Subject: Re: Motivating support contracts
From: Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com>
Date: 14 Sep 1998 13:10:25 -0000

Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com> wrote:
 > When I discuss the price of software, I often get the response that
 > program Y only costs $99 (or $45, or $9, or whatever programs of that
 > type are costing this week) which is cheap, and why am I making a fuss?
 > I care because as a purchaser I want the cost of software to approach
 > the price to create it, not to float up to some marketing-derived
 > disposable income-related price.

Sorry, Brian, this is a foolish idea.  There are many other costs than
merely the price paid to create software -- including at very least
the price to distribute and market it.  These are costs that are
incurred even for free software.  For example, every time I answer a
question on the qmail mailing list, that is the price I pay to market
qmail (oh, and my services, to boot).

People don't choose software in a vacuum.  Price is only a part (and
probably a small part) in their decision.  Freedom is *also* only a
part (and probably a small part) in their decision.  Only a cheapskate 
chooses the cheapest software, only a Stallman chooses the freeest
software -- everyone else has other criteria which are more important, 
like, "will the software meet my needs", "will the software continue
to be improved", "can the distributor be trusted not to introduce a
trojan horse", "will I get the support I need", "what is the quality
of the supplemental materials".

This is directly related to the private conversation you and I had
about price and fairness (generators in an ice storm).  You're
expecting a price to be fair to individuals.  It won't be.  A price in
a free market will be efficient -- and that's fair to all the
participants in the market.

-- 
-russ nelson <rn-sig@crynwr.com>  http://crynwr.com/~nelson
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