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Linux Business

O'Reilly on the Open Source Industry 78

Idmat writes "Tim's latest opus, "The Strange Case of the Disappearing Open Source Vendors," starts with Sherlock Holmes ruminating on "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time" and winds up explaining why open source is good for businesses even if it isn't always good for software vendors."
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O'Reilly on the Open Source Industry

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  • Business Models (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I still don't get it why people think they can make money from developing open source products. The software is free, hence no money. You can make money from extra services such as support, or by providing open source software as vlaue added items to hardware. But not from the software itself.

    Mark me flame bait...
    • Have you ever seen that shirt that says "Support Free Software! Send us money!"
    • Re:Business Models (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Disevidence ( 576586 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:57AM (#3791600) Homepage Journal
      Actually, i'd venture people are a lot more altruistic then you give them credit for, my AC friend.

      Look at people contributing to various communities and companies because they believe in them. Kuro5hin raised 35,000 dollars in two days, from a comparatively small reader population. Either RH or LM posted their first positive money flow recently. People, if they believe in things, will contribute to them. I, personally, bought Mandrake Powerpack to support the company and get nice printed manuals, and i got some customer support i don't think i'll need.

      You're correct that running business models on free products can be very little cash flow, but if the company plays fair, supports the community, they community will only get larger and give back. What goes around, comes around.

      If you ask how many people go /. subscriptions, i think it will be higher than most people believe. Communities such as open-source will continue to work, due to the quality of the products (Apache, Mozilla, Open Office to name a few) and sense of community and dedication to principles.

      If only the whole world could act as well as the open-source community does.

      (Disclaimer : Im not a raving open-source lunatic, though i might sound like it. Open-source is simply a great community design, and most people in the community have a strong sense of humanism and principles. Im also drunk)
    • More to the point, the companies or organizations which make OS software their primary focus have an incentive to make software which *needs* support and/or service/training, etc. If your package was understandable to everyone, with good online help (1996 man pages don't cut it for most people), tutorials, good FAQs, etc., why would anyone pay you for support? *Most* people are only going to pay for what they need, nothing more.
    • Re:Business Models (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pauljlucas ( 529435 )
      I still don't get it why people think they can make money from developing open source products. The software is free, hence no money.
      "Open source" doesn't equate to "free" as in "free beer." Somebody developing a software product for which the source is open is free to charge money for it. Granted, a lot of open-source software is under the GPL in which case this isn't true; but software doesn't need to be GPL'd to be open-source.

      Note also that "open source" doesn't equate to your ability to download it from the 'net for free either. Somebody can distribute open-source software on CD just like closed-source software (the difference being they'd get the source code on the CD in addition to the binary).

      Why would anybody pay for software they can freely view the source code for? Why not? Does making software closed-source, such as Microsoft Office, prevent it from being copied? Not one bit.

  • by josh crawley ( 537561 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:16AM (#3791555)
    Well, it seems pretty easy why Linux companies die. All the big Linux companies were during the dot.com . Well we all know how that turned out. Simply enough, if they created a product, somebody could come in and make a better gpl version of it. The incentive and the money wasn't there. No money = no company.

    Well, in the case of todays Linux companies, le'ts see who they are.... IBM, SuSE (big in Germany),and Red Hat (it IS linux.. heh). Those are your big players (along with a few other distros). IBM makes its money by being a glue contractor.

    "You need X done? We can use Linux (so you can put more money behind the hardware instead of software. Your performance will be 30% more without cost of software."

    Then you have 2 major distros. They sell conveinance and/or commercial apps. Red Hat wont sell commercial stuff (yet).

