How free software providers make money

Make money with free software

Open source is becoming more and more important in the European economy.

According to a recently published EU study, the market share of open source software has grown steadily over the past five years. Numerous private and public organizations are now using free software. The total value of all open source solutions developed is approximately $ 12 billion. According to the study, companies including Sun, IBM, Red Hat, SAP and MySQL have invested around € 1.2 billion in the development of software solutions. "Some ideas", knows Richard Seibt, ex-Suse boss and today the engine of the association "Linux Business Campus Nürnberg", "only grows big through open source."

The fact that the enthusiasm for open source software is still great could be seen recently at the “Open Source meets Business” congress in Nuremberg. Whether in public administration, as a collaboration solution, as an operating system, in security or on the desktop: users and developers mostly reported positive experiences. In the infrastructure sector, open source solutions and projects no longer have to hide alongside proprietary, commercial products.

An example of an open source project is “Oscar”. “We want to develop a car according to open source principles and therefore transfer the open source concept to the hardware,” says project founder Markus Merz. The idea goes back to 1999. The special thing about Oscar: “It's a completely different product creation process because everyone has a say.” However, “Oscar” is still in the conception phase. The project currently has 1,350 registered developers, including around 100 to 150 engineers, most of whom work in the automotive industry or at universities.

A successful example of open source on the desktop is the graphical user interface KDE. Over 2000 developers are involved in the project, which was launched in 1996. "Our goal is to make the best desktop," says Eva Brucherseifer from KDE e. V. Compared to its competitor Gnome, KDE is "very popular with users".

In addition, there are also a lot of young companies on the market that offer business software for small and medium-sized companies, that implement digital signatures as an open source solution, or a geo-portal completely developed under open source.

Seibt gives these companies a good report: "German developers have special technical skills today they have the opportunity to successfully implement these skills in products on the market." For example, Open-Xchange, a provider of open source-based collaboration software . Another open source newcomer is Wilken, which has specialized in business software for years. In their project, local specialist processes are to be developed based on open source development processes. Another example: content management systems. "Open source brings the innovation process back into the industry," said John Powell, CEO of Alfresco, a content management solution provider. Better content management is needed, for example, in order to cope with the increasing flood of information in companies.

Investors have long since discovered start-up companies that want to earn money with free software. The aim is to “push the stars of the future”, says Oliver Michel, CEO of the Max 21 investment company, which specializes in companies that use open source and free software. Therefore, invest in young open source companies. The holding company is involved in open source companies that deal with Voice-over-IP or security. ILONA HÖRATH

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