But that's not the only perspective.
From the "vendor" point of view, there is always opportunity. Take what we wrote about SugarCRM. They are putting a price tag on software they call "commercial open source."
But if you don't like their terms, conditions, or pricing, it turns out you can get the same stuff from iRadeon, for less. As a spokeswoman wrote me yesterday:
What iRadeon does is take SugarCRM's free pure open source product and packages it with security, management and support
(basically making it the equivalent of Sugar's own enterprise-class product) and sells at a fraction of the cost of Sugar. iRadeon's CRM plans start as low as $75 per month for nine users. [Note on the correction: iRadeon's PR spokesperson said she mispoke regarding comparisons of iRadeon's forthcoming Sugar Open Source™ CRM version 3.5 distribution to SugarCRM's Enterprise product. iRadeon has tailored their services specifically to small- and medium-size business.]
When you see proprietary software you have some control over pricing. When your source is open, someone else can take what you have and repackage it for less.
The question remains, however. Are all these offerings compatible? Can you switch among vendors for support? How much on-staff expertise does a small business need to manage this?
The bottom line seems to be there are opportunities here. CRM is mission-critical, even for small businesses. It's a major expense, and can be a major differentiator. If you can save money and gain more control over your system with open source, should you take the risk and take the plunge?
Maybe you should. But it's a bet-the-company decision.