However, in the 1990s and early 2000s it became clear that it was indeed possible to build a business that was based upon open source software. A number of different models became popular:
- Many web companies (e.g. Google) made huge profits by using open source software to deliver services.
- Some companies (e.g. RedHat) made money by providing support for open source software
- Other companies (e.g. IBM and Sun) used a mixed model whereby some software was made available for free under an open source license (e.g. eclipse and Java), but other software was sold under a traditional license
Almost all software companies seemed to come to the conclusion that open source played some significant part in their business model. The one exception to this rule was Microsoft, with both Bill Gate and Steve Balmers frequently lecturing on the fact that they saw the open source model as being either unrealistic or even evil and bad for business.
I was very surprised to read an announcement from Microsoft yesterday that they are releasing 20,000 lines of code to the Linux community under a GPL license. It now seems that all major software companies are in agreement that open source sometimes makes sense.