Forbes.com: Cheapware

September 9 2004

Forbes.com author Daniel Lyons focuses this week on cheap, open source alternatives in the software market.  Oracle vs. MySQL seems to be the most prominent play, but others are discussed as well.
Certainly, the evolution of software is taking place before our collective eyes.  Hosted vs. premises.  Open vs. "proprietary".  Linux vs. traditional operating systems.  In a graphic that appears in the subscriber edition, Lyons sets up a messaging competition between both Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes versus Scalix.  Interesting.
Scalix seems to get a lot of airtime because it is a Linux-based messaging solution, derived from the former HP OpenMail product.  CEO Julie Farris was on a panel with me at LinuxWorld last month on "Linux alternatives for Microsoft Exchange".  But this article prompted me to go take a look at Scalix a wee bit more.  Visiting their website, I find that pricing is never disclosed.  There is no "how to buy" button or e-commerce site.  If you want to download the software for evaluation, you have to fill out a form and be contacted "within two business days".  How does this all fit with the open-source culture?
I eventually found a review of Scalix in one of the magazines that disclosed their pricing model.  US$60 per user.  That's quite similar to Novell's Groupwise pricing and Oracle's Collaboration Suite pricing.  And while Domino Messaging Express retails for US$96, that includes maintenance and support...and IBM offers a competitive tradeup for US$48 (including maintenance and support).  Those are list prices, of course; resellers set final pricing.
Anyway, back to Forbes.

We're just not going to pay license fees for those databases like we used to. We'll download free stuff off the Internet before we do that," Murphy says. "I believe this is the future of computing."
If he's right, the future will be dreadful for software vendors like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. Customers will balk at ever-escalating prices for mainstream products and will opt whenever they can for bargain-basement software based on freely available code such as MySQL or the Linux operating system.
OK, I don't mean to be a skeptic.  Really, and I'm even trying to take my IBM hat off for this.  But there have been open source, or low cost, or basic e-mail, or e-mail/calendar products in the messaging market for years.  I've seen some get traction in the education market, and sometimes in government, and that's about it.  
Link: Forbes.com: Cheapware >

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