Research Questions on Product Management of Open Source in Commercial Products

I’m seeking advice on how to frame the research question for a research project (Ph.D. thesis) on software product management and open source. The simple heuristic “non-differentiating -> open source it, competitively differentating -> keep it closed” doesn’t cut it because of secondary effects like development efficiency resulting from open sourcing, market opportunities resulting from platform compatiblity, etc.

The best I could come up with so far are three different but related questions. These are:

  1. For a non-differentiating function, which open source component to use?
  2. For a chosen open source component, how to manage this dependency?
  3. For a competitively differentiating function, when to open source?

Questions 1 and 2 are well-defined. Question 3 remains unwieldy. The heuristic mentioned above would answer “never”, but this is not true, as explained. Overall competitive situation and compatibility considerations may still lead to open sourcing unique intellectual property.

I’m seeking comments as to how practitioners (or other researchers) would look at this question. Any comments are appreciated.

One thought on “Research Questions on Product Management of Open Source in Commercial Products”

  1. When I am an established platform and want to build an ecosystem of Innovation . If the differentiating Feature , which I think is differentiating but my customers dont find it much of a value-addition , I want to know what could be done better . Google does it all the time , it never incurs direct revenue from its products , it always builds an ecosystem . Open sourcing prolongs the longevity of my product . It is crucial for new technologies , especially those in hype phase . In my opinion Software Engineering is not a science in itself , it empowers other subjects . Similarly Open sourcing is a philosophy that aids `Blue ocean’ strategies .

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