Subject: Re: Economic incentives to produce software in a free software regime
From: Crispin Cowan <>
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 19:11:14 +0000

"Stephen J. Turnbull" wrote:

> >>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <> writes:
>     Crispin> Really?  "Nice car, eh?  Want tires with that?"
>     Crispin> Unbundling of essential stuff was a standard tactic with
>     Crispin> sleazy car dealerships before I was born.
> How do you make money by doing that?

I guess you don't, since it isn't done any more.  I think it was done due to
pressure to keep list prices low.

> Selling the service of preinstallation _is_ a good idea.  But that's
> not bundling.
>     Crispin> Why not?  It works.  It's rather difficult to mass market
>     Crispin> [blah blah preinstalled OS blah blah]
> That's not bundling; that's offering the service of preinstallation.
> Bundling means denying consumers the choice to to without.

Gotcha.  I was unfamiliar with that distinction.

>     >> "I can do it; I want to do it; therefore it is right for me to
>     >> do it" has always left me cold as an ethical argument, whether
>     >> you're talking about national sovereignty or copying bits.
>     Crispin> "I can do it; I want to do it; It won't affect anyone
>     Crispin> else if I do it; therefore it is right for me to do it"
>     Crispin> works just FINE for me.  That last condition is critical.
>     Crispin> You can pee where you want to, except in my soup :-)
> Well, as I see it, sharing copies does affect other people: it raises
> the price to the licensed users.

It CANNOT raise the price to the licensed users, since they've already paid.
It can only affect the price that future licensees will pay.  And as RMS
points out, this discussion takes on vastly different meanings, depending on
whether the sharables in question are proprietary or free software.

>     Crispin> Huh?  Millions of users, and they're not mass market?
>     Crispin> What's your definition of "mass market"?
> Explain, please.
> I know lots of people who run linux, but use emacs and vim "strictly
> from need".

I know lots of people who use either emacs or vi day in and day out.  These
products literally have millions of users.  Certainly not as many users as
Word, or even Netscape, but they do have lots.  So where's the line?  How
many users does it take to be "mass market"?

>     Crispin> The "deliberate strategy" seems to have been to sell web
>     Crispin> servers (a variant on selling hardware).
> This is _not_ a mere "variant".  Selling web servers is Evil, at least
> to true believers.  Selling hardware never is.

The variant is "giving a free program to sell another thing."  In this case,
the "other thing" is non-free, which true believers don't approve of.
Fortunately for us, the free thing (Netscape Communicator) works with free
web servers as well (Apache).

>     Crispin> It's more teasing the field of economics in general.
>     Crispin> Like psychology, I view economics as an infant science:
> Generous.  We're not going to do better than the weatherman, ever.

Even if you could do that, you'd have a major breakthrough.  Right now,
anyone who can predict major market crashes with as little as one day's
notice can make vast fortunes shorting stocks.  To my knowledge, no one can
do that reliably yet.  As soon as someone can do it reliably, then it won't
be profitable any more :-)

Crispin Cowan, CTO, WireX Communications, Inc.
Free Hardened Linux Distribution: