I left a comment on a “blog entry about Apple’s new Aperture software”:http://www.sauria.com/blog/computers/operating_systems/macosx/1405 that got me thinking about the whole issue of product line segmentation and how it applies to open source software.
“Aperture”:http://www.apple.com/aperture is a new photo management and manipulation software package from Apple aimed at professional users. It runs $495. That’s probably not a lot of money for a pro photographer if it can save them 20-30 minutes a day, but it’s a bit of change for an amature who might also have his eye on a nice new wide angle lense. Of course, Apple offers iPhoto as part of the iLife suite for $99. In the past, there might be a chance that Apple would add some features to iPhoto that might address the needs of ambitious amatures on a budget. Now though, they have to worry about blurring the product segmentation between iPhoto and Aperture and eating into Aperture revenue.
Open source software doesn’t generally have these issues. A developer might still want to avoid throwing every possible feature into a piece of open source software for usability or quality control reasons, but they don’t have to worry about protecting profits on a higher-priced version of the software.
This can be a huge boon to the user. A debian linux user doesn’t have to worry about which of the “half million versions of Microsoft Windows Vista”:http://www.geekfun.com/2005/09/14/microsoft-seeks-to-maximize-profits-by-confusing-users/ they need to buy to get the features they want without spending money that might better go elsewhere. An IT manager or software developer using PostgresSQL or mySQL doesn’t have to worry that the particular feature of Oracle or Microsoft SQL server they are thinking of using to save a couple days of dev time might force them into a different licensing tier that might cost them tens of thousand dollars a year in extra license fees.