Some time ago, I read an article about how the Paris, FR police dept. had saved about 50 million euros in five years time by utilizing open source software. It is a perfect example of how open source has aided organizations in saving money. However, think of how long it has taken to get to this point. Paris would never have even thought about doing open source 15 years ago. It would have been too great of a risk and probably would have cost more money to fix the issues that it would have caused. I am a big fan of open source software–especially that which has been tested and tried. The programs written for open source are sometimes less prone to the issues accompanying other software solutions. But, as I feel it necessary to play the devil’s advocate, it may be prudent to talk about some of the issues of open source software in this specific industry.
In the digital signage realm, there are currently several digital signage software platforms I know of who are running or who can run their software on an open source operating system such as Linux. The enterprise versions I am aware of are all very good and–like most mature industries–the only real difference in the software is price. Barring functionality and price, I think the only real difference then is the company backing the software they sell. That includes support, engineering, sales, etc. And, since I am less aware of the management structure of so many software competitors in the industry, it would be erroneous to assume (because you know what that makes) what is going on there. Conclusively, the platforms present will become less solid, if development continues, and those
With only slight differences in functionality present, especially as time rolls on, it will be much easier to see open source come into it’s own. There are some efforts out there to make a free and completely open source version of digital signage software that could be used for commercial purposes, but it’s not there quite yet.
What will it take to get open source digital signage for free? The quick answer is time. Time heals all wounds and allows for the much needed testing to make sure the software doesn’t go bunk in the field of battle. I know of several digital sign companies who didn’t spend enough time investigating the software they purchased and are now paying the price of a “clunky” system. They purchased a “name” (not to mention any names:) not a solid product. Now they are reaping the consequences of not doing their homework on the front end of things.
Getting what you want either takes time, luck, and/or money. Or, in many cases, obtaining what you desire takes some combination of all three. If you want something robust right now, you still have to pay for it, even if the margins may be lower than they have been in years. Some time ago I wrote about free digital signage, how we get there, and how it can support itself. Before we completely make the “free” transition where software will be given away like candy on Halloween–of necessity–a few things which need to first occur.
1. Open source software–specifically for digital signage needs to move forward with drastic improvements.
2. Digital signage must reach the mainstream. The products of the digital signage marketplace will need to become more widely known and recognized.
3. Competition will naturally force prices to zero anyway.
4. The market must mature. Market maturity has not yet taken place. When that happens some companies will exit, leaving software to be purchased for a song.
There are still many directions digital signage can go in relation to open source. Wherever the industry stands on price, functionality, and platform–in a general sweeping view–in ten years is anybody’s guess. As for me, I prefer to stick to what works for the time being and let the testers to their testing before running after something that may be cantankerous and clunky.