well

    #

    Re:Tell that to IBM, Apple, RedHat, etc.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:59 PM
    No they don't. There are just a handful of people developing open source software at Redhat, not more than 50.


    Redhat has stated publicly that they will never hire any significant part of the Linux developers.


    Folks, he's trying to argue quantity, not quality nor effect. He's trying to determine whether an effort is "major" based on counting heads. And he also doesn't have much info, so he guesses the number is between "a handful" and "50" -- a rather wide range, and I've worked in several software development companies which earned millions of dollars a year with less than 50 developers.

    #

    Which Reality?

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 09:29 PM
    The reality is, there is no reality. IBM isn't selling software, so there is no open source software business model involved. Open source is all about reducing development costs for IBM. Not paying Microsoft will reduce costs for a lot of companies.

    One reality that does exist is that to make money, you have to put something into the product you are selling. If you just try shrink-wrapping another's work, you aren't going to beat the master, Bill Gates.

    It could be true that the days of making money selling software are over. But that would also be true for closed-source if it is true for open-source. Few others get paid a million times over for each hour that they work. Lawyers can even go to jail for it (I think that over-billing is the only thing that truly is a crime if you are a member of the Bar Association).

    If the Sweet Years are gone, then selling software could be as obsolete as selling horse whips, whose biggest market is selling them as sex toys, instead of for what they were originally intended.

    #

    Re:Which Reality?

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 10:37 PM
    "IBM isn't selling software, so there is no open source software business model involved. "

    Exactly, that’s what I have been trying to say but no one seems to get.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

    "Few others get paid a million times over for each hour that they work."

    What company has that kind of margin? I have never seen any fiscal report with 99% profit-margin or something like that. The development costs are in most cases high but are divided by a large number of buyers.

    Developing large software packages is very expensive. $150 for windows may seem expensive (or whatever it costs these days, I use MSDN subscription so I don't know) but each version of windows has several thousands of people working several years on it. Imagine to salary cost!

    You seem to be saying that the first customer would have to pay the full cost and then no one else has to pay anything. That would mean the first customer would have to pay a bunch of _billion_ dollars for his copy. The reason why a copy of said software doesn’t cost a few billion dollars is because the development cost is spited among all the customers.

    Well, Windows maybe a bad example since it's a monopoly (monopolies are of cause unacceptable under any circumstances), but I think you understand my point in the example.

    #

    Re:Which Reality?

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:35 AM
    "What company has that kind of margin? I have never seen any fiscal report with 99% profit-margin or something like that. The development costs are in most cases high but are divided by a large number of buyers.

    Developing large software packages is very expensive. $150 for windows may seem expensive (or whatever it costs these days, I use MSDN subscription so I don't know) but each version of windows has several thousands of people working several years on it. Imagine to salary cost!"

    Um, MS's profit margin on Office & Windows is above 80%. And they pay some of the lowest wages around for their programmers, or hire them as part-time or temps to keep their labor costs down.

    #

    Re:Which Reality?

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:29 AM
    The reality is, there is no reality. IBM isn't selling software, so there is no open source software business model involved.
    That's funny. Here I thought that my paycheck, which is from IBM, was for supporting software which was developed and sold by IBM. And I thought that one of the components of the software package I supported was the IBM HTTP Server, a branded version of Apache. I guess I'll need to check with my boss to find out what I'm really being paid for, since IBM isn't selling software.

    #

    Re:Which Reality?

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:32 AM
    "IBM isn't selling software"

    Umm, they're the world's largest software company (yes, I'm including MS in that list)

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 11:36 PM
    Okay, ignoring most of the comments that are in response to this stupid comment that prove otherwise, assume for one minute that you are right.

    You are completely ignorant of the roots of open source if you think it was written to make software developers rich. Actually, it was more of a response to the INCREDIBLE greed, arrogance, and/or inflexibility of software companies.

