Research Proposal: How do software business models used in a software ecosystem differ from traditional software business models? (Team APIs)

We have chosen software business models as topic, since we are interested in how traditional software business models differ from (new) software business models used in software ecosystems. In this research we specifically look at the software ecosystem of the operating systems for mobile phones. This defines a clear scope for our research. These operating systems represent a good example of an ecosystem, and we find it personally interesting. So, our research question is:

How do software business models used in a software ecosystem differ from traditional software business models?

We figured out the following two sub-questions:

  1. What are the differences between the business models of the four main mobile operating systems (Blackberry OS, Symbian, iPhone iOS and Android)?
  2. What business models can be identified at 3rd party developers and/or partners?
Method Description

The research will consist of two main parts.
First, we will perform a literature review in which we look at the different software business models and business models in software ecosystems.

The second part consists of a case study. We will compare four popular operating systems for mobile phones, namely: Blackberry OS, Android, iOS, and Symbian. We have chosen these four because they are currently the biggest players in the market. For each of those operating systems we will analyze quantitative market data and trends. Furthermore, we will provide a detailed analysis of the different business models we identified that companies currently use for their mobile operating systems. In addition, we will analyze the business models of third party developers. Therefore, a comparison between a software ecosystem orchestrator and the other organizations within a software ecosystem can be made.

Finally, we will try to find similarities between the different business models and compare them with traditional software business models found in previous literature.


Research Proposal: The Eclipse Ecosystem and its internal members’ interactions (Group Networkers)

RQ: Which are the internal members’ interactions within the Eclipse open source Ecosystem?

  • SRQ1: What types are the internal interactions between the different ecosystem’s member types?
  • SRQ2: What types are the interactions between the Eclipse Foundation and the Eclipse Ecosystem’s member types?

Research Method:

The proposed research method is descriptive from a qualitative point of view. That is why it requires a substantial amount of data, regarding the Eclipse Platform and its members. In order to answer the proposed research question, the data collection process starts by a thorough examination of the Eclipse Foundation website ( After all the members are dumped, their respective websites are analyzed, in order to define relationships between different members of the Eclipse Ecosystem. All these relationships will be categorized according to the relationship’s type.

Due to the high volume and significant similarities of some of the members, the method suggests that a representative sample is selected and analyzed. The selection criteria are to be defined after an exhaustive analysis of the members of the Eclipse Ecosystem.

The aim of the proposed research method is to provide a descriptive visualization of the Eclipse Ecosystem, complying with the Software Supply Network (SSN) diagram technique. It should also visualize the important relationships between the members of the ecosystem themselves (excluding Eclipse Foundation).

Research Proposal: How different SECOs influence its participants

Currently, Slinger gives a seminar on Software Ecosystems. During this seminar, we are performing a research project on Software Ecosystems. In this blog post, Andrei Idu and I want to share our (proposed) research topic (and method). Please let us know what you think!

Research proposal

For software companies it is of strategic importance to understand their own Software Ecosystem (SECO) (Berk, Jansen & Luinenburg, 2010). This applies to start-up companies as well. Being a software start-up choosing which ecosystem to join can have a big influence in the success of the start-up company. For example, would Rovio, the developer of the immensely popular Angry Birds game, have become just as successful if it joined a different ecosystem? We think that it is very important to be aware of the circumstances and conditions of an ecosystem, and to determine what the risk factors are in different SECOs. This results in the following research questions:

What are the characteristics that a start-up product software company should consider when joining a software ecosystem? How do these characteristics influence participants of different software ecosystems?

Proposed Research method

In order to answer the research question a literature research and documentation study will be performed. Based on existing literature about software ecosystems, market-related characteristics that influence participants in a SECO will be identified. Examples of such characteristics are: size of the market that the SECO addresses, entry barriers, quality requirements or information sharing degree.

The reason for choosing market-related characteristics is the nature of the research question. It implies an approach from the outside in to decision making, first analyzing the environment and then basing decisions on that analysis.

When we have formulated the market-related characteristics, we will conduct several case studies for different ecosystems. These case studies will be based on documentation study. These case studies will help to categorize the ecosystems based on characteristics.

Ecosystems that are to be analyzed include: iPhone, Android and Microsoft .Net. These ecosystems have been chosen because they each have a relatively strong keystone player that controls the platform, but these ecosystems differ in the way the keystone influences the ecosystem in terms of policies and platform openness. Information about the ecosystems will be gathered from websites, license agreements, press releases, market data and other publications.

