Over the past decade software is becoming increasingly free (free as in beer) where as the development cost is headed skywards. Anybody who has a knack on economics and business would understand that this is another marketing ploy wherein their wallets are being filled by some huge corporate or through government grants. This would adversely affect the software industry as a whole. I guess charging a small sum is much better than begging users for a donation. I tend to get intimidated when there are banners for donation where a simple ad would have been better. And sometimes, an advertisement can be more useful for the users. For most of the developers Free of cost software is a matter of ego satiation rather than satisfying a social cause. Free software (as in beer) borders on communism and it may not be viable for the industry.
Prefer Low Cost instead of Gratis
While Free Software (as in speech) is a good idea, the $0 cost would decimate the software industry. What is more dangerous is the bundling of Source Code along with that free of cost software. While I am not a huge fan of Patents, this dangerous combo of bundling source code along with free of cost software would slowly poison the entire software industry. This in turn would affect all of us – the developers. Creation of software involves a huge effort and such effort needs to be rewarded. Most of the times, university students develop such software in an attempt to make themselves famous. In such attempt, they don’t realize the harm they are causing. Why not charge something small – Say $20 for the software and an extra $20 for the source code ? I guess that would be a great income source to such students who could use a portion of this money to fund their own research – thereby helping computing get better. Free of cost Source Code has done more harm than good. Not many are interested in learning or freedom. People would exploit it. They may create an identical source code (not same, but similar) and thereby the software – add a couple more features and create a newer commercial product. How does this help the world ?
The corporate ploy
Several huge companies engage in a dirty battle and the visibly loosing side usually engage in tactics such as funding a software project that would be a free of cost alternative to their competitor’s product. People flock to such software not because it offers something better, but purely because it offers itself for free. People tend to cope up even with a reduced functionality / experience. This way, the competitor’s business is potentially damaged. It is ironic that most developer’s working in organizations like Canonical are paid quite well for their Ubuntu releases. The funding comes from various corporates who otherwise make money creating software and services that comes for a price. The reason being that it could threaten a competitor’s Operating System. I guess this sort of deals warrant a serious legal scrutiny.
Corporate Greed and over pricing is more evil than free software. Look at Apple. But Free of cost software is pretty evil too. Enterprise grade free of cost software is the worst that could ever happen to our industry. When none of the consumables – not even food, clothing and shelter – are free, in what way a free software would benefit a common man ? It would only make the developer community extinct – in the years to come.