I am going to tell a story just to give an understanding of the real value of FOSS in business.
I recently developed an SMS (Short Message Service) daemon for a project at work. The daemon is using the SMPP protocol to send messages. To save time (and money) I used an Open Source SMPP library (from Logica) instead of implementing the protocol myself. I tested it on a dummy SMPP server and everything worked just fine but when I tried it on the real server the daemon started behaving unexpectedly. After spending some time troubleshooting I figured it out. The problem was that the SMPP Server of my provider was sending multiform packages in some cases. The problematic package was send only when the daemon exceeded the maximum number of SMS per second. The submit response that the server was sending did not have a message Id (the field was missing), while it was suppose to respond with a blank message Id in case of an error, as the SMPP specifications require. The SMPP library was handling it transparently by reporting the error back to the server.
I contacted my provider to report the bug but unfortunately they could do nothing about it. Not soon enough at least. So it was up to me to fix the problem. Luckily the particular library is very well written so I was able to modify it in order to handle the malformed package.
But what would happen if I did not have access to the source code? I would be stuck. Clearly the problem was not with the library and the vendor would have refused to make any changes as the library did not have any problems. Even if the vendor agreed to make the changes it would have been at a very high price. My provider would not fix the problem for years to come and changing my provider is not an option.
The bottom line is that FLOSS is not about cheap software. It’s about control. If you have the source code then you are in control of the situation, although good support from the vendor is always welcomed. Cheap price comes with the openest/freedom, since you are not restricted to pay support to a particular vendor if you are not happy with him.
P.S. : Some claim that Free Software is not the American way. They say it might hurt big software companies or prevent small ones from success. If the American way is the way of the American Revolution, then it’s about people seeking their freedom. Tolerating the artificial restriction of your freedom from someone who’s only purpose is making profit, is not the American way. Having this in mind, FOSS is as American as Software gets.