Services-based e-commerce goes open source

An open source e-commerce platform, claimed to be one of the first to support services and products in one application will be released in beta this week.

Damian Hickey, managing director of Brisbane-based software company osCommRes, said a fork of OsCommerce, in version 2.0, is one of the first among e-commerce systems globally to be services-oriented.

"People are really product-oriented," Hickey said, adding that osCommRes is suitable for predictable services and high-end B2B.

Professional people who contract out their time buy products online and expect that customers of a business will also buy online."

Since forking OsCommerce in October last year, osCommRes has received private venture funding, grown to 17 staff in Australia and India, and claims more than 10,000 downloads.

With 11 developers, osCommRes is released under the GPL, which Hickey admits was a "big risk" in not adopting a dual licensing strategy like other open source companies, but believes it will result in a more active ecosystem.

The original impetus for the idea came when Hickey's wife's business was expanding too quickly and could no longer service customers with spreadsheets.

"The single largest point of differentiation is that e-commerce is about products - except for our software," he said. "You can mould in services and products - like book a tennis court and buy a set of tennis balls in the same transaction."

OsCommRes features an API to allow third-party plug-ins, integration with the Typo3 CMS to allow access to digital resources via subscription, and automated marketing with SMS, he said. Some 30 different reports can be generated and the call centre function allows businesses to copes with phone sales.

"It doesn't have a CRM link yet, but we're about to integrate with SugarCRM so people can purchase via Sugar," Hickey said. "It's built on LAMP [Linux Apache MySQL PHP] and it is moving to MySQL and PHP 5 because we want to bring in stored procedures."

Hickey said the company decided to do something difficult and time-consuming, but it can now see the payoff.

"Open source software development is exploding; feedback we're getting from customers is they are happy it is open source," he said.

OsCommRes' business model is to perform customization of the software for businesses and to become a provider of on-demand software, gaining a commission on sales transactions.

Music group, Ten Tenors is a customer and Queensland University of Technology is looking to implement it as well.

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