April 17, 2006, 7:31 PM — Listen to the column "Licensing Lamentations".
I'm hearing from more and more companies grumbling about their licensing issues. Microsoft's policies get the most complaints, but other software vendors have bizarre licensing terms and "cheat the customer" EULAs (End User License Agreements). This situation makes some companies eye Open Source alternatives with increasing interest.
Remember the noise back in 2001 when Microsoft announced their new Volume Licensing programs and promised to save you money? The majority of companies report they've lost money, and that doesn't include the time wasted by two or three employees tracking licensing issues full time. And if your Microsoft rep doesn't slam you, a disgruntled employee can squeal to the BSA (Business Software Alliance). Those guys love finding medium sized companies willing to fork over $100,000 or so in extortion money rather than call lawyers and try to prove they comply with all the various bizarre product licensing permutations.
Hello, Open Source. Licensing costs for OpenOffice 2.0, a worthy competitor to Microsoft Office? Zero. Need a thin client OS? Try any Linux distribution for a maximum $50 per desktop, or have one of your programmers take the source code and compile your own company OS for effectively free. I guarantee your developers will spend less time tweaking the OS than your license team spends tracking certificates and EULAs.
Most applications have at least one alternative option on SourceForge.net, the Open Source software development Web site. With over 100,000 active projects, something will solve your application problem. If not, start your own project and create or improve a product. Wouldn't you love to improve some of the software crap you're forced to pay big money for today? Now's your chance to make the software world a better place.
Over 25 million people have downloaded VirtualDub, an Open Source video capture and processing application. Over 10 million, including me, have downloaded Audacity, an outstanding audio file editor. If you like how SourceForge works for distributed development teams, you can order the Enterprise Edition from VA Software.
Corporate life hassles you enough. Why add extra hassle in the form of licensing complications for your software? Aren't the bugs, security holes, and slow updates punishment enough?
License terms are negotiable when you have options. Even Microsoft makes deals when customers have alternatives, and seriously consider switching. Try it, and you'll win either way.