Is Open Source Software Comparable to Commercial Software?

Obviously the main advantage of open source software is in the cost savings. A report from 2008stated that open source had saved consumers $60 billion per year. That’s great. But is it comparable to commercial software?

Open source can be wonderful for many reasons, mainly because it’s usually free. It’s released along with the source code meaning anyone can make adjustments to it if so desired, thereby making the software better as it continues down the line. Users have a hand in making the software exactly what they want with more customization. However, there is also sometimes a learning curve to figuring out the best way to use it. Even worse, it can lead to users being confused, as too many different versions of the software will exist at one time, and there sometimes is little to no help offered.

Is it better to stick with commercial software where you only have the most current option available and help is always readily available? Or is there really no difference between commercial and open source software?

Is open source software comparable to commercial software?

Image credit: Open source stars

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. I for one have been an advocate for open source software for quite some time. And while it might have a few drawbacks compared to proprietary/commercial software the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. It is now where a lot more companies are considering using open source software for their businesses because of the cost-savings benefit, and they’re discovering that the support is more user-friendly than they at once thought. The biggest push for open source software is coming from those companies that are finding they don’t need the “Big box” solutions that a lot of commercial software compnies offer.

  2. Open source s/w tends to be more secure than its closed source couterparts because it is very hard to sneak in any malicious code into a source that anybody can see.

    The learning curve for Open Source is no different than for proprietary software.

    The “too many equivalent versions” is a red herring. It is only a problem when one downloads software from personal sites, rather than from official download sites. FileHippo, for example, may have 10 or more versions of the same program but they are all clearly documented so that there is never any question of which version to download.

    Actually, having access to older versions of Open Source is an advantage. The most current version of a commercial program may not work on older hardware and older versions are usually not available any more. With Open Source you can go back to the version that works on your PC.

  3. Four Thoughts:
    1) Generally, my experience is that commercial and open source software have about the same learning curve.
    2) The quality of both types are about the same, with a few poor quality examples in both types and a few excellent examples in both commercial and open source types of software.
    3) An advantage of open source is no annual fees or upgrade charges for some of the more sophisticated programs and, of course, no purchase costs.
    4) Last, but not least, much of the open software supports both Windows and Linux. Our engineering company is/was XP based but is moving toward Linux as the XP machines are phased out.

    1. Agreed.

      Another advantage of open source is that you can test it before you know if it will work or not.

  4. One thing I miss in this “Discussion” is that open source equals to free. Well: IT ISN’T always.
    I ran into some really good stuff that wasn’t available in the commercial market.

    Some years ago I worked in the telecom branch and was looking for an open source call center solution that could match the commercial products. The reason for us was we where using the Open Source switch board *Asterix for VoIP. The solution we found was cheaper but certainly not free. The big advantage was that due to it’s openness we could easy link into it to add some customer specific features.

    BTW *Asterix is in itself free but several switch boards based on it are open source but definitely not free as they offer support and configuration for you some times combined with dedicated hardware. But still the code is openly accessible.

    So points 1 and 3 from Skip are NOT TRUE.

    Open Source is software where you have access to the code.
    This is not the same as free software. There is loads of free software available that is not open source. Very often this software has some hidden advertising or fishing build in

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