Top Five Open Source Business Models You Never Heard Of

There are numerous ways for open source developers to boost revenue.
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The art of “selling” or generating revenue from open source is a topic of growing importance as open source takes a larger piece of the software business. In the past, open source revenue has largely been associated with services marketed by many top tier Linux companies: Support, middleware solutions, etc.

In contrast, I’ll examine things from a much smaller, more creative perspective. I’ll look at five open source businesses opportunities you have likely never conceived of. Most of these ideas are aimed at people who are not looking to start the next "JBoss," rather, they hope to opt out of the daily rat race with an income that provides a steady stream.

1) Selling Open Source software

Baring potential trademark issues and the possible community backlash of being perceived as overtly taboo, there are some open source applications that can easily be bundled onto a CD, labeled and sold for a reasonable price. When done responsibly, especially locally, you will find that most people are rather receptive to the service of having this all bundled for them. Generally speaking, charging a couple of dollars more than your expense for disc, labels, etc, is not frowned on.

The dark side of this is companies who take advantage of the Internet, and do not follow the Open Office rules by not linking to the whatsoever. Then, to make matter worse, treat the usage of the open source software as if it should be charged as a service.

The kinder, more lucrative approach to doing something like this over the Internet would simply be to clearly link to the website as required by their trademark usage policy explaining that it can be freely downloaded. Then sell access to faster servers for a flat $5 fee.

Why? Because if these guys were smart, they would start off with a beefy dedicated system like CacheFly, thus guaranteeing people wishing to Paypal them a measly $5 for a faster download rate.

Combine this with OpenOffice CDs with a $3 profit after CD creation expenses and you would see a LOT more ethical traffic going their way, in my opinion.

2) Selling open source software how-to videos

If done properly, I could see the sale of clear how-to videos for a variety of open source applications being a smashing success. The biggest challenge preventing this from successful thus far is the total lack of creativity in marketing efforts in this field.

In many cases, endeavors like this are targeting their marketing efforts toward the wrong demographics completely. Taking virtual lessons and putting them in front of people who are competent enough to locate other, potentially free how-to materials on Google, is a complete waste of time. Thus far, this seems to be the only avenue taken by those who have ventured into this arena, which is too bad.

Which applications would do best for such a video series? OpenOffice, GIMP, Blender, Audacity – the list goes on. As a matter of fact, I know people personally who would gleefully spend five dollars for someone to show them how to setup this POP mail account in Thunderbird.

Think I am nuts? Ask anyone who repairs PCs for a living – people pay too much for pretty basic services. You could even go the super-newbie router, creating a dual-video set for successfully migrating to Firefox and Thunderbird. Again, painfully easy for us, but it would save Joe User a LOT of wasted time and money, especially when the easy answer is an automatically-starting video series right from their computer.

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