For a country that takes pride in its information technology sector and entrepreneurship in IT and IT-enabled services, the growth of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is still in its primary stages. In Germany or Denmark, it is a thriving movement.

Software professionals who have offered solutions and services based on FOSS over the past decade say the potential consumers’ mindset must change for India to witness such a scenario.

Revenue model

The problem arises in the revenue model: whereas proprietary software price tags the product, in FOSS the software itself is free while vendors provide service and support at a cost. Most small and medium enterprises tend to treat this with undue caution and opt for proprietary software, even if the operational cost ends up being on the higher side.

Not enough providers

Abhas Abhinav, managing director of the Bangalore-based Deeproot Linux, says there simply are not enough service providers for the open source solutions to even appeal to potential clients as an option.

“Most of the time, I am the only one pitching for the software as a service. It is a difficult scenario as there is no choice to make. The clients invariably tend to believe that bundled proprietary software, which may not even have proper service support, is a better option,” he says.

The nine-year-old company, which has 25 developers, offers a free-to-download mail server, DeepOfix, on its website www.deeprootlinux.com. More than 15,000 Internet downloads are clocked for the software every month.

“Awareness is the need of the hour,” Mr. Abhinav adds. “People need to view software as a service and not as a bundled commodity.”

Sreekanth S. Ramaseshiah, CEO of Mahiti Infotech Pvt. Ltd, another Bangalore-based service provider who extensively uses FOSS solutions, says the users sometimes do not understand the true spirit of the ‘open source’ movement.

“Those who use the open source code are not very forthcoming to share their updated code back with the community. This goes against the grain of the open source movement. The users think by retaining the code they hold an edge over the competition,” Mr. Ramaseshiah says.

In the end, it all boils down to awareness. S. Bharathi, co-ordinator for Indian Linux User Group (ILUG), Chennai chapter, says the existence of alternative solutions needs to be popularised among students if the FOSS movement is to catch up. “Awareness can even pressure software vendors to port their products for Linux environment,” he says, explaining how the country’s leading accounting software Tally has started porting for Linux.

On Saturday, the ILUG, Chennai chapter, and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing organised a seminar and exposition at the Birla Planetarium in Chennai on FOSS and its day-to-day applications, coinciding with the “Software Freedom Day.”

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