Free is good for business. At least, that's what IBM and The New York Times\u00a0said in so many words during the past couple days.First, IBM announced it would offer Lotus Symphony \u2013 a suite of productivity software \u2013 for free. The media picked up the announcement, slung it around its shoulder and began playing the standard \u201cAnother-Shot-Across Microsoft\u2019s-Bow\u201d riff. But what a trivial tune when you consider the bigger picture: Big Blue, as traditional a software vendor as they come, saw long term business value for itself and its customers by putting out\u00a0a substantial piece of software in the consumer space for free. Of course, it could be argued IBM offered Symphony for free because nobody in their right mind would consider paying Microsoft Office-like money for it, but I think\u00a0this decision runs much deeper.\u00a0In offering Symphony for free, IBM basically acknowledges that the monetization of software by\u00a0vendors\u00a0must change\u00a0since we now\u00a0live in a world where the web has become people\u2019s IT department. New technology providers\u00a0(albeit not beholden to the same legacy concerns as incumbent vendors) have been effective at offering applications for free on the web. They make their money later on by offering a spiced up, or even an\u00a0enterprise worthy, version of the software for a modest fee. If it\u2019s purely consumer-based, they also can subsidize their experience with ads. Meanwhile, the big advantage for technology companies (and the customers like corporate IT departments that get software from them) is how a free model uses the consumerization of IT to its advantage. For instance, rather than relying on a few enterprise customers to tell the tech provider what\u2019s wrong with an application,\u00a0the\u00a0thousands or millions of consumer users\u00a0who decided to access or download it will be more than happy to send that information along with more fierceness and rapidity than the enterprises themselves.And, of course, there\u2019s the\u00a0Times, which announced it would\u00a0end Times Select, a\u00a0feature that required\u00a0readers of nytimes.com\u00a0pay to access the paper\u2019s online archives and its op-ed content (i.e. Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, etc.).\u00a0 This makes sense for them on a variety of levels. In the most basic media sense, the more eyeballs that are drawn to\u00a0its site, the more ads\u00a0it can sell. This move should\u00a0affect other papers, especially with Rupert Murdoch\u00a0hinting that his most recent acquisition, The Wall Street Journal, could\u00a0benefit from such an open model as well.\u00a0Free and open is the new cash cow. Now it\u2019s time to go out and milk it for all it's worth.