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Linux Business

Shareware and Unix? 62

Posted by Cliff
from the forgotten-niches dept.
McDoobie asks: "Is there a market for low cost shareware in the Linux/BSD and Unix market in general? Would it be worthwhile to have a small home based business next to ones regular day job producing well made, but small, shareware for an environment that is dominated either by large corporations or Open Source developers? If so, what should a potential developer/publisher focus on to make their products/price range attractive to customers? What type of customers are most likely to look into such software? SOHO? Small Enterprise? Home users? In a nutshell, where should one begin when investigating the potential of the Un*x (and perhaps Apple) environment for the small time developer who's interested in earning a few dollars on the side?"
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Shareware and Unix?

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  • by Xner (96363) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:50AM (#5045873) Homepage
    If you want to actually make money from your programs, I believe it might take quite a large effort. You are going to operate in a world where most software can be had for free. It is rather hard to beat that price.

    Furthermore, people are really used to not paying for software. If you want them to register you'll have to be very annoying about it (risk losing users/customers due to percieved harassment), implement some technological countermeasure (also very irritating, and potentially useless against technologically sophisticated people) or just be nice and hope for the best (with the risk of people not really noticing/caring caring that your application is not BSD/GPL licensed.)

    You best bet is probably giving registered users small benefits and services that others do not. How you would implement this exactly depends on your line of business.
    Just remember not to piss off your userbase with too many nags/copy protections/long serials/spyware etc.

    • You do not have to be annoying about registration/full purchase to avoid losing customers. Add genuine value to your full, registered version. I submit Doom as an example. You get the game engine and the first part of three series of levels. After playing that first level, we were damn hungry for more.

      It's probably easier to do this with a game than it is for some sort of productivity app, but my gut tells me that there's plenty of niches for Unix platforms. Tax preparation software comes to mind, especially in light of recent events. Was it Quicken that tried to coerce folks to upgrade by not provided tax tables?

      Every few months someone asks on Slashdot where they can find a good 3D modeller. There's Blender [blender.org] among others. It'd be interesting to see someone could take Blender, build a service or development company around it, and sell a brand of it much like Redhat does with Linux. Redhat is still in business right?

      Yes, we Linux, BSD, etc. folks are used to not paying for software. But look at it this way. How many of us Linux nerds have a Windows partition handy for gaming? And we're buying those games (and burning a copy here or there).

      Shareware for Unix can be done:

      1) Develop a righteous product. Nobody gives a hoot about poorly designed software, free or retail. If what you want to produce and offer isn't good and appealing to folks, if it isn't exciting, don't bother.

      2) Perish the thought of nagware. Nothing shaves down your user base like nags.

      3) Above all else, empower your user. Sounds stupid, but software companies have walked away from this basic principle. Software is supposed to give users the ability to accomplish something they otherwise could not, not tithe in the name of the shareware gods.

      Go for it! Shareware software won't make inroads on Unix platforms unless somebody shows up to do it.

    • Just remember not to piss off your userbase with too many nags/copy protections/long serials/spyware etc.

      There's the key. Analogy:

      "Hey, I'm John"
      "Charlotte"
      "Can I buy you a drink?"
      "Sure."
      "If I do, will I get to shag you?"
      "Uhm.. So, what do you do?"
      "I'm an accountant. Can I do you now?"
      "Really.. ehh.. Any hobbies?"
      "I'll show you my stamp collection if I can do you."

      A bit more seriously though, nagging makes me feel like the company's just trying to screw me over rather than making my life easier for a small fee. And I won't even get started on spyware. Just remind me, occationally, that I can get new and nifty features if I register.

  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WasterDave (20047) <davep@NOsPAm.zedkep.com> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:53AM (#5045879)
    Basically, no. There was something on here a couple'o'months back about ... ahhh ... some text editor or something, can't remember. Anyway, the point is that the author had sold 'n' thousand copies for the mac, ported it to Linux and sold something like four copies.

    So, quality shareware for Linux? F*ck that.

    Commercial, expensive server software may have a market. Particularly if it enables interoperability with Windows (-1 Unfashionable).

    Mac OSX? Now that's a different question. Here we have a target market that we *know* pays for things, otherwise they wouldn't have macs. The big danger is that whatever you write will be released at macworld as iWhatever three days before you release it and the market will be dead. Witness OmniWeb and Safari -> owned. Imagine making photo editing software for the mac now. Or an MP3 player. Or some presentation software. Or an email client. Or calendaring. You get my drift?

