Dear community members
I´d like to take the opportunity of the insolvency to speak a bit about projects like Blokas/MODEP, Zynthian and other possible projects that use our software as they use.
This is a sensitive topic and it had serious impacts in our business.
Before going into it, I´d like to stress that what I am writing below is NOT an attack on open source nor it a wish to move into closed source.
But there are business issues related to this topic that are still a big question mark for the company and to which we do not have an answer yet, but we will need to come up with answers in the short/mid term.
I´d like to expose them here so that we can collectively discuss it, as the majority of people here:
has some level of enthusiasm for Open Source Software
suffered some level of damage due to our difficulties as a company
I purposively used “Open Source Software” because there seems to be a confusion that MOD is an open source company, which is not true.
We utilize, develop, release, publish and foster Open Source Software, with small exceptions that @falkTX has already pointed out above, but we do not make Open Hardware, with some exceptions related to Control Chain devices that we have published the PCB designs and firmware too.
The issue here with these other projects is not software related, but business activity related.
On the software level, our entire audio stack is open source, from the plugin host to the graphical UI to the actual plugins that were made by us.
We haven’t crammed a bunch of pre-existing software inside our boxes. It is not as if the open source community had the mod-ui, mod-host, and etc. readily available and we said “How cool!! We can put this code in standalone boxes and sell them”
These things had to be built from the ground up. That is the value that MOD has added to the open source software realm as a whole. There is a value leap between the open source code that we use and the open source code that we offer.
This value leap had to be paid for, in the form of paid development time. MOD Devices has invested literally more than a million euros developing the complete stack.
Now let´s move into the business activity.
From the customer perspective, the function of the product is the thing that matters the most. Apart from some hardcore idealists, even the open source enthusiast will first look into function before looking into the nature of the code. What I say is that people are not buying “linux boxes”. People are buying standalone audio processors.
As we sell our devices as audio processing standalone boxes, most of the value leap that we provide is to have all that cool stuff that you would only do in your computer now in a box that you can carry. That is the function perceived by the customer.
So, when another box appears, that also allows you to do all that cool stuff in a box that you can carry, and using the same visual identity as we do, but with a smaller price tag, what do you think that happens on the customer minds?
For the person who does not know any of the devices, it is kind of the the same thing, but one is cheap and the other is expensive.
As @fer pointed out, the devices are in different leagues, but he has both and thus he can affirm that. But those who are getting acquainted with the products cannot tell exactly the difference.
Both have a shop. Both sell a box. Both have the same looking pedal like UI.
I have lost count on the number of sales and distribution deals that I lost due to this confusion. One of the exit deals we were working on was flagged because of this.
This is a very ungrateful position for us because:
1 - We spend in development and share it, but those who make use of what we share make financial profits with no return to us, be it financial or improved code.
2 - Not only we share and no not get anything back, but actually we are hurt by are losing sales and deals, as I pointed out earlier.
This generates a sort of self-predatory effect, as we share value that we create and that shared value is used against us.
To make it even worse, we are not Microsoft or Apple, with tons of cash to spend. We are a very small group of people literally bootstrapping a project. That means scarce and highly disputed resources to make the business advance. In order to evolve the stack the way we did, most of the budget is spent on tech. Marketing, website and all other things needed are always lagging behind the tech.
If the tech is shared as we do, we give a competitive advantage to the ones that get it for free, as they can spend all their resources in what we lack the money from. I’ve invested enough on website creation to know how much time is needed to have a website in the level of this or this and I would not be impressed if these websites have received much more resources than ours. This stretches to many things that are not tech, but more on the marketing side, content, videos and etc.
I would be glad if people from the forum could chime in and shed some light, so that we can discuss this in an open way and, in case we need to take decisions, that these decisions are aligned and well understood by our community.