Subject: Re: [coallesced replies] Re: how to create 21,780 new fr
From: "Forrest J. Cavalier III" <mibsoft@mibsoftware.com>
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2002 10:34:40 -0500 (EST)

In <200211050542.VAA21323@emf.net>, Tom Lord wrote, in part:

>  forrest:
> 
>    Users (and user populations) have very diverse needs, which
>    are satisfied by using many different software packages.  You
>    can never offer "all your binaries."  You must fence off a
>    subset of what you will support, which is another way of
>    saying you divided your market/created a new distro.  That's
>    OK, but it isn't a new business model.
> 
> You may or may not have a point here.   You'd have to be more
> specific.  Can you give us back-of-an-envelope numbers?
> 

OK.

Looking at the size of *BSD ports, CPAN, or similar would give you
an idea of diversity in open communities.  Let's say on the order
of 5000.  

Selecting populations geographically results in the maximum diversity 
(in everything except culture and language.)  Any resonably sized
population (N > 1000) which is selected geographically would be expected
to include users of almost every one of those 5000 packages.

Now what can be officially supported?

What RedHat ships gives an idea of a fenced off set (with the caveat
that RedHat support isn't perfect or top-notch and costs more than
$11/month.)  Just as an example, their RPMS for the INN nntp server
generate support emails to inn-workers mailing list, which
can be answered by "you must read INSTALL which comes with INN" and
the classic "get the sources, read the docs, it isn't hard."  Take
this to mean that the RPMs are compromises: they are not as good as getting
the package from the official site.  (At least for some users.)
I don't often use RedHat personally, so I can't say if that happens
with other packages too.

Here's another data point, closer in population to what you outline.

I asked someone who does systems support/2nd level help desk for
a largish global non-techie corporation.  She didn't say how many
are in her group, but my guess (based on previous conversations) is
that they probably have about 10 people, and they do provide the top-notch
support that you outline (for the apps they officially support.)

They support a userbase of 30,000 running a mixture of systems
from Windows to mainframes. But most of their service load is for
desktops and laptops (at least 25% are laptops.)  

They officially support Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000. (That might give 
you an idea of how easy/likely it is to assume you always have up to
date versions.)

They do take support calls for oddball apps and platforms
(like Mac), but she estimates there are only 50-100 apps
they 'officially support.'  (I.e. get certified, trained,
have manuals for, and can provide good support for.)

She doesn't get the pie-in-the-sky salary or benefits you
mention in your outline and spends 1 of every 4 weeks
on-call (168 hours continuous.)

Their small number of apps is probably explained
by the fact that her employer is not selling technology
or services, so users have pretty homogeneous needs on the
desktop.  That is totally unlike what you would have in a
geographically delineated market like you outline.  

There is no way to provide top-notch (i.e. "official" support)
for two orders of magnitude more applications with 10 people, or even
your figure of 16 people per 30,000.  I'd estimate you'd need
significant staff just for updating/repackaging/regression
testing apps from the official maintainer's sources.  You
do the back-of-envelope calculations on that.