    Shareware for Linux? Do get a grip :)

    Dave
    • Re:No (Score:3, Insightful)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      The program was Pepper (now available [slacksolutions.com] again).

      I know there used to be a common shareware X image viewer (common, as in installed by Red Hat 4), which was distributed as source code.

      The problem is, people don't like paying for things, especially if they can get something for free. And this is especially free on slashdot, where people claim to want "free as in speech" but take "free as in gnutella". Everytime music swapping/file sharing is mentioned on slashdot, most people justify under various excuses (RIAA sucks! The artist only gets $0.50 per CD anyhow, so it's ok! My CD collection was stolen! Information wants to be free!). And not registering for shareware doesn't require any effort!

      Shareware needs a large user base to overcome the freeloaders, something linux doesn't have (The macintosh user base may or may not be smaller, but they have an entirely different, no FREE, culture).

      • Re:No (Score:2, Insightful)

        by BJH (11355)
        I know there used to be a common shareware X image viewer (common, as in installed by Red Hat 4), which was distributed as source code.

        That would be xv. Slackware distributed it until at least version 7, and maybe they still do.
        I've yet to meet anyone who's registered it, though...
        • by Scaba (183684)
          That would be xv. Slackware distributed it until at least version 7, and maybe they still do. I've yet to meet anyone who's registered it, though...

          It's still there as late as Slackware 9 beta. I have no statistics on registrations, other than I won't be registering it (or probably ever using it)...

          • Plus what does it do that xli (aka xview) doesn't? And does anyone use xv for these extra things.
        • If you'd have read the license agreement, you'd have found that xv only needs to be registered for corporate use. Private use is free of charge.
      • by stevey (64018)
        I know there used to be a common shareware X image viewer (common, as in installed by Red Hat 4), which was distributed as source code.

        That would be the 'xv' program - it was good in it's day, but now it's completely succeeded by qiv, the gimp, and ImageMagick, etc.

    • he didn't make money on porting a text editor to linux. really? i'm shocked. there are just so few text editors on linux, that's just a huge market waiting to be exploited there.

      ok, for the sarcasm impaired, here's a list of linux text editors off the top of my head:

      ed, vi (nvi, elvis, vim), emacs, joe, jed, xedit, gedit, microemacs, pico, nano... and there are likely hundreds of others.
  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:53AM (#5045882)
    Support may cease anytime, and continued development is uncertain. With Free Software you can pay someone to fix problems when the original developer is gone. With shareware, you are screwed.
    • by cioxx (456323)
      I wonder if there is a specific licensing term in existence stating:
      "This is a commercial application and will continue to be so as long as company is committed to developing and distributing it based on market demand, but in the event when software no longer supported and deemed as abandonware, full source will be released under GPL/GNU/LGPL/Whatever to give previous software owners/OSS crowd the option of making it un-obsolite"


      This will basically safeguard the customers/users from being milked by companies, tied to software, then be left in the dust at the EOL.

      Just a thought. Wouldn't it be great if many windows-based apps had that going? (or maybe there is such a uniform clause in license agreements I'm not aware of).
      • by Xner (96363)
        "This is a commercial application and will continue to be so as long as company is committed to developing and distributing it based on market demand, but in the event when software no longer supported and deemed as abandonware, full source will be released under GPL/GNU/LGPL/Whatever to give previous software owners/OSS crowd the option of making it un-obsolite"

        The intention is honorable, but the wording could be clearer. For instance, who decides whether the company is committed enough? Or whether it's meeting demand? When it's insupported? Who deems it ``abandonware''?

        Personally, I think much could be gained by using concrete and verifiable criteria, such as "at least a major/minor/mainenance release in a twelve month period" or "the company's website being unavailable for a period of 30 consecutive days".
        Just be careful, because weaseling out of such an agreement will not be quite as easy as it would be with a more abstract one.

        • The intention is honorable, but the wording could be clearer.

          Agreed. I'm not a professional fine print writer. Those "Terms of Use" papers are really tricky to write. Hopefully you got the general idea I was trying to convey ;)
          For instance, who decides whether the company is committed enough?

