As a developer I love open source. There are heaps of great applications such as web-servers, frameworks, databases that developers can use and contribute to. But when it comes to most open source software for end-users there are multiple reasons not to love it:
- No innovation. Most open source software for end-users are created from the goal of offering a free and open alternative to established proprietary software.
- Not user friendly and usually with a less attractive GUI. Or in most cases just plain ugly and a pain to use.
- Difficult to obtain, install and update. In some cases even problematic for a developer like me.
- No clear overall strategy when it comes to what the software should do and how everything works. A dictatorship is often beneficial in computing.
- Only developers are involved with open source software. No designers, no accountants, no sales people, no user experience experts.
These negative traits applies to most open source business software as well. And for businesses, as with developers, the benefits of using open source is far greater than for end users, making it even more depressing to see the state of open source business software. Being able to customize and host software can for some businesses be necessary, something that is often not possible with many SaaS offerings or traditional software business applications.
Many open source software boost openness as their primary advantage and
in many cases the only real value to using their software over
proprietary software. I believe most users want software that gets the
task done in a good way. Open source is for most users a plus not a
requirement. For conservative business leaders free open source
alternatives is not even seen as a plus rather that with a big question
“how can it be good if they are giving it away for free?”.
What we need is plug and play open source business applications in the cloud. Some hosting vendors offer plug and play virtual servers with pre made packages for WordPress or Joomla. But what about accounting, CRM or invoice software? Companies (or the loose team of developers in some cases) offering open source software must make it easier to get it up and running in general. But more importantly for us who live in the cloud it should be possible to go to a open source software vendor and very easily install the software on a virtual server such as with Amazon EC2 or Slicehost. Sign up for a VPS and with one click install the wanted open source software package. Maybe even offer smooths upgrades as well as hosting configuration to suit the selected software.
A “cloud edition” is a step in the right direction, but testing it out still is problematic and signup is manual. And I really don’t see the different between a normal open source software offering and a cloud version of that. If I can download and install software it doesn’t really make a difference whether I install it locally or on Amazon EC2.