I am volunteering with a nonprofit organization that is looking to upgrade their (antiquated) IT system. They have a hodge-podge of old PCs, with no real network. I’m sharing with them my expertise in the field, to ensure that they buy products and services that will meet their needs at reasonable cost. We’ve entertained two presentations so far, one from a Microsoft Certified Partner and one from a GNU/Linux consultant.
Hardware prices already have razor-thin margins, so the cost of the physical servers will be fairly similar. The cost of purchasing Free Software, though, is naught so the GNU/Linux sales price is almost exclusively for the gentleman’s expertise. That makes for a striking difference on that all-important bottom line. Yes, of course, I recognize that the cost of licensing proprietary solutions includes in it the price of expertise for the people who made the product, but the people who made it are rarely the people selling it to you or supporting it for you.
The sales pitch was interesting. I didn’t write down exactly what was said, so I emailed the consultant and asked for a review. Says he:
In the “commercial software model”, customers have very little power, because their options are very limited.
This is what people mean when they talk about Free Software: it’s not the price, it’s the liberty.