          It would state in the License Agreement. We all know that EULA is a legally binding document. Same thing could have been said about LGPL. But it worked out ok.

          Or whether it's meeting demand? When it's insupported? Who deems it ``abandonware''?

          This is the point where it gets complicated.

          One way of doing this would be to create an independent international entity much like W3C or ICANN, and the terms could be negotiated between the vendor and the board (i.e. a certain quota of the software title should be met fiscally to justify the source protection). You can't just sell 5 licenses per year and say the project is successful.

          The "Open Source upon End of Cycle" selling point would be a huge feature for people to make the decision whether to invest into product A over B. Unfortunately, less than 1% of the end users really would pick that feature over others, such as a "cute" GUI. So in turn, ignorance of the vast majority hurts us all in the long run.

          But then again, this is a shot in the dark, simply because software industry is a lawless wasteland.

          Lemon laws do not apply to this sector for some reason. You can't hold XYZ company accountable for discontinuing XX application development. If the laws were in place, the vendor could not fuck the paying customers over with canning the project and moving on.

          Small example. Suppose you are a web developer and maintain all your site information in Macromedia's own DreamweaverMX proprietary format. Sitemaps, reports, custom scripts, DWMX-exclusive server controls, et al. Suddenly, Macromedia decides to pull Dreamweaver off the shelves and close support/development. In a perfect world you could sue them for the cost of conversion of all your files, lost productivity time, etc. But unfortunatly software sector somehow defies the normal rules which are common in any democracy. The laws (if there are any) are inacted upon counter-intuitive logic, which end up hurting the innovation. I'm probably getting way offtopic here, but sure, I do agree on your points more or less.
      • The BitKeeper license has a clause to that effect, IIRC.
  • small market. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    small market but it's there. You just have to provide a semi unique piece of software. I registered MpegTV(mpegtv.com) many years ago as it was the best VCD and MPEG-1 player I could find. Even today I use it to rip my VCD tracks to MPEG files(the other tools screw them up for some reason). I also registered the commercial version of OSS a couple years ago for a particular kind of soundcard(Forgot which). I also registered opera. I don't know if any of them qualify as technically shareware but the general idea seems to be shareware to me(demo/trial free, purchase full version). Your probably not going to make much cash of yet another file manager, or yet another media player, gotta find something new..
  • What about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyoSaeba (627522) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @06:39AM (#5045946) Journal
    a kind of 'service' company, instead ?
    As pointed out, shareware on a free os doesn't sound that great. On the other hand, wouldn't people be ready to pay a small fee for having their database / browser / random application correctly installed & configured ?
    Using SSH/Telnet, you can easily hop over that person's box, and do stuff directly. Of course that requires some trust between you & the user, since you'd prolly be able to trash the whole system ^_^

    Another suggestion which comes to mind: develop software on-demand, and release the source as Open Source. Like, someone says 'ok, i need a small app that does this thingy, can't find it. i pay you some price, you make it, and release sources under an Open Source license.'
    This has the advantage to ensure you do software which'll actually be used (even if by only one user !), and people will less likely be afraid of the 'company goes boum, source lost, money lost' scenario, since sources will be available...

    Just me 2 cents of euro...
    • Actually, instead of paying someone to install a pos browser, I'd pay $100 for a stable browser/email client. I'd pay for a nice video editing env, a compiler/profiler/debugger suite. The installation should be easy with good software.

      I wont pay for crap software, but I will pay for robust good software. I purchased VMWare and am extrememly happy with it. VMWare is easy to install and use. I don't need any service help with it. I also purchased w2k to run on top of that, which is a bit more of a strain on my meager brain.

      I am unhappy with Mozilla crashing, encredibly complex video editing, features of gcc/gdb/gprof failing to work.

      I prefer the shareware model, because I don't trust any software vendor anymore. I have to test the software before I give you any money.

