We're big fans of free software generally, but the question often arises: how do companies that build free tools professionally make any money? At a press event today, Nitro PDF (the Aussie company which makes our favourite free PDF reader and editor) shared some figures which provide an insight into how the 'freemium' approach works.As of the end of October, Nitro PDF Reader had been downloaded 13.5 million times. Of those downloads, 2.3 million had actively used the software in the last month. The total number of purchasers of the Nitro Pro paid product? 410,000, of which 100,000 were sold in the last year. The free software effectively acts as marketing for the paid version. Not every free product will have a conversion ratio as high as that, but it demonstrates that the freemium model can definitely result in sales.
Nitro last week released Nitro Pro 7, the new version of its fully-featured paid software for PDF creation and collaboration. The company is also working on a web-based system for managing and storing documents. The latter isn't due until mid-2012, but is definitely something we'll be keeping an eye on.