Continuing my brief comments on Free and Open Source software (FOSS)….as customers we buy software because of the competitive advantage it will bring our business. That could be as simple as improving document distribution (an intranet portal) or easing communication (email) to analysing and streamlining customer experience (CRM tools). The problem is that, in general, if I can afford a software product from a vendor my compeditor can also afford the same product. Hence it can’t provide any reasonable competitive advantage, or the competitive advantage is provided by the local customisation rules (the “value add” component).
With FOSS you can install applications and build local cusomisation rules on top of it. Macros in OpenOffice.org are an example of this. However with FOSS you also have the opportunity to build in competitive advantage from the ground up. You can take the original source and modify it for your needs. So to a small to medium size business FOSS provides a way to customise the software, but for larger companies and government FOSS provides an opportunity to build competitive advantage from the ground up.
As a large company you could take control of a Linux distribution and ensure that you only have a major platform change every three years. Or you could choose a continuous update policy. The competitive advantage is that you control the whole platform and use it in a manner that benifits your bottom line.