      Joe
    • Re:What about... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tchuladdiass (174342)
      As to your second idea, I had an idea back a while ago about combining the likes of SourceForge with something like RentAcoder. The basic idea is to provide a site for half-finished open source projects. Customers can then submit sujested to-do items. Multiple customers would then pledge money for completion of those todo's. Once there is enough money pledged for a particular feature, that would then draw an open-source programmer to complete that item, and the completed code and pledge money would then be collected into an escrow account, and appropriatly distributed once all work is completed. Then the code would become gpl'd (or whatever the original project's license was).
      Of course, there would be problems with either people pledging money and not paying up, or not being satisfied with the resulting code, in which case they would be inclined to withdraw their pledge. So, the programmer would have to agree to complete the code in exchange for say 80% of pledges to be collected. Other details, of course, would have to be worked out, but in general, it would function similar to Elance.com, or rentacoder.com, with the variation that multiple customers are putting up money, and the resultant code would then be made gpl'd...
  • donate here (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Here's what I'd do (if I was in your position and not employed by a company that wouldn't like me doing something like this). Seriously:

    Construct a well-designed web site to support your software, and slap a "give me money" donation button on it from amazon, c2it, etc on it. (Not paypal coz they're bad). Cheap, good website hosting can be had for around $10 a month, getting more expensive as your site uses more bandwidth (asking them to set transfer caps can be good to stop racking up $$ charges $$ if your site is wildy popular by accident but nobody donates). See webhostingtalk.com for some opinions. Of course then there's sourceforge, etc.

    The software should almost sell itself. If the program, documentation, code and support you provide are a seamless, efficient, useful mechanism for people to get work done - you'll get donations. Maybe not too many, but perhaps it'll be enough to pay for the site hosting and buy a couple of new music CD's a month. Give your users code so they can be assured new versions of the application cannot be denied them by you.

    Nobody likes nag-ware. However - put a (not overly offensive) "Please Donate!" at the top of the documentation, then perhaps pop up a dialog when the program is started after it's been installed for a week (critical point - clearly give the user a checkbox to *never* see that dialog ever again, even if they don't donate).

    Hopefully a few will think "This software's great! Maybe I should give them a couple of $'s." If they don't want to give you money they might recommend the software to a friend, expanding your user base. If only 1% of your users ever donate the trick will be to get lots of users.

    That's what I'd do. Am I on crack? Comments?
  • Patented Algorithms (Score:3, Interesting)

    by turgid (580780) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @06:45AM (#5045957) Journal
    Maybe shareware on Linux would be a way to distribute relatively inexpensive niche programs that use patented algorithms, such as wavelet encoding for image compression. Because money is involved, the patent could be used and paid for legitimately. Obviously this doesn't help the fight against software patents...
  • Forget about utilities, the are so well covered with free and commercial solutions that squeezing in shareware would be rather difficult. If this is to be attempted, focus should be on previous windows users used to simple point & click software.

    However, for games there is no commercial market. Maybe a shareware segment could fit in here. I would love seeing some of the PC shareware games ported to unix.

  • Depends on the niche (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sam Lowry (254040) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @08:11AM (#5046136)
    Your software should be unique, irreplaceable and of a very good quality. It should also occupy a specific niche unreacheable for large corporations.

    Example: Vuescan [hamrick.com]
    • The last part may be easier than you think these days. A lot of software companies have struck camp and left SOHO and small business behind in search of the big fish and fatter contracts. For example, UnityMail used to be developed by a company called MessageMedia. Good company, good support, good product, and fair price. Enter Doubleclick who buys out MessageMedia and assumes control of UnityMail.

      You want a one year support license for your installation of UnityMail? $7000. Hey, you or I could write a replacement in three months for free and sell it and support contracts to everybody that Doubleclick left behind for a fraction of that. Think about it. There are a wealth of opportunities like this...

    • The wonders of /., finding things you have been looking for while reading about a somewhat unrelated topic. Thanks for the link to Vuescan, I have finally been able to use my scanner in Linux. Granted now I have to come up with $40 US to pay to get rid of the $40 watermark. But I figure a working scanner is better than a dust collector.
    • Your software should be unique, irreplaceable and of a very good quality. It should also occupy a specific niche unreacheable for large corporations.
      Another example is Arkeia [arkeia.com] which in addition to your criteria, also requires tons of quality assurance. It's an enterprise backup software solution, so they have labs with all mainstream backup hardware to test it on. That's expensive and difficult. And they have a VAR program with excellent members.

      So basically they came from the other direction, coming from the high end and reaching down. They're producing a major high quality app that would traditionally be relegated to being produced by enterprise for enterprise, which does rival the enterprise competition in quality and support, but also porting it to most OS's and releasing a time-unlimited shareware version. They also open sourced an ANSI C version of the most basic 'tar'-like version of their software for emergencies and for future-proofing. That ANSI C client is prepended to each tape so that you can retrieve it in an emergency with a bare OS and 'dd'. It rules.