Finally, we will analyze the results and draw some conclusion on how differences in ecosystems regarding market characteristics influences participants in the ecosystem. We will validate these results will by performing expert-interviews with a participant of each ecosystem. With these results, we hope to provide companies with a set of guidelines to be able to choose the best SECO for their specific needs and situation.

Research Proposal SECO Seminar (Group ProductLines)

As part of the Utrecht University’s Master of Business Informatics curriculum, dr. Slinger Jansen currently teaches a seminar on Software Ecosystems. During this seminar, students are introduced to the field and performed research of Software Ecosystems. Furthermore, students will perform their own research, contributing knowledge on this domain. With this blog post, we (Michiel Pors and Peter van Stijn) present our research proposal hoping for feedback of domain experts and other students – please do not hesitate to reply on this post with comments or criticism as it will definitely improve the quality of our final research paper.

We are planning to do research on portfolio management within software ecosystems Portfolio management is a dynamic decision process in (software) product management, whereby a business’s list of active new product (and development) projects is constantly updated and revised [1]. In a software ecosystem a set of actors are functioning as a unit and interacting with a shared market for software and services, together with the relationships among them [2].

As research in (software) portfolio management focuses mainly  on the traditional software product lines, controlled and produced by one company, we are wondering how the shift from software product lines towards software ecosystems [4] has influenced portfolio management. Especially to what extend old challenges have remained or been solved, and to what extend new challenges have emerged. Scientifically, this will contribute to both the research domains, increasing the understanding and insights of these domains and their combination. In practice, this research will contribute to the understanding of the risks and difficulties (concerning portfolio management) that will be faced by companies who are switching, or considering to switch, from a traditional software product line towards an extended software ecosystem.

We have formulated our research question as follows:

“How do the challenges of portfolio management in large software ecosystems differ from those in software product lines?”

Obviously, this will mainly be an exploratory research, which will structure and identify (new) problems in the field of portfolio management and software ecosystems. It will be a combination of a primary and secondary research, i.e. a combination of summarizing existing research and collecting data that does not yet exist. The research will be performed in two steps:

First, a literature study will be conducted in order to create a thorough understanding on software ecosystems, portfolio management and the boundaries of these concepts. In addition, this section will function to position this particular paper in this research area. Beside an overview on the current state of research on the topic, this literature research will result in a conceptual solution to the research question. This solution would comprise known challenges for portfolio management in traditional software product lines, these traditional challenges that will most likely persist in software ecosystems and newly identified challenges for software ecosystems.

After this literature study, case studies will be performed to validate the found challenges on the practical experiences of a company, and to search for more possible challenges and approaches  on the portfolio management. Two or three companies will be examined to conform time limitations of the research, but still allow triangulation. The companies will preferable have changed their business model from software product line (SPL) oriented towards a software ecosystems (SECO) oriented approach recently. This way, much information on old and new challenges can be obtained from one case study.

The results of the literature and case study will be presented in the form of a table where both the portfolio management challenges for SECOs and SPLs are listed. Directions for future research will most likely be towards constructive researches, where a solution to the identified problems can be developed.


[1] Cooper, R., Edgett, S., Kleinschmidt, E. (2001) Portfolio Management for new Products. Perseus Publishing, Philadelphia

[2] Jansen, S., Finkelstein, A., Brinkkemper, S. (2009) A Sense of Community: A Research Agenda for Software Ecosystems. 31st International Conference on Software Ecosystems, New and Emerging Research Track, 187 -190

[3] Pohl, K., Bockle, G., Van Der Linden, F. (2005) Software Product Line Engineering: Foundations, Principles and Techniques. Springer

[4] Bosch, J. (2009) From software product lines to software ecosystems. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Software Product Lines (SPLC). Springer LNCS.

Business Model Canvas Acision

In the Business of Software class that I teach we have undertaken quite the enterprise: 50 students went out to 23 companies in the Netherlands to do a three part study of each company. The three parts are an organizational analysis, a business model canvas and a SWOT analysis, and finally a software ecosystem model. Unfortunately, most companies do not wish to have their analyses published, with the exception of Acision. And my, did these students (Meral Sengul and Remco Snijders) do a good job! Check out their canvas of Acision by clicking on the picture.