When we think of "open source", many things come to mind: free, created by volunteers, open to everyone, no profits, etc. That's the steriotype that the media paints mostly, and that when open source programs are created, they are done for the passion of it, and not at all for money. That's the way the license agreement makes it sound (more particularly, the GPL), and that's sort of the whole point.
However, as nice as it may sound, open source programs can quite often make more money than some shareware or even commercial applications, provided that they are popular enough. So how do they make money?
Well, one such way is to offer technical support. This is particularly ironic, because the costs of tech support to just get the application running can sometimes be far more than a commercialized application that comes with basic installation tech support included. Either that, or the commercial application just doesn't need the tech support.
One such example is Red Hat Fedora Linux. It's open source, you can download the basic version free -- but that's about where it stops. If you want an enterprise version for servers, technical assistance, etc, you're going to need to buy Red Hat's tech support package. Now I'm not using any stats or anything, but I'd say it's a pretty good guess to say that installing Windows has far less hitches and driver problems (Windows XP at least) than Fedora Core.
Another example of commercialization in an open source project is Mozilla's Firefox. According to John Chow, the amount of money hauled in from Firefox equaled around 50 million dollars. As described in the blog, most of the money earned was simply by using a Google Search toolbar, which generated 80% of the revenue. Firefox isn't written by volunteers either, as Mozilla emplys tons of programmers to maintain and update the code. In fact, the only thing that makes this browser seem non commercialized is the fact that the source code is freely availbale -- but that's about it. The license agreement is fairly restrictive, too, although it isn't exactly stopping you from creating your own wrapper for Firefox, as long as you use a different name.
Finally, what better way to prove my point than to use the world's largest open source operating system, Linux, as an example? Although we may have thought that the whole kernel source code was written by volunteers, it seems otherwise. In fact, 89% of the lines of code contributed to the kernel were actually written by people getting paid by a corporation.
I'm not saying that open soure software is bad - and in fact, most open source authors aren't really expecting to make a lot of money with the program they're writing, however it's interesting to know how your usage of a program that you may think is absolutely non-commercial is actually, not.