  • Sad.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aknaton (528294) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @08:32AM (#5046204)
    I think that it will be hard to do. The free-Unix crowd is used to having their cake for free and even if you came up with something unique, some developer would probably create a free clone of it.

    Since you mentioned MacOS X, I would suggest developing for them as your primary audience. Offer a version for Unixes as well, provided you can do so without killing yourself, as paying users on those platforms will probably be few.

  • The only thing that could work:

    Develop for the corporate market, but make pretty
    sure that it can't be used in a commercial environment licensewise, and allow a no-nonsense
    license on registration.

    Distribute with source (take piracy for granted, therefore the corporate market as target), support only
    1) registered users
    2) people that have something interesting (new features/ bug fix).

  • I've had much fun playing the excellent role-playing game Exile III from Spiderweb Software.

    This is available as shareware on Linux Mac and Windows, you can play the first 20% of the game for free, only if you register can you play the rest. Registration is quick and reasonably priced.

    I have a hard time imagining that they are getting really rich by this arrangement though, but perhaps some money is trickling in ? I suppose I'm not the *only* person sending them cash :-)

    • I ran a BBS for years and we had this amazing Door (external program - usually a game ) call LORD for Legends of the Red Dragon.

      One of the most perfectly designed games I have ever seen, you could get to level 6 of twelve before it demanded to be registered. I heard the writer got 30,000 registrations - at $20 US per that's 600 grand from a computer program. Not bad.

      FAQ at http://www.3dham.com/online.html

      • Yep, I remember LORD. I ran this on RA and, yes, I registered the thing, too. It was very, very popular with the users.
    • Just a second for Exile III. Great game, and I registered it.
  • something useful, I'd buy it. But it would have to be better than something that's free.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Everybody wants everything for free.

    Actually, every teenager wants everything for free.

    I've been using and developing Linux for a long time now, right from the start.

    It's a good OS, I love it, and given the right massaging is even good for Granny.

    But the BASTARDS who demand that everything must be free or it's crap really piss me off.
    I'm the guy who openly and freely donates money to any good software I use that accepts donations. Last year I must of spent something like $3000 on "Free" solutions, and would of gladly paid more.

    Why? Because I'm sick of this whole "it must be free" mentality. So much shit won't EVER get ported or developed for Linux in a serious manner because the mentality of the under 20 crowd, the cheap broke as fuck crowd, that demands it all be free.

    Im no old man either, I'm 26. But of all the Linux "it all must free" Zealots I talk to, they are almost all under 20.
    They don't seem to understand why people won't give everything away for free. They don't have to pay any bills living in their mommie's basement begging her for cash.
    Unfortunately, in the real world, it doesnt work out that way.

    I WILL, AND DO, PAY FOR ANY SOFTWARE I FEEL IS HIGH QUALITY. AND I WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO

    Sincerely,
    Anonymous
    Head Developer, [CENSORED] Distro.

  • I've been thinking about productizing software development as part of my private enterprise. Most of the cases ordered from me have fit GPL/BSD style licenses, but i've received payment for the development work by hour.

    I think that most Unix operators require the source and development rights, as well as rights to use the product unlimitedly, with the possible exception of reselling the product as long as the original producer continues offering it. I do. I shy away from restrictive licensing. But you should and can put a price for your own work. The best price you can get for it. That is even RMS-compatible!-)

    Release 0.9 versions of your software, and make an easily usable wish gathering website. Users should be able to come up with fixes and features they want for next stable release, and prices they would pay for the implementation. Then you can decide which ones you implement. You can also pay part of the promised price to anyone else who comes up with an implementation patch, and keep part of it for yourself for organizing the payment system and taking responsibility of the releases.

    One thing that keeps free software from being deployed in many places is the old problem of "who do you sue". You can always offer to take some responsibility of malfunctions for a price. This price you can set yourself, after you've thought through the risks you will be ready to take and writing the support agreement accordingly.

  • That being said, don't let that stop you from producing the software and making a little side money. I've been buying UNIX software for Linux/FreeBSD for a long time, but I always opt the open-source and free route before I step into something like ApplixWare. Still, there are people out there that have unique offerings for UNIX (NcFTP [ncftp.com] springs to mind) which I purchase, both as a home user and a corporate decision maker.

