The Dollar Sign

by Redhuan D. Oon

Business tendencies always creep into anything that is making a killing. Remember during the dotcom era, when free Internet content is making waves through its first great browser which was Netscape and the search engine Yahoo! Public funding poured in and made those new inventors become billionaires within a short time.

Then came the dotcom crash. Quickly after that crash came another new buzz word – Open Source. Compiere was originally a closed ERP software made open in 1999 by its owner in USA. In 4 years, without any staff other than the two original partners, Compiere became a house-hold name that even i get to hear about it. But in 2006 a venture capital fund bought over the controlling equity of the owning company and started changing the rules of the game. Users were been forced to pay for some levels of usage of the software. The community revolted and under my guidance the ADempiere project was born, taking the free code and rebranding it as another project. This is entirely legal and is protected by the GNU Public Licence stated in the code. However the tendency to try to make money out of code turns to looking not at pure services but crippling the freedom of the code sharing as code from outside hardly makes its way back to the source or some portion of code are only usable if you pay a subscription fee.

But for ADempiere there is no such clause nor condition over its source. It not only integrates large amounts of foreign code (which are compatible with the GPL terms), its community began to grow in spite of not having any corporate headquarters or centralised leadership.

Thus this is an example where Compiere is now known as commercial open source and ADempiere is known as community open source. There is preference by users to choose one over the other. For example La Poste in France chooses Compiere as they need a corporate office neck to choke and ADempiere does not have an offficial representative anywhere, even though it has supporters from all over including France.

Corporate representation looks very spick and span and there is often a pretty receptionist at some office somewhere with the software logo printed and registered as a trade mark. Not so for ADempiere. It remains a very virtually organised and disparate but well spread out empire with lots of noise, but fierce following from the ground.

For one reason there are those who are afraid of information hiding that is characteristic of commercial interests, or they are worried about closing up as happened with some of such projects where after a long term use of the software they are slapped with notices to pay up or remain not compatible in future versions.

So to exercise your freedom to choose, you have to look at your preference. If you want the ability to sue or bring to court someone that you might blame behind a failed ERP job, then you are more able to do so with a commercial open source vendor. Actually even licensed closed software already stated in their license agreement which you signed when you buy their software that they are not liable for any loses incurred in your business when using their software. Even if it is caused by their software it won’t be easy bringing bits and bytes of digital information to court.

Yet many argued that commercial representation is important as in all businesses you have to deal with some facade, or front and not some invisible face or millions of lines of code with no face at all.

My advice will be to take case to case in your choice analysis. In the next article i will focus more on how to choose the right Open Source team and how to negotiate a viable contract with them.

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