    Overall, this "insight" on this article is idiotic. The article is soo much more than "Why dont Open Source Companies make money?" It covers topics of governments and why ours ISNT using linux wholesale (MS marketing/lobbying). Bad Slashdot reporting. That's all. Go read the article.
  • contradictory (Score:1, Insightful)

    by kpdvx ( 546561 )
    doesnt this sound a little contradictory? How can something that is good for buisness be bad for software vendors, which, last time i checked, software venders were a pretty large buisness. I'm not saything that I dont agree with what the author has to see, I just think the article could have been worded a bit differently.
    • Re:contradictory (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cpaluc ( 559921 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:37AM (#3791576)
      I think it's pretty clear actually, and I think the final sentence summarises it quite well:

      And the fact that open source may reduce the revenues of some software vendors does not mean that it reduces economic activity or economic success, but instead that it correctly allocates the profits to the developers of that software, its users.

      Why do people or companies use software? They use it to achieve their own ends (eg. manufacturing widgets). In terms of the whole economy, the software industry isn't an end in itself, it's a means to an end (eg. making widgets or whatever you or your company does). Cheaper software might be bad for software vendors but that can be good for the economy overall. Widgets are bound to be cheaper if the companies that manufacture and sell them don't need to pay the M$ tax.

        • ... it correctly allocates the profits to the developers of that software, its users.
        I don't follow the argument. It assumes the users are developers. Taking the car analogy, I use a car, and yes, I can look under the hood, but I certainly cannot build a car, nor do I know how to repair an engine, nor do I actually want to know.

        Instead, I buy a car, and if it breaks I take it to a car mechanic for repairation: both actions cost money. The only use of being able to look under the hood is that I have the choice of which car repair shop I want to go to. But money it costs.

        (and incidently, whichever car repair shop I choose, they always fuck me anyways with incredibly high bills; it's never cheap!).


        loz

    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @10:48AM (#3791819)
      doesnt this sound a little contradictory? How can something that is good for buisness be bad for software vendors, which, last time i checked, software venders were a pretty large buisness.

      Think back to the time of the Robber Barrons in Germany, who built castles along the Rhein and charged tolls every few miles to merchant ships.

      Destroying the Robber Barrons business was bad for the Robber Barrons, but immensly good for trade, and hence virtually every other business, in the region.

      Microsoft is analogous to the Robber Barrons along the Rhein in several respects: they charge a toll (tax), they deliberately break compatability (block your movement up the river for a time), they move the target every few months (each trip up the river terms and conditions for passage changed), costing you time and money to get your stuff working after a fashion (again), and so forth. Getting rid of this parasite does wonders for your business ... it certainly did wonders for ours.
      • Whee bit of difference there.

        Microsoft produces something that has value, whereas the Robber Barrons did not. If what Microsoft created had no value, you would not be using it or whining about it.
        • I'm not. I'm using an older MacOS :)

          I am using what they _copied_, but I don't see that as particularly useful input on their part. It's a pity we don't have a software vendor market in most categories. I suppose games is a category that's pretty open. I was a big fan of the Mac vendor Bungie Software until Microsoft bought them up.

        • Microsoft produces something that has value, whereas the Robber Barrons did not. If what Microsoft created had no value, you would not be using it or whining about it.

          From my point of view, Microsoft does not produce anything of value and I do not use it. What I, and others, express concern over is their ongoing efforts (through things like Palladium) to deny me the choice of continuing to not use their products.

          However, all of that is neither here nor there, nor relevant to the discussion at hand.

          The question was "if it is bad for Microsoft's business, how can it be good for business?"

          I cited a historical example that shows that when a business is detrimental to other businessess, as Microsoft arguably is, the destruction of one harmful business can be very good for a plethora of other businesses. That is not subject to debate: there is ample, well documented historical evidence to back that up.

          What is open to question is whether or not Microsoft is sufficiently harmful to other businesses that its demise would result in a net gain vs. a net loss to the economy over the medium to long term.

          Were it merely a competitor in a free marketplace the answer would likely be no.

