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:
- For a non-differentiating function, which open source component to use?
- For a chosen open source component, how to manage this dependency?
- 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.