Subject: Re: The merger: a user's perspective
From: "Alan S. Knitowski" <>
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 10:07:04 -0800

Jonathan Shapiro wrote:

> >Today, the resistance is from people who are trying to
figure out how to keep middleware (which is where IBM
derives a lot of its revenue one way or the other)
proprietary.  Fundamentally, such people don't understand
that the camel's nose is already in the tent.  That said,
they *do* have a legitimate question: how do you run a
multibillion dollar company without proprietary assets?  I
understand the economics, but ultimately nobody knows if
this is possible, because nobody has done it.
I would suggest that the question faced by IBM is very
similar to that faced by our company (and many like ours).
Mainly, how do you launch and fund a start-up that embraces
open source and free software if you establish a goal to
*not* create intellectual property rights or proprietary
assets?  I too feel that I have an understanding of both the
economics and the business model, but it is an uphill battle
because nobody has done it and there is something
fundamentally at odds with the traditional venture process
of asking for millions of development dollars to create
great software that will then be given away for free into
the public domain.  The basic question becomes...what are
the barriers to entry if you don't have any patent
protection or IPR...usually preceded by a strange look on a
VC's face and a statement such as "you're going to do
what?!?!?!"  This is an issue that anyone trying to start or
build a for-profit company has to address independent of
their desire to use open source and/or free software as part
of their model.
Bradley Kuhn wrote:

> >More companies have been springing up like weeds.
Really?  Is there a list somewhere?
I don't know of a formal list, but Vovida Networks could be
added to your list of opportunities for individuals
interested in both open source and free software.  Plus, we
are in a hiring ramp from 25 to 50 to 100 in the next 6-8
Bradley Kuhn wrote:

> >It's a comprise between the goals of freedom and the
pragmatic fact that it is *so hard* to make a living writing
free software.
An equally challenging problem is that it is *hard* to build
a for-profit company wrapped around free software without
jeopardizing the trust and goals of both your investor base
and the greater community simultaneously.  This is a *very*
real and challenging issue because often the two objectives
are moderately (or greatly) in conflict with one another and
the company is diligently working to do the "right thing"
with both groups.  Additionally, it is equally thought
provoking to define exactly what freedom means in the
context of the community and in the context of running a
for-profit business.  Freedom can mean free as in without
cost or it can mean free as in openness, liberation,
democracy, etc., etc.  It can be dangerous to misuse the
term freedom because there are mechanisms to create a lot of
freedom without ever providing software for free as in
without cost.  I'd be interested to hear the views and
perspectives of the list on this issue.  Thanks in advance
for the useful dialogue.

Best Regards,
Alan Knitowski
President & CEO
Vovida Networks, Inc.
408-941-1791 (Fax)