Freeware Gaining Ground In System Diagnostics

Of those polled, 49 percent have not yet jumped on the freeware bandwagon, which indicates they are still committed to quality commercial tools and have found ways to make those tools economical, usually by wrapping billable tasks around freeware applications—an easy task when one considers the depth of services associated with troubleshooting and security.

Yet, while freeware has made serious inroads into the channel, 45 percent of respondents are still concerned with the lack of support normally associated with it. Of those polled, 27 percent feel that profiting from freeware is a near-impossibility, while 19 percent believe the lack of documentation is the primary impediment to freeware&'s viability. With only 9 percent of respondents citing poor quality as an impediment, the argument that freeware is not as good as commercial software no longer holds water.

Security and office productivity solutions offer significant revenue opportunities for the channel.

Some 24 percent of those polled feel that security offers the largest market share for freeware tools, while 26 percent believe their value lies with office-productivity solutions. Those two areas comprise 50 percent of the market and offer significant revenue opportunities for solution providers not afraid to profit from wrapping services around freeware products, shifting profits from product sales to knowledge services.

Strangely enough, only 7 percent of respondents felt that freeware-based operating systems offered any real value, which could possibly explain the cooling of the Linux and FreeBSD markets as desktop and server operating systems. Some 17 percent believe development tools can benefit from freeware-based products. Interestingly, 24 percent felt that diagnostic-style applications offer a viable avenue for freeware products. That clearly builds a potential for security, productivity and diagnostics to garner almost three-quarters of the software market.

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While many software vendors may feel threatened by the abundance of freeware available, an opportunity exists for them to leverage freeware to sell more commercial products via upgrades. Sixty-one percent of solution providers surveyed said commercial software vendors can entice more customers by offering basic products for free and then charging for more advanced versions.