A few weeks ago, we launched a program called Code Sniper. The goal was to accelerate development of open source code from the community, giving a cash incentive (1,000 to 3,000 dollars). Last week we launched Phone Sniper. The goal here is to formalize the unbelievable amount of input we get every day about phones working with our platform and the development of "Synclets", small pieces of code that make a particular phone (with a certain firmware version, on a specific carrier on the planet) work with Funambol. If you do it and share it, we pay you 25 dollars.
Now the question: wait, are you giving them cash??? Isn't this open source, where everybody works for free, you love each other and just want to topple Micro$oft because it is evil?
Yes, this is open source. The source is open. Everybody benefits from it. We love each other because of this.
Nope, not everybody works for free. Some need food on the table for their kids. And we do not care about Microsoft, we are just building the best platform possible for mobile. Actually, we would love to work with Microsoft (although they might not like our open standard approach, because they might actually trying to be the evil empire afterall...)
With our honest dual licensing approach, we are not upselling to our community. We are building the best platform possible, together. The community is us. Many make money bundling the solution and giving it to their customers, with the professional services around it. Some do not, they are single individuals just helping for the sake of it. Funambol though keeps making money with the Carrier Edition, selling it to mobile operators. Our customers are giving us cash (not Playstations). Why should we keep it all for ourselves or give the community yet-another-gadget?
Therefore, yes, we are giving them cash. There is nothing evil in that. It helps us making cash. Some comes back. The software improves even more. We make more cash. More comes back. Is that simple. There is nothing dirty in cash. Cash is great.
And, by the way, it works phenomenally. Code Sniper attracted developers now building a Google Calendar and Address Book connector, a Yahoo one, a Symbian one, a DB4O integration and so on. Phone Sniper got to 50 phones in two days. Good luck to any proprietary company trying to do this. Open source rules.
In case you are interested to hear more, I wrote about Balancing Open Source and Commerce in the Enterprise Open Source Magazine which is out this week (I believe). It is a long article, I warn you. But it might give you the entire story of the tight-rope walk in a single piece. So you could stop follow my blog and save some time ;-)