    I have a few apps that I've been collecting together to make a package. My intent with these is not to provide an open-source tool, but rather to provide a low-cost alternative toolkit to commercially available solutions. The two major competitors I'm going after start at $5000 a seat. It was because of their price that I've been forced into writing an alternative. So, I'm going to get paid - but I don't expect that it will be a full-time business, just a separate flow of income. I don't want the overhead of advertising, solicitation, etc.

    On the other hand, I guess I can't really give you the advice one way or the other, since I haven't started selling my wares, yet! Good luck to you.

  • Shareware sucks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Outland Traveller (12138) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @12:00PM (#5047627)
    Since the vast majority Linux development tools are Free and installed by default by many distributions, there's less justification for someone to hack out a craptapular trivial app, closed source, and charge money for it. Most shareware apps are not advanced enough to compete with open source equivalents. If the shareware app is a simple accomplishment, which many are, someone will eventually scratch an itch, make an open source work-alike, and ever-after that open source app will gain the benefit of a wider pool of developers.

    It would make more sense for someone seeking light income to either create a closed source app that is truly above-and-beyond anything currently open source, or to make their app open source and charge money for it under an honor/donation system, or for support, or for automatic updates, or in exchange for additional customization/integration work, or one of the other various schemes others have come up with.

    It's the example MS and other closed-source OS vendors set with the exclusive and expensive licensing of developer tools and developer documentation, that encourages closed-source shareware. Thankfully, Linux is not hampered by these barriers to development.
    • Most shareware apps are not advanced enough to compete with open source equivalents

      This is an excellent point: correct or not, the perception in the Linux community is that shareware tends to be of much lower quality than free software. I know that there is a lot of high-quality shareware out there, but you have to sort through a lot of crap to get it. If you're going to take the time to sort through crap, may as well hunt for a good free piece of software.

      I'm not saying it can't be done, but when xv is the biggest piece of shareware out there for Unix/Linux and most users don't even know it's not free software, you have a massive uphill battle.

      And small programs aren't going to sell like they can for windows--a relatively high proportion of Linux users can hack up small utilities themselves, which means most people can either do so or know someone who can. That means you're looking at at least medium-size projects with uncertain prospects for getting paid for your time, and you don't have the luxury of releasing early and often. The demo is your advertising, if it's not solid you get no sales.

      I'd be far more inclined to go after contract work and works for hire than to try the shareware route.

      Sumner
    • Since the vast majority Linux development tools are Free and installed by default by many distributions, there's less justification for someone to hack out a craptapular trivial app, closed source, and charge money for it.

      unless the license of the free tool say so (no commercial use, etc), otherwise, just because he used some free tool, doesn't mean he is not justified to sell his achievement, which he spent all the time on it, and want make a living on it. it's not unjustified, it's not even unethical: he doesn't stole anything, he doesn't violate anyone. he is just a programmer who sell his work. and it's not his fault that gcc is free.

      BTW: if the app is really craptapular and trivial, nobody will pay for it. so don't bother, it's his business.
      • As strange as it may seem to a simple market interpretation, craptapular and trivial apps do sell under some OS's. One of the reasons may be that the cost of the development tools to make a better app on that OS are much more expensive than shelling out 10-20$ for a poor, but workable solution. There's an effective barrier to entry that acts to keep quality down at the lowest end of the software rung.
  • As it was said many times before me, it is near impossible to make money selling software on linux or bsd systems to people who expect to get it for free, and with the source. However, an effective money-making strategy within the open-source world is making an entrance.

    Not everyone that uses open-source OS's is computer-savvy. They might have an idea of what they are doing but still need help a lot of the time, or they may be in a mission-critical possition where they do not have the time to spend asking questions and waiting for potentially unrelated or unhelpful answers on newsgroups or forums. These are the points that you want to capitalize on.

    Take MySQL for example. The software is very good and very much free. But with all that work put in, where does it pay off? By selling support to corporate users, or customers in need of expert help from the core developers themselves. Packages start at the bottom with an inexpensive installation help package, all the way up to a package with a hefty price tag that will give the buyer unlimited email dialogue with the team, give the team login access to your server to help with administration, and 24/7 telephone support.

