Going Open Source: A Case Study
David Temkin, Chief Technology Officer, Laszlo Systems
Track: Emerging Topics
Date: Thursday, August 4th, 2005
Time: 1:45pm - 2:30pm
In this session, David Temkin, Laszlo Systems CTO and founder, describes the process and decisions that led the company to open-source its core product in October 2004. From its inception in 2000 until then, Laszlo had been in the business of licensing commercial, closed-source software for rich Internet applications.
As a venture capital-backed software company with two rounds of investment behind it, Laszlo's technical and management teams went through a deliberative process which was partially a reaction to a changing market, and partly an initiative to change the rules in the Rich Internet Applications market to its advantage.
Temkin will discuss this process, addressing the following issues:
- What were the market dynamics that enabled Laszlo's change to open source? Why did the company consider the move in the first place?
- What parts of Laszlo's product were to be made open source? Should any remain proprietary?
- What open source license to use? How does that relate to the business model?
- Implications for investors and effect on company's overall value. What is the climate for investment in open source-based ventures? How do investors who are accustomed to high-margin software licensing businesses react to open source, service-dependent businesses?
- What kind of business model should supplement the open source model? Services? Commercial add-ons? Commercial applications?
- Implications of making a non-commodity/cutting-edge product in early stages of adoption open source; implications of open-sourcing a product focused on user interface, which is not traditionally a strong area in the open source world
- Other legal concerns. What did we have to go through in order to get comfortable with releasing the code?
- Transitioning from closed development to open source development processes. What have been the issues here?
- Laszlo's management is experienced in marketing and selling commercial software. The company's leadership has its roots are in commercial software, not open source. Often the workings of open source conflict with traditional marketing, sales and public relations techniques. Where are the pitfalls, and how has the company navigated these areas?
- Reaction. What kind of reaction has Laszlo received from customers, press, developers, and users? How did this compare to what the company expected?
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