More Firms Embracing the Use of Open Source Software
Chicago Daily Herald
Original story appeared in the December 27th, 2003 edition of the Chicago Daily Herald.
By S.A. Mawhorr Daily Herald Business Writer
Posted December 27, 2003
It used to be that companies would give away pens or notepads imprinted with their names.
Then you'd know who to call if you needed new a contractor or another supplier and you'd have the phone number handy.
In a sophisticated twist on this humble form of marketing, Vernon Hills-based Web Den Interactive is giving away software
"We don't have $100 million to buy T.V. spots," said JT Smith, director
of technology at Web Den. "But there are millions of people developing,
using and loving open source software."
The idea is that if you decide to download Web Den's software off the
Internet for free and you find it useful, you might come back to them
and pay for services such as customization or training.
True to the open source standard, Web Den doesn't get paid when someone
downloads their software and they'll never really know just who is
downloading it or how many people are using it.
But Web Den isn't worried about getting paid each time its software is
acquired because the company got its money's worth when the program
solved a long standing problem.
Web Den is a subsidiary of Lake Forest-based Brunswick Corp., which was
having trouble exchanging information electronically with the small
dealerships that sell its Sea Ray and Bayliner boats.
So the software engineers wrote code that allows desktop computers at
the dealerships to exchange data with the more sophisticated and older
computer system at Brunswick.
They call it the "business integration engine" and they released it on
the Web because they figure there are plenty of small businesses out
there who'd like to do business with big boys like Brunswick, a Fortune
500 company with $3.7 billion in sales last year, but just don't have
sophisticated enough computers to communicate.
"Suddenly, smaller companies have a chance to get bigger business," Smith said.
Web Den's marketing ploy is just one way the business world is exploiting open source software.
Open source software is available for free on the Web and the most
popular pieces have become mainstays of our cyber landscape such as
Adobe's Acrobat Reader used to read files sent electronically, often as
attachments to e-mail messages.
Not only is open source code available for free, anyone is free to
examine it and offer fixes or upgrades. And true to the open source
standard, there's no compensation for their contributions.
Perhaps the most famous piece of open source code is Linux, an
operating system introduced in 1991 by a Finnish student named Linus
Thousands of developers around the world have added their two cents
worth to Linux and it is becoming increasingly popular because it runs
on a variety of equipment including personal computers, Macintoshes and
Microsoft still dominates the world of the desktop with a 93.8 percent
market share last year, according to IDC, the Framingham, Mass.-based
research firm. But Linux is close to nudging Apple Computer's Mac
operating system out of the No. 2 spot top with a 2.3 percent market
share last year compared to Mac's 2.9 percent.
And Linux has made great inroads in the server market, capturing a 23.1
percent share last year compared to 55.1 percent for Microsoft's
"There is a systematic use of open source software and it is growing,"
said Nikos Strakos, research director for Stamford, Conn.- based
technology research firm Gartner .
Not only are businesses taking advantage of the no-charge contributions
of developers around the world and the no-cost marketing possibilities,
universities and governments in developing countries are increasingly
attracted to the low cost solution to computing needs, Strakos said.
For Brunswick, the open source model is just another way to "plant seeds" outside its traditional business.
Web Den is one of five enterprises in Brunswick's newest venture out of
the gate last year. Brunswick New Technologies' includes five
businesses that represent an effort by the company to serve all the
needs of their partners in the boat business.
The 170 engineers working at the five companies create and supply
everything from Web Den's data exchange program to computers systems
for small business management, engine control and vehicle networking
systems, global positioning systems and marine navigational systems.
"We want to be the Ford of the marine world," said Jay Bahel, chief information officer for New Brunswick Technologies.