Subject: Re: Reasons why being proprietary hurts you more than it helps
From: Bob Weiner <weiner@altrasoft.com>
Date: 01 Jun 1998 12:49:29 -0700

I should note before making my comments that I am a supporter of shipping
source code with software products for the client's benefit in local
adaptation.  I think customers should be able to use purchased products in
ways that work best for them.

In general, I think there are too many raw assertions in Russ' article
that aren't backed up by large scale business experience.  Let me
just respond to one particular issue that is representative.

   RN> Holding back information as proprietary helps you, but only a very
   RN> small amount.  You have hurt the competitor, but you have also hurt
   RN> yourself.  There is no track record which associates proprietary
   RN> information with greater success in the marketplace.

IBM, HP, Xerox, Kodak, Motorola, Sony, Hitachi, Ericsson and the list goes
on, have all built tremendous global businesses with strong efforts at keeping
major innovations proprietary for many years.  I am familiar with a number
of such proprietary protection programs and I can tell you that they are
quite widespread and continually buttressed by major management.  All of
these firms have likely supported open efforts at one time or another but
have never made these the crux of their businesses.  On this basis, I really
can't understand the genesis of Russ' comments as a general statement about
businesses.

Things may be shifting towards more openness but I have long contended that
the real world moves much slower than many people imagine, as does the world
of high technology.  Major technical transitions often take a minimum of 15
years to move from research concept to successfully mass marketed
technology.  These longer effective technology cycles are what allow larger
firms to invest serious capital in longer range developments and their
proprietary protections, for better or worse, give them the comfort zone
they often need to believe that they will be able to profit from these
investments.

Cheers,

Bob