Who Profits from Free Software?

Telelogic has just announced the release of Telelogic Modeler a free Unified Modeling Language (UML) design environment. This entry-level product will allow user with extended needs to migrate to other Telelogic’s products in the same area. Telelogic Modeler is available for download at http://www.telelogic.com/modeling/modeler.

Facing the competition of free open source products, major editors like Microsoft or Oracle have followed the same strategy than Telelogic. They have created free versions of their software development tools. These products are “simplified” versions of the paying product, often minus specific features that are useful for large/complex projects or systems. They hope that people using the free version will one day have unsatisfied needs and that they will migrate to paying versions from the same editor. Time will tell if this strategy is right, but I think that it is facing major issues:

  • The majority of people looking for a free software could not be the one that are more enthusiastic to get it from a commercial editor.
  • Upgrading to a commercial version is not the only solution to get more performance. Open source tools are improving and there are companies interested to increase the power of the open source tools they support. Red Hat is doing this with JBoss in the Web server market. Another example is EnterpriseDB that is building an Oracle-compatible product based on PostgreSQL. In both cases companies are selling services and not software.
  • According to the Pareto principle, 80% of the people should be satisfied with 20% of the features of the original product. Thus migration to a product offering more features could be limited, furthermore if this imply paying for it ;o)
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