Subject: Re: Linux for Windows
From: Bob Weiner <weiner@altrasoft.com>
Date: 05 Jun 1999 03:23:14 -0700

Hi Doug:

Welcome.  It is great that you've considered discussing the issue of
releasing an Open Source version of Interix on this list as the level of
understanding of Open Source issues from contributors on this list is
exceptionally high.  Certain contributors also have solid business
experience.

>>>>> "DM" == Douglas Miller <douglas_miller@interix.com> writes:

   DM> We are looking for feedback on releasing [a new version of Interix] to
   DM> the world.  We are planning to use an Open Source model but have the
   DM> usual concerns about how we make money.  Can we use a model the makes
   DM> the product and source available to non-commercial and educational
   DM> users at no cost but have a small fee per copy for commercial use?

Open Source is a trademark intended for use with software that meets a number 
of licensing requirements as spelled out at: http://www.opensource.org/osd.html.
Items 5 and 6 of the Open Source Definition preclude the use of license terms
that discriminate against one group of users.  Item 1 precludes you from
requiring every user of the software to pay you a fee.  (You can only require
this of people who obtain the software directly from you; other parties must
be granted rights of free redistribution.)  So the answer is that you can
charge a fee and are free to waive the fee for certain users but you cannot
require that all people obtaining or using the software pay the fee under
an Open Source model.

So how do you make money?  Talk to some Red Hat folks who are following the
trend of Internet companies in not making money (generating a yearly loss)
but still creating enough value to take their company public for a likely
high valuation.  (In the IPO alone, they plan to raise close to $100 million
this year.)  Open Source, like the Internet, forces people to reconsider
their business models and focus more on market momentum than on basic profit
and loss statements.  Personally, I am not a fan of huge debt-based growth
models but they continue to be a source of major wealth creation today.

You can generate revenue in many different ways where clients pay you
based on their needs and desires, not on your ability to force payment:

	support contracts sell well into corporate and government spaces
	as you well know;

	Red Hat has made much of its $10m in revenue in the past from
	shrink wrap distributions with printed documentation; recently
	they have done OEM deals with vendors such as DELL;

	training services often generate significant revenues at the
	cost of being people-intensive;

	custom development and extension contracts are what largely
	built Cygnus' business in embedded system development tools;
	vertical industry players may be willing to pay for custom
	distribution development and maintenance.

I can tell you that we ended up closing a support and training sale with a
Fortune 50 company as a direct result of our willingness to provide our
technologies as Open Source.  The sale has also grown in size as a result of
the client's ability to allow all of its users to become familiar with the
technologies.

   DM> Will potential users rebel because this runs on top of a Microsoft
   DM> operating system or will the Linux / UNIX crowd see this as the first
   DM> truly open, cross platform API for Windows? (We obviously believe the
   DM> later).

Your product is entirely tied to Windows so there is no point in worrying
about people who are against Windows usage from the outset.  I would imagine
your target markets are limited to users who feel Windows has deficiencies
that your product solves.  The key issue is whether you actually end up using
an Open Source model or not.  If you do, I think the work will be welcomed by
all who could possibly welcome it.  If you choose a more middle of the road
approach, you certainly won't win over any Open Source advocates and you may
simply confuse your existing market base about what your strategy is.  In
summary, given the almost daily announcements of software being made Open
Source, there can be little PR or market benefit to taking baby steps
towards a more open license.  Instead, plan your business around the broader
distribution that Open Sourcing can provide.  Let us know what you decide
and the kinds of reactions you receive.

Regards,

Bob Weiner
CEO
Altrasoft Inc.