    Open source is about giving the users rights. Not about the making the sellers of software rich.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 08:26 PM
    Yeah, incredible greed just about describes the Appgen story.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:25 AM
    For the VARs, using proprietary code such as MS just means pass-along cost for licensing that has to go onto the client's invoice. A local VAR where my former co-worker now works uses F/OSS as much as possible, as it gives them a cost advantage going in and a better margin ongoing (no renewal licensing, etc.). Being able to poke around the source is helpful, but a secondary concern.

    #

    Re:Open source businessmodel doesn't work, period.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:29 AM
    You obviously don't get it. First, there are business models that work with open source, as has been proven with companies that do make money. IBM makes huge amounts of money supporting open source. Secondly, whether or not developers make money is irrelvant. The problem still exists: do businesses lose their investment because they no longer have access to the software, the code, or licensing, or do the adopt methods where this cannot happen?

    I had a similar experince once, although not nearly as dramatic as the AppGen case. There was a flowcharting software application released for the Macintosh called TopDown. If memory serves, the owner (also its primary developer) was diagnosed with some kind of terminal illness, and subsequently passed away. Kaetron Software was no more.

    What should owners do, some of who may have invested substantial amounts of time and money into the creation of documents using this software? In my case, the original floppy was corrupted, and I could no longer install it. This kind of situation quite obviously puts people in a bind - I personally believe that the code should have been put in escrow, and absent a subsequent buyer, released into the public domain. I don't see any other viable way to address this kind of situation. You want companies or individuals to take a risk using your product? Fine. But don't back them into a corner if something goes wrong.

    #

    wrong

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 06:54 AM
    You don't understand how open source software development works. You don't go out, write a piece of open source software, put it on the web, and then wait for the money rolling in. Any idiot can see that that's not going to work in most cases.

    Open source software is generally developed by people who have a need for a particular piece of software as part of their job. They then share that software with others who need the same kind of software in order to get feedback, contributions, and bug fixes.

    Everybody who contributes to that software gets paid, often well, by their employer. They don't get paid to be software developers, they get paid to solve a particular problem. The fact that they develop software in order to solve the problem is an accident. It just happens to be cheaper to develop the software in-house than to buy something commercial.

    And if you think that this drives independent software developers and software companies out of business, you are exactly right. Sorry, guys, but there are lots of professions that are obsolete, and independent software development is rapidly becoming one of them.

    #

    This article is a joke

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 09:54 PM
    Nobody would pay $$$ if the code is accessible to anyone !

    And the problem here is not the closed source: you can´t blame Appgen for using it but you can blame Appgen to steal money from their VARs !

    #

    The joke's on you, then.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 10:10 PM
    Is nobody paying $$$ for open source code? You clearly have a narrow 1980s view of software lifted out of the popular "home and small business computing" press (ie. supposedly knowledgeable journalists talking down to the masses) which involves people cranking out products which then go onto some shelf in some dealer or reseller, waiting for the "consumers" to go in, bow to the software gods and pony up cash for the privilege.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, open source software is being used to implement systems that real customers pay real money for. Moreover, because open source is being used, those customers don't find their systems to be unmaintainable because the hardware is being upgraded or because the company who produced "proprietary product X" (think Appgen) either got bored or went down the pan.

    The problem here is exactly the closed source nature of the product. It's so fashionable to start talking up possibilities of corporate wrongdoing: "steal money from their VARs" - come on, get a clue! If you pay money to hawk proprietary software in this day and age, you're either misguided or a corporate cheerleader/whore. I feel sorry for the people featured in the article - they seem to be in the former category - whereas this "open source isn't profitable" parrot-talk clearly assigns its originator to the latter category.

    #

    Re:The joke's on you, then.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 24, 2003 10:51 PM
    "Is nobody paying $$$ for open source code?"

    A few but not many, most is unpaid.

    "bow to the software gods and pony up cash for the privilege."

    ?

    "whereas this "open source isn't profitable" parrot-talk"

    It isn't profitable in most cases.

