The author would charge you. The author would hire other contributors, build a team, and your money would support the team. Jolt and espresso beans for everyone!
Around the time I launched this blog, Marc Fleury (above, with his lovely wife Nathalie) had taken this idea to glory, building a team of superstars around JBOSS and promising them all a share of the spoils.
No individual has enough bandwidth to personally deliver support and keep the product growing. Support, in time, has to become a separate function.
The reason is you're now siphoning cash from the development effort. The idea of support in open source is that's a shared pot, for everyone involved in the project, from the coders to the dreamers to the drones in the pit.
If you're taking software free and buying support from elsewhere, the guys who built the program can't eat, unless they find a way to get a rake-off from the support team's revenue. Which isn't going to happen. Or start charging you directly for their code updates, which might.
But take development costs out and support services can become a bargain, or so Credativ hopes.
It is a puzzlement.[poll id=61]