Nick Carr points out one of the interesting conundrums in the free software arena: mostly, free software helps the big vendors:
IBM and Yahoo are pulling a Google on Google. The duo has announced that they'll start giving away a basic version of IBM's OmniFind software for searching corporate documents, undercutting one of the few products that Google actually charges for. Aimed at smaller companies, the free software can index up to 500,000 documents. Running on a server, it uses a customizable, Yahoo-like browser interface and integrates Yahoo web search results. Google currently charges $9,000 for a specialized search appliance - a piece of hardware called Google Mini - that can index up to 300,000 documents. The IBM-Yahoo offering undermines the market viability of the Google box in its current form, or at least at its current price, and also poses a threat to the efforts of corporate search specialists like Autonomy to expand into the small-business market.
The question you want to ask is this: were the bigger vendors generous with (hardware) license costs back when they gave away software in the early days? What makes all the advocates of free software think that the rules are different now - companies like IBM are not doing this out of a sense of altruism.