Blender has been quoted as an example of failed commercial software in the comments here. It is a remarkable story and worth a post.
Blender was created as a rewrite by a Belgian company and spun off in its own company Not a Number Technologies. They expanded too fast and went bankrupt. Blender lives on under the umbrella of a non-profit organization The Blender Foundation. A failure it is not. About every two years, the organization produces a new animated movie and continues to thrive on donations and other revenue.
“The Blender Foundation is an independent organisation (a Dutch "stichting"), acting as a non-profit public benefit corporation, with the following goals:
- To establish services for active users and developers of Blender
- To maintain and improve the current Blender product via a public accessible source code system under the GNU GPL license
- To establish funding or revenue mechanisms that serve the foundation’s goals and cover the foundation’s expenses
- To provide individual artists and small teams with a complete, free and open source 3D creation pipeline.
As an application, Blender is quite challenging to use. I certainly have not mastered it but several of my students have. There are enough tutorials on the web to allow anyone to make nice 3D images. Animation is also possible but adds another level of complexity. I have used Blender to make a few logos and other images worth the effort to add 3D effects. The concepts are all simple and necessary: light, shadow, reflections and surfaces. Oh, colour is in there too, as part of light.
A typical tutorial on using Blender is http://vimeo.com/31973698. It’s way too fast but quickly shows the features of the programme. Hot keys and mouse clicks abound… A text tutorial is far easier for a newbie to follow… Unfortunately the change in UI for version 2.6 has left the bulk of tutorials behind…
Blender.org is visited by most countries in the world with 14 million visits in 2011. 10.55% of those visits were from GNU/Linux, so even folks using that other OS and MacOS appreciate Blender. There are more than 3 million downloads of the binary per annum. It is a cooperative project of the world, which can and does make its own software.