The business risk of using the Laszlo platform just disappeared. Business decision makers can roll out a Laszlo RIA without worrying that this “40-person San Francisco startup” will disappear next month and leave them in the lurch. I think that has been Laszlo’s biggest problem so far: they just fixed it.
Laszlo also effectively cemented their lock on developer mindshare (v.s. Flex). Developers are already wary that Flex will require understanding the mangled / tangled world of Flash v2 components. An open-source code base will allow for much easier debugging and troubleshooting.
This move should change Laszlo’s cost structure dramatically as well… if all goes well, it should dramatically reduce the cost of finding and fixing bugs. I don’t see that as being as important as the first business risk / developer mindshare issues however. This is basically a marketing coup that gives Laszlo a decent shot at becoming the RIA platform of choice for the java crowd.
The question remains: is this a sign of desperation, or a canny business move? This puts a clear upper limit on how big Laszlo the company can get: with their core product open-sourced, their revenue will presumably come from consulting and support, both of which are usually low-margin businesses. I’m a bit saddened by this, but it seems a realistic move. Like it or not, they are playing David (pun intended! ha ha) in a space with multiple Goliaths (Microsoft, MacroMedia, and Sun), and the only way to win the game is to change the rules. There are LOTS of successful open source infrastructure software companies (RedHat, SleepyCat, MySQL, Jboss) of varying sizes that have played that game and won. That’s the space Laszlo is playing in now.
The geek in me can’t wait to download the code and give it a look: among other things, it’s sure to be a first-rate tutorial on Flash hacking.