    However, most start-ups do not have the resources that have accumulated over time for the MySQL team. The other option, also done by MySQL, is alternate licensing. That is, selling your software under a different, non-free license for a price. For MySQL, buyers of the alternate license can include the database's libraries royalty-free, and not have to worry about their application being inherently GPL-compatible.

    Using the Windows idea of shareware, where authors slap a $10 registration on even the most useless software, will be shot down by the open-source community since users simply will not pay for software outside of something worth the money, such as OSS (Open Sound System). Selling product support and alternate licenses have had success by many different companies, and if done right it can be successful for you.

  • Viewscan [hamrick.com] is low-cost closed source scanning software (not exactly shareware, but almost). It runs on Linux, among others. You should ask the author how many sales he makes under Linux (I just know of one copy sold, the one I bought).

    This looks like good business because with many scanners, Open Source software (SANE) does not work, and scanner manufacturers provide no Linux support. Either you don't scan or you don't use Linux or you use this closed-source program.

  • dont confuse open source with free. I have used MVCSoft's CMP persistance manager ( JAVA, EJB ) and it cost $200 per seat, and you get full documentation and full source, with examples. If you do decide to do unix/linux stuff, this would be an option, or maybe pay xx and get the source.
    personally, I do not think that Linux is in the home yet ( except for 'hobbyists' ). Where you might look is in the small office area or businesses that need specfic software done ( the rent a coder thingy )
    Anyway I think that small PDA apps are the place to go. The palm OS is 'c' like, and the compiler is just gcc (cygwin on windows.) lots fo simple apps go for like $10 and most people have no trouble with spending that kind of money, even to just try out an app.
    by the way, if you dont have a pda, plam has an emulator that you can test your apps with, and if you sign up as a developer, then you can download a rom so that you dont even have to by one.
  • Shareware under Linux? Sure, why not? As a DOS & OS/2 user, I registered tons of the stuff. My BBS software, various transfer protocols, doors, editors, mailers, readers... There was very, very little installed on my system that WASN'T shareware or freeware.

    As a Linux user, there is less need for it simply because computing has come a long way since the early '80s. Back in '83 when I got started, there was barely any software out there period. Common sales line was "I want WordStar & SuperCalc" and the sales guy would put together a computer for you to run it on.

    A lot of what has been done incrementally over the years has been reinvented on Linux. Overall, the amount of software available is boggling. So, what about Shareware? Is there still a need for it?

    Absolutely. I'm a registered user of several licenses of the shareware OSS sound driver for Linux. I've been using it for years. Why? Well, if you don't know, you haven't tried it. Yes, I can compile sound support under Linux. Been there, done that and, frankly, I'd rather spend a few bucks to have installable support that doesn't require even the most basic kernel compile. Just fire up the installer and if you've ordered the right options, 60 seconds later you've got sound.

    Even better? Found a bug and reported it. Less than 48 hours later, OSS sent me a new binary to test. Works like a charm. Open source fixes bugs the fastest? DON'T COUNT ON IT, PEOPLE. In fact, when it comes to bugs, I most often here "fix it yourself if you want it fixed." That's open source mentality. You have the code, so fix it.

    I don't have time. I'd rather pay some bucks and have somebody worry about the nuts'n'bolts for me. OSS is a perfect example of finding a niche market and really capitalizing on it.

    Next PC I build will definitely have a commercial OSS driver installed. And feel free to flame away. I could care less. :o)

    Are you a potential shareware developer? Know a huge amount about audio recording? Intimate with Cakewalk Guitar Tracks Pro and its recording console UI metaphor? Have some time? Want some money?

    BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME.

    Linux, as great as it is, still has some huge holes. I want a Cakewalk GT2/GTPro clone under Linux. Cakewalk isn't interested. There are a bunch of musicians out there, like me, who only boot Windows to use Cakewalk.

    Code it. If it works well, I'll pay, say, $50 for a good GT2 clone. Double the price if you can do a good GTPro clone.
  • Ghostscript [artifex.com] comes to mind; there are two separate licenses: the AFPL license requires a fee and is necessary if you are commerically distributing Ghostscript. If not distributing commerically, you can instead use the standard GPL license. The author [devlinux.org] has done very well for himself using this "dual license" model.

A motion to adjourn is always in order.

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