    "If you pay money to hawk proprietary software in this day and age, you're either misguided or a corporate cheerleader/whore."

    ?

    Forget it, I really don't follow you...

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    Re:The joke's on you, then.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 01:15 AM
    A few but not many, most is unpaid.



    You're forgetting that money is not the only way a developer can receive compensation.



    It isn't profitable in most cases.

    Forget it, I really don't follow you...




    The reason you don't get it is because you don't realize that open source is not a business model, but rather a software development model. Open source gives developers the freedom to build upon the work of other developers so that all can benefit from their work. It gives users the power to mold software to exactly fit their needs, as opposed to proprietary software which more often than not forces users to shoehorn their processes into a one-size-fits-all "solution." In short, the primary focus of open source is on working together to build a solution, while the primary focus of proprietary software is on generating income for the vendor.



    The open source development model is much more thoroughly explained by Eric Raymond in his essay, "<A HREF="http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/" TITLE="catb.org">The Cathedral and the Bazaar</a catb.org>." If you really want to grok open source, then I highly recommend you check out that essay.

    #

    Re:The joke's on you, then.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 03:30 AM
    The current Wired magazine has some good article on how open source methods are being used in other industries with good success. Collaboration, in my opinion, produces better products, regardless of the ultimate cost of that product.

    #

    Re:The joke's on you, then.

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 27, 2003 06:47 PM
    You're clearly locked into the mindset that making money from software goes something like this:


        1. Person enters (virtual) software shop.

        2. "I'd like to buy product X please!"

        3. "That'll be $XXX, sir!"

        4. Customer hands over cash/card.

        5. Customer gets (licence for) product.

    You aren't following me because you aren't considering that consulting and services accounts for a considerable part of the revenue generated by the software-related industries.

    #

    Open Source Business Model

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 02:54 AM
    Is very simple. You can repackage existing stuff with your modifications, and some sort of licensed guarantee of support or create something entirely new and sell support for it.

    The key here, is that the OS model will never earn a dime on "shrink-wrapped" software which you sell to someone in one shot, and never see them again. It's easy enough for at least one person to rebuild your source code and distribute the same app for free. That's a no-brainer... If MS published the full source and data for (e.g) Halo or MSMoney2004 as open source with decent build instructions, they wouldn't made a damn dime.

    However, where OS actually makes a boatload of money is the same place where even "closed source" business give some of their code away in some situations. Business to business solutions where you're not only selling a custom solution, but the support to back it up.

    This is a no-brainer as well. I can go online and buy a cheap RAID solution for our office with no support. Just the hardware.. but guess what.. we dont do that. We pay more money to go with a reseller that we can call to fix it when it breaks. Our business is not in repairing RAID boxes, and we frankly dont have the time to *not*
    have someone else do it.

    You'll notice one thing here tho. If the supporting company goes away, *even* with OS, you're up shits creek without a paddle. If you rely on that support, it's suddenly gone. You may be lucky enough to have another vendor step in, or you may not. Just because it's OS, doesn't guarantee that someone *will* step in...

    So in this case, yes, it doesn't behoove you to base your business solely on a small proprietary vendor without some strong practical guarantee. Either you have a programming staff and access to the source, or you have another vendor waiting in the wings to pick up the slack. Open Source really has nothing to do with the issue other than opening an extra option to protect yourself *if* you have to resources to support the product internally yourself!

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    Re:Open Source Business Model

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 03:51 AM
    >>If the supporting company goes away, *even* with
    >> OS, you're up shits creek without a paddle. If
    >> you rely on that support, it's suddenly gone. You
    >> may be lucky enough to have another vendor step
    >> in, or you may not. Just because it's OS, doesn't
    >> guarantee that someone *will* step in...

