There is a misconception, that Open Source is free – not so. Open Source refers to the code of a program that is available to other programmers to use and improve on. The program itself may not be free.
Wikipedia describes it as;
Generally, open source refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design.
Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community.
Open source sprouted in the technological community as a response to proprietary software owned by corporations.
Linux is a example of Open Source. Ubuntu is a very popular Linux operating system that has been created using Debian’s Source Code. Mint, another popular Linux Operating System is based on Ubuntu. These operating systems are free but there other Linux systems such as SUSE and Redhat that are not
Microsoft Windows is not open source. They have the right to protect their products from competition (which is normal for business.) So why do some companies and programmers chose to release their work as open source.
Open Source is a community effort – an individual can turn to the community for help when faced with a problem. Software is open released with bugs (no not the crawling type) and the community usually are quick to help solve these. Software that is released for general use, may be adapted for specialised use. An example would be an accounting package adapted for use by hospitals.
Most open source software is given away free and add to that that the source code is given away, how do you make money with open source. The most obvious way is to charge for support and training. Other ways would be to have a paid product for business and free product for individuals (SUSE do this with SUSE Enterprise and OpenSuse).
At this point you are ask how can an open Source Product compete with products made by companies with large teams available ad who have varied skills? Actually, even if an open source product is released by an individual, here is a large community that enjoy sharing (or is it show off) their skills and together that can get things done quickly.
I use open source, the Operating System on my PC is the latest version of Ubuntu (a World class South African Product), I use a variety of Open Source software to do my work and you cannot tell the difference between what I produce and something produced on a PC with Proprietary Software.
It just cost me less.