I attended a seminar on ”Business and Sustainability Models around Free and Open Source Software” a couple of weeks ago run by OSS watch, who are an advisory service on open source and free software to the UK higher and further education establishment.

It was targeted mainly at academics (not unsurprisingly), who had ideas of creating software and were trying to decide the best way of releasing it- closed or open source.  It started with a really useful run-down of the various open source licenses, followed by an explanation of some of the legal issues. The afternoon was given up to case studies of open source software, ranging from a one-man band with a product that addresses a niche within his particular discipline, to a representative from Symbian about their foundation and it’s plans to open source development for that mobile phone platform.

Then, last week as I was preparing my talk to the British Computing Society, Paul Ramsey posted a really thoughtful (and incredibly useful) piece on the Open Source business support model, particularly relating to open source geospatial software.

I found both the workshop and Paul’s post really useful. They provided examples of the different types of business models for open source that are out there, and evidence to demonstrate that such a crazy thing as a business model based on something free really does work, and that lots of people are thinking about it. When I stood up at the BCS and talked about these things, this was all very reassuring!