Will profit kill open source?

I just listened to this well thought-out presentation by Kim Polese of SpikeSource talking about what her company does, which is to put a smart IT-management layer atop open source components and I walk away with a couple of thoughts:

  • Very cool idea.
  • What will OSS developers who are doing this for free start feeling when they see SpikeSource start earning money on the free code they wrote?
  • How long will important software continue to be free once somebody is sitting on top of it and making money?

This will be interesting to watch. If the OSS community was based on all the developers doing it for free and being broke all as a group, then the insertion of profit taking might spoil the soup for all.

If, however, OSS was built on the faith that “code it and we’ll figure out how to make money one day” and if SpikeSource can figure out a way to help all those volunteer developers, there could be something huge here.