Converting Ideas into Value
Edited by Claudio Petti
Chapter 6: Building a Business on Open Source Software
Anthony I. Wasserman INTRODUCTION The notions of free and open source software go back to the earliest days of computing, when all software was free and source code was routinely published. In the late 1960s, though, IBM unbundled software from hardware, charging money for the operating system and other software. At about the same time, new software companies arose, building businesses around the licensing and support of software systems, such as database management systems. Software developed in the research community continued to be freely distributed at no charge, even as commercial software grew to a multi-billion dollar industry. Much of the foundation for the Internet was funded by the US Government, with all of the source code freely available. In 1985 Richard Stallman at MIT put forth the notion of free software based on his personal belief that software should be free. He created the Free Software Foundation (FSF) not just as a technical movement, but also as a social, political and economic movement. In the early 1990s Linus Torvalds, a student in Finland, first developed the Linux operating system, and made it freely available under the GNU General Public License developed by Stallman and the FSF. Linux became extremely popular, especially among hobbyists, who created a large and active community that enhanced Linux, eventually making it sufficiently reliable for widespread commercial use. Before companies would use Linux or any other free software, they wanted to make sure that there were commercial sources of training and support. In the late...
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