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FOSS Economics,Open Video and Sun Microsystems

Hi all,
This would be a long post which goes into why FOSS economics is better choice (for individuals, for corporations and/or societies), the new Open Video standard and why I think Sun Microsystems had to sell out.

Most of the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) rely on one or the other business models :-

A. Support Model :- This model is what most of the FOSS companies and individuals follow. Some of the examples include Red Hat, Canonical (people behind Ubuntu), Novell (people behind Suse) , Sun Microsystems and many others.

B. Consulting Model :- This is the model which is used mostly by most of the Content Management Software (CMS) of the FOSS world. Some notables include joomla , Drupal, WordPress and TYPO3 and many others.

C. ASP Hosting Services :- This is where everybody is trying or wants to be. The idea that people would pay to host their stuff on the Internet and related services like support, up-time, maintenance and hosting. Some of the notables include Google and WordPress as well.

D. Hardware-based models :- This is software embedded within Routers. Some examples of the same
include Tomato , OpenWRT , busybox and many others.

E. Dual-Licensing :- This is where corporations and companies make two versions, a free and open source variation of the software for the FOSS community and the traditional proprietary license for corporates. Some of the notables include MySQL, Oracle Berkeley DB (also known as Sleepycat), Digium , Sendmail, VMware and many others.

F. Crowdfunding/Donations :- This is where society funds development of things. There have been many interesting stories around this one. One of the biggest influencer’s of the same is Wikipedia . There are many other projects which are hosted on Sourceforge.net which work like this so too numerous to mention. Just to take an example would be Sahana

Now this one is actually the most interesting of all ways as many people have been jumping on the bandwagon. For e.g. a local news daily in Chicago, chi daily news has been doing it.

Another interesting one is ohmynews . What is interesting about it is what happened with them.

Another interesting take surely is spot.us . They are also going the

Having said that, one of the views is that the support model is flawed a bit as shared by Stuart Cohen . Makes for some interesting reading.

I’m sure there might be some more business models which may be unique or maybe a combination of the two or more ideas/solutions given above. If there are, please share the same :)

Now let’s get to one of the most interesting things happening in the recent past. Mozilla Firefox unveiled the latest version of its browser Firefox 3.5 (codenamed ‘Shiretoko’) . Actually a bug-fix version 3.5.1 just made it about two days back. Lot of people would ask what’s so special about it . What’s special about it is its ability to play open Audio and video .

Now the question would arise what the hell is Open Audio and Video and how is it relevant to me ?

Open Audio and Video means for the first time people can encode and decode audio as well as video without using proprietary technologies.

How does it concern us ?

If you are an organisation or an individual who wants to put up audio and/or video on the web before this you would have to pay a license fees to organizations like Apple, Microsoft or Adobe to use their software called an Encoder. Now the same thing can be accomplished by using the Open Audio and Video Encoders viz. Ogg Theora and Ogg Vorbis respectively.

Now does that mean its just a cost issue ?

While yes, its a cost issue but its also a freedom issue. Of course, most of the companies mentioned above make lot of money by licensing it but that’s not just the issue. The format is proprietary .

What do you mean by that the format is proprietary ?

What I mean is as a producer of creative work I have no control over :-

a. The longevity of the work (Archival) as the product may be discontinued.
b. The work is locked-in to the format as well as the Vendor.

It has repercussions now as well as later as can be seen by the iTunes issue.

For the user as well, he doesn’t need to install any special software so the technical know-how required is much less so the chances are that the audience would be larger.

Of course, just having the content in an open format doesn’t guarantee that they will be there. Whether the content is engaging or not is also a primary concern ;)

I have to admit though that there is still quite a lot of controversy surrounding this issue and for sure as many vested interests are there who wouldn’t like the status quo to change.

I for one, is all gung-ho that Open Audio and Video work well and best wishes to Mozilla for doing it for us :)

Lastly, I have been asked quite a few times about the takeover of Sun Microsystems by Oracle Corporation. Rather than anything else I think its Sun Microsystems infamous bureaucracy which led to its downfall. FOSS just doesn’t mean making FOSS products but also acquiring and empowering FOSS Culture.

One of the issues to show Sun Microsystems was Marten Mickos exit from Microsystems which was beautifully written by somebody named Joel West. If one wants to one can search google for quite a number of such issues.

How does Oracle gain from the takeover?

Well, not so many people know that Oracle had been selling a derivative of Red Hat Linux for a long time known as Oracle Enterprise Linux as well as a file-system known as Btrfs (or simply known as Butter FS).

Also, historically Oracle has been a software major and it did lot of business on SPARC servers which have been made by Sun Microsystems. So having the hardware business would make it more easier to connect with their customers. Also there lot of FOSS made by SUN and R&D which is interesting for them. Take Sun JAVA, Open Solaris . If they continue to grow the FOSS culture and are able to control and shed some of the bureaucracy Sun has been infamous for, we could see some interesting innovation from the new group.

That’s all it for now. Comments, suggestions, brickbats all are welcome :)

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