Friday, December 14, 2007

Start Ups and Free/Open Source Technology

I am starting my first tech blog [hoping more will follow] . The topic i choose is Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) not only because its what i work on but it is something that can cause a revolution if isn't already.

What revolution am i talking about ?
The same revolution that enables Computers become personal [PC] and available to all, or the Interne t which allows access to whole load of data stored anywhere around the world. All this is a cliché but nonetheless true.
Such is the potential of FOSS. In my opinions, Start-ups and/or SME (Small/Medium Enterprises) are the ones which can/will exploit FOSS in many ways.

One of the biggest hurdles start-ups can face is investing a lot of money in buying licensed copies of Propretiary Closed Source Non-free Softwares like Windows/Office or some SQL database like Oracle.This may or maynot directly even help product development.
It is easily possible to use open-source alternatives which are freely available and can give equal if not greater quality of software.
This is very important. People may think free/open software may mean less-than-standard software. That is not at all the case.
Fedora/Ubuntu Linux Distributions have matured over the years and have become very stable. OpenOffice can provide great office productivity. MySQL is very good competitor to any SQL solution available.
These are just few examples. There are many such solutions available.

Another Issue is Development Tools . IDE's like Visual Studio again cost a lot.Linux comes with a default compiler for C/C++.
Development Tools for technologies involving langauges like Python, Perl, PHP, AJAX etc are freely available on Linux. Hence building applications using these technologies as simple as it is in Windows.Also programmers for above mentioned can easily migrate from Windows to Linux.
As Initial investment comes down, lot of businesses/ideas can actually see the light.

The latest buzzword in the industry these days is Web2.0 . A lot of start-ups rushing to provide their services. And Obviously Open Source solutions are present here as well .Linux, Apache, MySQL, Ruby on Rails, Python, Django, PHP, and AJAX. You just have to name it.
Start ups like YouTube (now owned by Google), Facebook, Mugshot (a venture by Red Hat), Twitter, Stumble Upon, Reddit, Digg, LinkedIn, Dopplr, Tabblo, Pownce are all major users of Open Source Technology.

Another area that is largely benefitting is embedded devices. Linux is easily portable to the ARM architecture[which is predominantly used for embeddedded devices]. There can be cheaper handheld devices as the cost of Operating System will be negligible. Openmoko is one such example. Also Google introduced the Open-Source Android Platform which will foster development of hundreds of applications.
Unlike Symbian or Microsoft based mobile phones, Linux-based Mobile phones can allow 3rd party applications to run flawlessly.OpenMoko supports the GTK+ Platform which means any GNOME based application can run on it.
Althought business opportunities here maybe restricted; Once 3G networks become a norm, it can surely foster a growth of services for mobile-devices.
Startups in this market can surely leverage FOSS for their advantage

Setting up the internal infrastructure for a startup like setting up IMAP,DHCP,DNS servers, providing home-users access to the network usings VPNs, Securing the network etc is an area costing a lot of dollars. Open Source solutions can bring down not only the initial cost but also the maintenance cost.
What about Desktops/Laptops for developers and other staff ?
One Licensed Version of Windows Vista costs around Rs 10,000/-and assume there are 20 Desktops. You don't need a math genius to figure out where those precious dollars are going.

Last word.

I am surely not criticizing or against propretiary software or the amount of money they charge. Its another business model ,so is FOSS. The point here incase not clear is start-ups can "start" up easily with availability of high quality software at low costs .


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