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September 23, 2008


Mike Linksvayer

Re Dual licensing business models.

Aren't MySQL and Trolltech the canonical examples of this model? They're both European (or MySQL was until recent acquisition by Sun).

All in all quite interesting contrast.

Bruce Benson

Hey Larry thanks for the take away notes. I wonder if the USA adoption reason of 'cost' as the primary reason is due a CIO methodology where many things can be inferred to have cost. Lock-in, source control, and a lot of other good reasons look good when the business case is assembled and a cost model is presented upstream for the adoption approval. Then it's "cost of vendor lock-in", "cost of technology control", "cost of..."

Nomen Nescio

Part of the European attitude to US Open Source offerings where there is a commercial or 'enterprise' edition offered by the same organisation as well, is to feel somewhat put out, as the suspicion is that Open Source offering is 'crippleware', designed to get you hooked into the product, ready to be milked by having to pay for the 'enterprise' version at a later stage.

The 'services' model implies you get full functionality immediately, and the vendor makes money on hand-holding. One benefit of the services model is that ongoing support is an operational cost, and no capital is involved in the initial procurement. In accounting terms, that is very useful.


Michael B.

From a software engineer's point of view, the US business model of a more product-centric (vs. service-centric) approach is more attractive, as it is more fun.
I also agree with the scaling argument, startup stock options may make you rich if you are lucky and the product turns out to be a success, that probably won't happen in the service world where you have to actually do client work for every dollar you earn. ;)

Btw., I am european, so I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

Penguin Pete

Thank you for the great research and analysis! This coincides with much that I have observed in dealings with clients in the US and UK.

One factor I think that affects these attitudes, is that UK members are more interested in self-sufficiency and small business. In the US, it's like the attitude is "I don't know about this computer stuff, that's what we have billion-dollar corporations for. Let them worry about it and I'll just stay in this pasture and eat this grass."


"On the fact that most software is written on one side of the Atlantic Ocean" --Alan Kay


"This contrasts with the US CIOs I talked with last week who were definitely more comfortable with getting their Open Source software from a vendor with a commercial license."

WTF? How stupid can Americans be? Get your _open source_ from a _vendor_ with a _commercial license_ ? Wot ?!

Why don't just buy a product that let's you have source code? Have these people been around the last 20 years?!

They clearly don't get it, do they? Not only that, they are been sold an aold model with a new wrapping...

Redhuan D. Oon

This is ne of the most interesting blogs 1 can come across on the subjective nature of Commercial OSS vs Community OSS. It provides a simple yardstick to rein in the opposing thoughts on a single chart. Bravo Larry!

founding peer of,
The ADempiere Bazaar (Euro version)
A Compiere Fork (US version)

Michael Towne

Good observation! I think one of the factors that contribute to this is that there are more corporate-sponsored IP (aka copyright) policies and enforcements in the U.S. that eats away at the motivation of many to invest their time in Open Source. Few of monopolizing US software companies work against an atmosphere of mutually beneficial endeavors found in the rest of the world. And the population in the U.S. has been "tamed" to be mostly non-programmers. You could easily correlate the gradual enhancement of OS to the decreasing number of people interested in programming in the U.S. And also, the sense of ownership in the U.S. may have made more in the U.S. to be somewhat complacent.

Patrick Finch

Very interesting.

I think that dual licensing may be perceived differently between B2B and B2C. I have never heard anyone complain about the fact that Java is dual-licensed, for example, on either side of the pond.

@jim_who: open source under a commercial license can make a great deal of sense if you wish to extend the product but do not wish to open your own code. This is not a position I would generally advocate, but it is apparently appealing to some.

Don Marti

How much of the difference is because of company founders' previous industry experience? Does the US open source industry have more managers with proprietary software experience, and the European industry have more people with services or consulting backgrounds?

Franck V.

This is a well known difference between Europe and US.

But there are some precisions to be made :
1) some US players are moving to European way of OpenSource : Pentaho Inc. is one of them. Pentaho BI Suite 2.0 will be GPL.
2) Commercial Licencing means usually service agreement. MySQL Commercial licencing is a service agreement and access to some proprietary tools. MySQL DB engine included in Commercial Licence is the GPL one, no special functions are added.
3) precision 2) is true only for GPL products.

Martin Schoch

About cost vs. avoiding vendor lock-in:

As a European who worked for a subsidiary of a US company in the last four years, I have the impression that this reflects a more general difference in corporate policy:

My current, US owned employer seems to be most interested in short-term profit, sometimes at the expense of preparing for medium to long term challenges (anything that takes more than 2 years to yield a result). In this context "we pay less license fees now".

European companies seem more willing to look at long term consequences and accept short term disadvantages to avoid long term headaches. As in "retraining cost will eat up the price advantage now, but we will be safe from future price hikes and product discontinuation".

Justin Brooks

I would be interested to know whether the attitude in other regions such as South America are in line with the European view. If so this would particularly bolster the 'local software industry' argument underlining the desire not to be beholden to the US proprietary software giants.

Randal L. Schwartz

"Get your _open source_ from a _vendor_ with a _commercial license_ ? "

Yes, it's the "who do you sue/blame when it goes bad?" mentality. The US "management" style is all about short-term risk management, sacrificing long-term growth if needed.

Some of my Perl customers are wary of downloading anything from the CPAN, simply because they wouldn't know who to sue if it broke something. So they reimplement the very same thing from scratch! It doesn't even help when I tell them "but but... you can vet every line of code... it's all open source!" Wild.


The biggest single factor to explain these differences is the attitude towards Microsoft. In the US, where Microsoft is seen as a successful, if aggressive, competitor, adoption open source is a business decision, that is to say based on ROI.

In the US, where Microsoft is seen as a malignant force, adoption of open source is seen as a political decision, that is to say based on and ideology that trumps business considerations.

Viewed this way, the differences you describe are very consistent, particularly if you just insert the word Microsoft at strategic points.

For example, on the first observation, the primary reason for adopting open source in Europe is to avoid [Microsoft] lock-in; while the primary reason in the US is cost, as Microsoft lock-in per se is not seen as a bad thing.

Pierre Baudracco

Good article, and I was at the eOSTT (hello Larry !), but I think one important point is missing. This is the european view for public sector only !
The private sector in europe has nearly the same behaviour as what you describe here as the United states view. (At least this is what I see dealing with our obm product, public vs private behaviour)

This can be explained by the maturity of some administration members but also by the fact that not going Open Source means going to proprietary and so sending great deal of money to the US with no economic value localy. And Open Source means technology independance.

Arabic Translator

The table is an interested comparison. To pick out a few points and comment:
1. Vendor lock in is the Eurpoean reason. You are still 'locked in' when you choose any solution. The cost of change is large after you have succesfully implemented any solution (whether opensource of COTS).

2. The basis for the Opensource phenomenon is that services can actually drive more revenue than code. If you are the defacto source for the code then you can control the knowledge associate with the most profitable services. This is a smart strategy. However it is position in the UK or the US - this is a major driver.

Business Opportunities

people in Europe that are happy with having a small company that just pays their bills (and not a mansion on top) are probably less known. So lets say, most of the guys that worked to be recognized in the business community might be suffering from this "envy". The rest are just happy that the stuff they love pays their bills without them having to become all too tangled in marketing and PR.

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