    Thing is, if it's proprietary, you're guarunteed that *nobody* *can* step in. If it's FOSS, there are several possibilities: 1) another vendor supports essentially the same product, 2) former employees of the deceased company can *legally* continue to support you, perhaps informally or part time, 3) you find that the public mailing lists are really all the support you need, 4) you hire some of the former support crew. Keep in mind, too, that with FOSS, you're only talking about *support*--asking questions, filing bug reports, etc, because the software will continue to get written, documentation will be updated, etc, by the community of developers. Ultimately, the point is that with FOSS you have *options* and with proprietary stuff you don't. Several companies that I worked at have since gone bankrupt; all their good ideas and code is now gone forever because the creditors have it and won't give it up until it's worthless.

    #

    Idiots .. you are all idiots!

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 03:20 AM
    I don't understand. People claim "no money in FOSS" -- honestly, it doesn't seem to matter. Apparently there are developers, contributors, documentation writers, artists, musicians, advocates and a whole lot of other people out there that are very happy with the FOSS model.

    Way too many people out there are stuck in the corporate mindset that its really hard for them to understand FOSS.

    Why is sitting in a cubicle, spitting out code for some mundane process that you have absolutely no interest in while you have a handful of bosses breathing down your back to meet a deadline a good thing? FOSS provides the ability to match peoples interests with their "job" in the community. Your interested in developing GUIs? Great<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.. get involved in KDE/Gnome/etc.. interested in application development? fantastic! Hook up with OO.org or similar..

    So what do you get in return? First you get to work with others that are equally interested in what they are doing -- nothing quite like working with a lot of other individuals that are EXCITED and MOTIVATED about what they are doing.

    Second, you get access to a huge repository of source code from thousands of other developers and contributors to use.

    Third, you want to make money? Great! Its possible to develop a business around FOSS<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.. become a consultant that specializes in setting up, configuring and maintaining servers runnning FOSS software. Develop custom solutions on top of FOSS for your customers. Manage a remote data center running on nothing but FOSS for many customers. Leverage your interest in FOSS to help make your own company more competitive, even if it doesn't directly involve computing and IT.

    What is so hard to understand about this? You have access to a huge array of FOSS products with virtually no strings attached. Generally it seems that there are many people out there that end up contributing back to the community. Adding a feature here or a small script there that makes their lives easier.

    The bottom line is this --> If people didn't believe in FOSS and the current model was "broken" then it simply would die off and no one would be contributing to it. Instead, there is HUGE involvement from thousands (millions?) of people who range from students to veterns in the industry. So instead of clamoring that it is in some way broken, spend the time to understand WHY it works and I think there will be a greater appreciation for the entire movement.

    #

    there is plenty o fmoney

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 06:56 AM
    I don't understand. People claim "no money in FOSS" -- honestly, it doesn't seem to matter. Apparently there are developers, contributors, documentation writers, artists, musicians, advocates and a whole lot of other people out there that are very happy with the FOSS model.

    There is plenty of money in FOSS: the money companies save on commercial licenses. And because of that, they allow their employees to contribute to FOSS. FOSS isn't usually altruism, it's rational self-interest.

    #

    Re: What happens when a co dies

    Posted by: jonbryce on October 25, 2003 03:30 AM
    Many people here have pointed out that free software projects generally don't make money.

    They are absolutely right. They don't.

    Proprietary software projects generally don't make money either. Just look at Appgen. Most projects don't even do as well as this.

    Looking at the success level of every sourceforge project out there and comparing it with the very few proprietary software companies (probably less than ten) that actually make any sort of money out their efforts isn't really very fair.

    Of course looking soley at the packaged software market isn't very fair either. It is tiny, insignificant proportion of the total IT spend. Most of the money goes on custom in-house development, support and consultancy. Even if the entire packaged software market were to completely vanish tonight, people would still pay money on these things, and the vast majority of IT professionals would still have a job. In fact, a switch to Free Software would help rather than hinder these people in their efforts.

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    OS/2 wars...

    Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 25, 2003 03:47 AM
    Remember the OS/2 wars?

    It looks like they're back and hitting this message board...

    You just make it too easy to spot yourselves.

    #

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