          But, as a convicted monopolist who appears to be unwilling to change its illegal behavior in the least, and is going even further and doing everything in its power to have its Monopoly codified into law through DRM legislation and Palladium, not to mention its efforts to label software freedom as "unamerican," the answer appears to quite probably be a resounding "Yes, the economy and the world would probably be much better off if Microsoft were gone."
    • Software is a means, not an end, to supporting industry. I think O'Reilly is a thoughtful voice of moderation,
      sitting close to mid-way between BillyG and RMS as he does.

      Customer lock-in is the real enemy of business, not the GPL.

      Here is the fulcrum of the discussion.
      For all the software Detroits will roll out increasingly sealed packages to industry,
      we have hope as long as there are alternatives for the garage mechanic types (like the /. crowd) to play with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:25AM (#3791564)
    Try building a large complex product like, say certain commercial RDBM systems, across a dozen different Unix OSes and you quickly come to appreciate the commonality of things like GNU make. Open Source is useful for proprietary software vendors since it can help them develop their proprietry software products. A reasonable thing is to have them contribute back: patches to get the thing to compile on oddball platform xyz for example. If folks who tried to sell GNU make had a tough time (is Cygnus still in business?) it is not for lack of value of the product. The product does not lend itself to the over hyped marketing strategies that prove popular for other proprietery things like DB2 or Oracle.
    • Cygnus... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @11:35AM (#3791901) Homepage
      ...was bought by Red Hat. As far as I know, they were never unprofitable, allthough in the early days they did get a few friendly development contracts with the FSF to stay in business. These days, it seem like most of Red Hats "wins" (and profit) come from the part of the company that used to be Cygnus.

      Cygnus never seriously tried to sell GNU products, instead they sold support. In fact, their original name was Cygnus Support.

      At one time they did have some "boxed products", GNUpro and even a Cygwin 1.0 box (which I'm the proud owner of). However, the real money came from support and development contracts.
  • by stox ( 131684 )
    Has anyone compared the probability for survival of an open source project to the probability of survival for a closed source project? I suspect that the results might be interesting.
  • by standards ( 461431 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:52AM (#3791594)
    I don't know about you, but I make a living using open source software. I contribute a little bit, but I leverage open source a lot.

    So how can anyone say that open source is bad for business? I happen to be a business of one person, focusing on open source software consulting. My expenses are low and the value I provide is high.

    And I'm quite profitable, thank you very much.

    How many others here can claim that? I bet that thousands can.

    If anyone claims that Open Source is doing anything but improving business and the economy, send them my way. I'll show them my piece of the world. And I'm far from being alone.

    But it looks like some people in one particular software business wants to shut down my business. I'll fight that to the end.
    • by God! Awful ( 181117 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @07:05PM (#3793460) Journal

      So how can anyone say that open source is bad for business? I happen to be a business of one person, focusing on open source software consulting. My expenses are low and the value I provide is high. And I'm quite profitable, thank you very much.

      Whether or not your conclusion is correct, I think you need a quick lesson in logic. As every logician knows, X=>Y means ~Y=>~X. However, all your anecdote has proven is that the statement "it is not possible to make money from open source" is false. That's not the claim you made. It may be possible for open source to be good for your business, but bad for business overall.

      -a
      • Oh no, I don't need a lesson in elemetary logic. You mis-read my statements that were written in English. Whoops! That's OK, even Marilyn vos Savant makes stupid mistakes like that.

        I didn't say that I was doing a full economic analysis of the situation. I was just stating that the economy is not simply composed of "large software companies that make most of their $ from product sales"

        These are the folks, in my opinion, who are pushing the opinion that open source hurts THE economy.

        I'm saying that these folks are missing the analysis of the REST of the economy - which includes me, thousands like me, and other large and small businesses across this great land of ours and theirs.
        • You said "How can anyone say that open source is bad for business?" I believe that open source (or more specifically the GPL) is bad for business. Some businesses will prosper because of the GPL; others will suffer. Whether the prospering will outweigh the suffering is a highly debatable. You make it sound like it's cut and dry. One might think that lower costs will help a business prosper, but that only applies on an case by case basis. If costs decline for the whole industry then profits will also go down due to fiercer competition. Why? Because profit margins tend to stabilize at a percentage of costs.

