Subject: Re: "Reasonable Profits"
From: "Jesus M. Gonzalez-Barahona" <>
Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 11:38:01 +0000 (/etc/localtime)

	ACT is not exactly an example of libre software not being gratis, but 
an experience in that direction, I guess. ACT (Ada Core Technologies, is a company currently maintaining and developing 
Gnat, the Ada95 compiler of choice these days. Gnat is based on GCC,
and therefore covered by GPL. Gnat early development was done at NYU,
funded by US taxpayers, but that produces just a "toy" compiler, with
many parts of the language not implemented and many bugs... (although
it was usable). When the government funded project ended, ACT become a 
spinoff, hiring some of the people who did the Gnat development. Their 
business model seems to be the following:

	. Sell maintenance contracts to companies using Gnat for their 
business. The contract includes support, bug resolution, consulting
*and* early new versions of the compiler and new features.

	. Keep that companies happy by providing a good support, and
let their demands direct, to some extent, new developments. For
instance, the compiler is ported to a new platform if enough clients
demand it.

	. Release "public" versions of the compiler with a certain
delay. That make that releases usually quite stable, and gave Gnat the 
"market share" it currently has.

	Therefore, ACT is getting money from the companies buying
support. Everybody seems to be happy. ACT makes money enough to
survive and make new developments, companies using the compiler can
buy support and "direct" its development to their needs. And people
who is not a customer of ACT can have reliable versions of the
compiler with 6 to 12 months of delay (of course, including

	Nothing prevents a company with a contract with ACT of making
its early versions of Gnat available to the public (the GPL will allow 
it), but no one seems to be motivated to do so. And even in that case, 
it could be that ACT business weren't affected at all.

	Of course, this can be just a small example, in a very narrow
market. But it can also show how new opportunities are available for
making money in the free software world...


Russell Nelson writes:
 > Frank Hecker writes:
 >  > ... that being libre directly drives being gratis or near-gratis,
 >  > at least for the actual software in question.
 > Does it?  Has this been tested or is it a supposition?
 > -- 
 > -russ nelson <>
 > Crynwr supports Open Source(tm) Software| PGPok |   Freedom is the primary
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Jesus M. Gonzalez Barahona             | Grupo de Sistemas y Comunicaciones
tel +3491 624 9458, fax +3491 624 9430 | Departamento de Informatica, | Universidad Carlos III de Madrid       | c/ Butarque, 15, 28911 Leganes, Spain