Suddenly, it was all clear. The answer was fewer clients. Less money. Caring for them and caring for ourselves.
“Fewer clients. Less money.” Sacrilege in a world where the goal is to grow the first billion dollar “open source vendor”. But that chimera that Matt Asay holds a torch for may never come. Free software has a lot of selling points – and the main one is that if your vendor is charging you too much money, you can find a different, smaller one who will charge you less.
That doesn’t mean that the originator of the software can’t make money – knowing the software better than anyone else, and being able to customise the software, is a pretty powerful selling point and a clear path to building a profitable small business.
As many commentators have said (and I agree), support is not a scalable business model. Other smaller, more agile, companies can start businesses around your product, gain expertise, become contributors to your project, and syphon off some of that yummy support and maintenance cash you’re hunting for.
But so what? Free software doesn’t get developed like proprietary software, why should the free software industry look like the proprietary software industry?
Here’s my vision of the future: Smaller businesses. Each with fewer, happier clients. Less money. Lots of them, all over the world.