          The only time when lower costs will really help an industry is when it opens up new market segments. Again, this may help some industries at the expense of others. Open source will certainly hurt the software industry. It will either help or hurt the hardware industry (there are arguments either way). Other industries won't be nearly as affected, and the change may be positive or negative.

          Let's say a car manufacturer starts using open source software. The wholesale price of a car is $10000, with $2000 being profit. Open source saves them $500 per car in operating costs. That increases their profit margin from 25% to 31%, at least for the first year. The next year, all the other manufacturers use open source. The union goes on strike, demanding a piece of the pie, and price wars erode the higher profits. As I said, profit margins tend to stabilize at a percentage of costs. The wholesale cost of a car declines by $600. The new margin is still 25%, but now that's only $1900. Unless the reduced price allows them to sell more cars, open source has been bad for the car business. This is just an example; it can go either way, depending on specific circumstances.

          -a
          • >I believe that open source (or more specifically the GPL) is bad for business. Ok, exactly how is the GPL to be blamed? Because someone can't take the work of 100's of people, turn around and sell it, keeping all the $$$ to themselves? Sounds very parasitic to me. >Let's say a car manufacturer starts using open source software.... lol! This is the worst case senerio. You speak of price wars as if they are a bad thing. Here's what good I see coming out of your example. I see more people being able to buy good cars cheaper, thus sustaining the manufacturer and allowing them keep the workers happy and from striking giving them a raise. Cheaper cars == more cars bought == more profits I've not read anything about a negative impact on the auto industry. Would you like to provide links? Jay

            • Ok, exactly how is the GPL to be blamed? Because someone can't take the work of 100's of people, turn around and sell it, keeping all the $$$ to themselves? Sounds very parasitic to me.

              All I said that was that the GPL is bad for business. The GPL provides low-cost alternatives to commodity products. This drives profits down.

              lol! This is the worst case senerio. You speak of price wars as if they are a bad thing.

              Price wars are good for the consumer, but bad for business.

              I see more people being able to buy good cars cheaper, thus sustaining the manufacturer and allowing them keep the workers happy and from striking giving them a raise. Cheaper cars == more cars bought == more profits

              I find that unlikely. The relationship between sale price and units sold is a complex, non-linear one. When you make something cheaper, you may sell more of them, but at some point the market will saturate. The fact is, most people who need a car already have one and most people don't need two cars, so there is limited growth potential.

              I've not read anything about a negative impact on the auto industry. Would you like to provide links?

              It was a hypothetical example that I made up. I don't think I claimed any differently. Hint: "Let's say..."

              -a
  • by scotfl ( 312954 ) <scotfl@gmail.com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:56AM (#3791598) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I know that Wal-Mart shows up on Netcraft as running Microsoft IIS, but curiously, the operating system is Linux. So, it appears to be a case of the fairly common Apache hack, in which the Apache source is modified to output IIS as the server string. Mike Prettejohn of Netcraft assures me that the method used to find out the underlying operating system is less susceptible to modification in this way than the Web server signature.

    Could this be an indicator of the future of Open Source? It seems to me that while IT departments are going to be pushing open solutions more and more, the management is going to be worried about the effect that would have on customers and users. Which could be significant, with Microsoft spending vast sums on FUD, and adding a 'Works best (or only works) with an MS-approved client/server' warning to their products. (Which we will likely see more and more of as the march to Palladium continues.) In the future, we will see more open source system masquerading outright as proprietary ones.

    The second reason I foresee this happening is that the history of Open Source is replete with examples of projects such as GNU, Linux, Lindows, and XFree86, all started with the intention of replacing a proprietary product with an open one.

    Frankly, the fact that there are less companies developing open products doesn't worry me, because it's much easier to start building a clone while you are small enough to fly under radar. It's only when the product is approaching a usable status that a company is needed for promotion, protection, etc. and it is then that they will spring up around the product.

    Last I checked, most Open Source developers had day-jobs unrelated to their open projects.
    • Frankly, the fact that there are less companies developing open products doesn't worry me, because it's much easier to start building a clone while you are small enough to fly under radar. It's only when the product is approaching a usable status that a company is needed for promotion, protection, etc. and it is then that they will spring up around the product.

      So, you're saying there's less 'usable' stuff in the open source world? When something approaches usable, then companies will spring up? The opposite seems to be happening - more things are getting usable, and there are fewer companies springing up (and many folding).
      • Forgive me, I phrased that badly. What I should have said is that as O.S. projects approach a more feature-complete stage, then they will gain backing from companies (previously existing, or just coming into existence). That is, rather than having companies founded on vague 'Linux --> ??? --> Profit' style business plans, companies are adopting the products of garage or weekend hackers.

        One last try at expressing myself clearly: I am trying to say that more and more, the product will exist before the company that will successfully market it has even heard of it.
    • ... was not started with the intention of replacing a proprietary product with a free one. Rather, the intention was to learn i386 assembler.

      XFree86 was (I believe) started as an alternative to the non-free PC X servers, but X itself was started as a project to research networked windowing systems.

      GNU and Lindows was intended to replace Unix and MS Windows.

      [ Yes, I know I'm picking nits ]
    • While I suspect you are right that most free software developers have unrelated day jobs (or are students), I suspect most free software is created by people whose day job are related to the software. Most of the really big free software projects (gcc, gdb, gnome, kde, apache, samba, linux) have many full time developers.
    • or perhaps an indication someone at walmart has a weird sense of humor?
  • by mikey573 ( 137933 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @09:12AM (#3791619) Homepage
    Software license terminology is always confusing. I recommend looking at this explanation and nice diagram [gnu.org] that shows catagories of software.

    I've always wondered though, is software "open source" if you can look at the source code by not modify it? The word "open" is a little unclear in exactly what it implies. I guess that case is more of teasing-type proprietary software... You can look but don't touch! :-)
    • "open" means "accessible. If you can't touch, it's not open. My door is open, meaning you can not only peer inside, but also walk inside. The best adjective for this kind of software is "open".

      I've always wondered by geeks don't bother with dictionaries.
  • by Krapangor ( 533950 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @09:38AM (#3791663) Homepage
    If O'Reilly really wonders why all open source vendors disappeared, then they should just open source all their books and provide then contents in electronic form and they will see what happens.
    This is also called the infamous "we don't have anything more to sell" surprise.
    Only happens once, 'cos after that you are out of business.
    • MOD THAT UP (Score:2, Informative)

      by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 )
      Already used by mod points - sorry - but that hit the nail on the head perfectly. To go further, it would benefit society overall, even if it did hurt them and some other publishing houses. The greater good would be served though.
    • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @11:27AM (#3791883) Homepage Journal
      Blockquoth the poster:

      If O'Reilly really wonders why all open source vendors disappeared,


      I don't think he is wondering this. Indeed, he'd probably agree with you: Because the software is freely distributable, it's not "monetizable".


      But his real question is, "If all the open source vendors have disappeared, why hasn't open source itself disappeared?" And his answer is a good one: Because it gets support from businesses whose model is not selling the software but using it.

    • They have put up some of their books. Like Using Samba [oreilly.com]. The online version is free (full text, nicely HTML-ized) and the sell the dead tree version in stores. They sell a lot of copies.

      Sort of like the Baen free library [baen.com], which does the same thing with fiction. I don't know if you could do the same with software, but putting the full text of a book online tends to increase sales.

  • .NET (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    O'Reilly publisher is heavily publishing books on micro$oft's dotnet. =)
    • I personally don't find a problem with that considering that they also publish books on Oracle, IBM/Lotus, Solaris, Cisco and other non-open source products. .NET is a nice step forward from Visual Basic and maybe C++, but it still falls behind in some (many/all?) areas that Java, C++ and other languages.

      BTW - O'Reilly has more books on Java programming [oreilly.com] than .NET programming [oreilly.com], and with quite a few Python books [oreilly.com].

      And let's not get started on how many Perl books [oreilly.com] they have published. ;-)

  • It seems to me, the author nailed it when he mentions software is a means to an end and not an end in itself. Once everybody realises this, it'll be pretty clear free software is a 'success', even though vendors profit statements wont suggest that.
    They don't matter, the user community does.
  • It's good to see that the positive economic ripple effect [dictionary.com] of open source is and is going to continue to happen, despite the resistance of closed source companies like MS claiming they are bringing the new economy in and FUD against open source.

    I have no doubt that future research in this area will produce such information that weighs heavy against closed source.

  • The author writes: "I have been talking with . Long story short, other speaker called this morning and said he can't do the talk. I got the impression he was in deep doo doo with his bosses. He asked me to take him off the Web site quickly, along with any reference in the description to . He said the talk can in no way appear to represent agency." As a person who is a government employee, I can tell you that it is drilled into us that we can **not** use our governmental title or agency name in anything we do publically **unless** we are offically sanctioned to "act as an agent" of that governmental body. I suspect the governmental employee above was going to speak as "a private person" (without use of his title and agency name). However, his title and agency name appeared on the agenda and he was obligated to withdraw to avoid the **appearance** of representing his governmental agency in some sort of official capacity. There is nothing sinister about it as the article seemed to imply. It happens all the time.
    • Gee, my first question was, "Microsoft can tell government employees what they can and cannot do?"

      It's fine what you say, but disingenious- you do understand that a rep for the FAA can make statements that civilian aircraft can be SHOT DOWN ON SUSPICION by navy gunners and not lose his job, and yet you are suggesting that a mere identification of a government employee publically will cause the person to be held so accountable that they flee the event in fear and abandon all their plans?

      Maybe it's somewhere in the middle. How about this? Microsoft lobbying has pressured the government to tighten ranks and not make any mistakes. One of these mistakes is what you mention above. Because of the threats by Microsoft, the employee's superiors crank up the heat, with the results we're seeing. So technically, the reason is as you describe it. The reason it _mattered_ this time is because Microsoft is capable of ordering the government agencies about. Possibly through some sort of blackmail, like threatening to make the agency the focus of the next 'independent report on opensource corruption in government' and get it in trouble? If what you say is true, the agency could have been singled out and attacked in this manner.

      Or do you figure 'really heavy lobbying' means just 'woohoo our products are great'? I think somebody was looking for a weakness, and found it in what you outlined above. And attacked it to gain a position of power. And in that situation, Microsoft gave the government orders.

      • "you do understand that a rep for the FAA can make statements that civilian aircraft can be SHOT DOWN ON SUSPICION by navy gunners and not lose his job," If he is authorized to say so, there should be no problem. "and yet you are suggesting that a mere identification of a government employee publically will cause the person to be held so accountable that they flee the event in fear and abandon all their plans" If the speaker is a principled person of high standards, he would with draw his name. I would. In Europe, a minister caught in a scandal resigns. Here they send Ken Starr. ;-) We started using Linux full time in one of our major programs because of its reliability. We have had publically stated meetings where we have had Linux prominently printed in the Agenda. Microsoft did not send any reps, MS did not call someone higher up and complain. I have not heard of or been subject to any such coersion. If our major program becomes firmly entrenched on Linux, so go our partners in state, local, and some foreign governments. MS is nowhere to be found pressuring us. If they did, you would heard about it!! We would put our foot down and MS would have to back pedal. P.S. I'm stating this as a private person and the opinions are that of a private person.
      • I think the real message behind this is that a lot of civil servants are true chicken shits!

        As a friend of mine who worked for the city once remarked: "I knew my days were limited when (1) I realised that one could get fired for trying to accomplish something and failing and that (2) it was ok to sit on one's butt for years and never do a thing."

        So, when you end up with hoards of well qualified intelligent people all trying to hide in the strawberry patch so to speak, then the picture snaps into better focus. Microsoft doesn't have to do a thing. Most government employees are quite content to waste millions of tax payers money as long as they can avoid making a decision they might be held accountable for.

        • The government employee who withdrew was prepared to go up on that dias to speak. He was no chicken shit. But he has a **responsiblity** to separate what he does as a private person from what he does as a government worker so what he says is properly reflective upon either himself or the organization he works for. I've written letters to the editor that have been published. But I have not used my government title. That's the difference. If I used my tile, my supervisor has every right to call me in on the carpet because what I said could have been construed to be government policy, thinking, plans, etc. If Alan Greenspan was going to talk to a college economics class about economics, there would be no way that he could separate himself as a private person from his public role. However, if he was going to speak on woodworking that would be okay as long as his title wasn't used in any of the announcements. Did your friend make the attempt? Did it work? Was he fired? Did he get a lawyer? Did he expose the incompetence to the press? Was his idea good short term thinking? Would have it saved money, etc in time? Did he "chicken" out? I find the continued bashing of me and my coworkers to be unwarranted. We are good hard working people who are trying to get a good job done on dwindling budgets. There is an apparent lack of a sense of responsibilty when you hear of Authur Anderson employees shredding important documents that would normally have been kept. There is also the **billions** that were wasted by Enron in some hair brain financial scheme. Doing the right thing is what is important.
  • but he's spot-on in saying something I and many others have said here in the past.

    Open source software packages are great for end users, and overall save a huge amount of money for them, but there is no business model in producing software that can be freely duplicated and distributed.

    Now whether or not you think there should be a business case for software is a slightly different argument, but I personally am a bit tired of hearing the mantra here that one can definitely make money writing and producing GPL'ed software. Supporting it, maybe. Pressing and selling disks and manuals, maybe. But the writing of the software itself is not something that's going to make money.

    Microsoft, for all their pomp and swagger, has a good reason to fear the GPL. The majority of their revenues come from selling licenses to the software that that they produce. They are not the only ones either. Anyone who produces shrink-wrapped software is in the same boat.

    Just ask anyone who has released a fully funtional version of a shareware package how often they get paid by people who download their package. The conversion rate is miniscule. How many of you just hit "I agree" on the winzip nag screen? The paying demand for their product will drop to almost zero should they release their product out to the world.

    OSS is potentially great for the economy as a whole, and decreases costs of doing business in the general marketplace, but creating it is not a great way to make money.

  • O'Reilly hit the nail on the head. Microsoft has been deliberately generating confusion between their interests and their customers'. O'Reilly rightly draws a distinction between software vendors and users.

    However, I think a further distinction needs to be drawn: software vendor/system owner/user. What O'Reilly calls users are really government agencies and corporations - not users in the Stallmanish sense. I think the current trend is shifting power from the software vendor to the system owner (agency/corp/isp) but not to the end user.

    In fact, Free Software provides a rich array of tools for system owners to restrict and monitor the actual users. Is a clerk at Burlington Coat Factory in any way empowered by the fact that his terminal runs Linux? Does he even know it runs Linux? I guess not.

    The irony is that Free Software is far more useful to technically sophisticated organizations than to normal human beings. AOL apparently convinced many AOL users that Usenet was part of AOL. Likewise, there seems to be an increasing role for these intermediary "spoon feeders" who will hide the complexity of Free Software from customers/employees/students and present them with a shiny, smooth, tamperproof interface, with all the confusing names, licenses and versions ground off.

    I am very glad that the power of the software vendors is waning; however we must be alert to the new forms of power being wielded against the actual users.
  • "There are none so blind as those who are blinded
    by irrational zealotry."

    If I had to choose between zealots who insist all code should be GPLed and zealots who insist the GPL doesn't have a place in this world, I'd choose the GPL.

    Later, Seeker

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson

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