Yes, you can get floss for under $3.00 at your local market. The cost of FLOSS, or Free/Libre Open Source Software has been a discussion item in the press for some years. Some (often sponsored by Microsoft) have asserted that the total cost of ownership of FLOSS-based systems is, in fact, higher than proprietary alternatives. This article, published at Silicon.com, points to this EU sponsored study, which asserts otherwise. Thurston writes:
According to the report, which was authored by academics at the United Nations University in Maastricht, Netherlands: "Our findings show that, in almost all cases, a transition towards open source [produces] savings in the long-term cost of ownership."
Microsoft has attempted to persuade IT professionals and businesses that Windows can be cheaper than Linux, through its Get The Facts campaign. Get The Facts cited examples where Redmond's software offered a cost advantage over open source.
The EC report also issued encouragement for organisations considering the free Open Office applications suite. "Open Office has all the functionalities that public offices need to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations," the report said. "Open Office is free and extremely stable." It added that users were equally as productive with Open Office as they were with proprietary software.
But the report issued two notes of caution. Firstly, it said that short term costs would be higher for organisations migrating, even partially, to open source, largely because of the initial cost of training. Secondly it said some workers may feel undervalued if they are required to work with free software.