Subject: Re: Reasons why being proprietary hurts you more than it helps
From: Brian Bartholomew <bb@wizard.newengland.verio.net>
Date: Wed, 5 May 1999 14:15:45 -0500

> Resolved: that documenting your hardware, and providing Open
> Source(tm) drivers, generates enough value to overcome the risk that
> your intellectual property will be stolen.

I read this as a narrow argument that cost-justifies the technique of
widget frosting.  It does not justify open IP in general.

I think you need to distinguish between the effects of reverse-
engineering strategies which can be publicly admitted and promoted,
and illegal ones which must be hidden.  If your IP is proprietary but
easy to reverse engineer, you may keep out big competitors while still
permitting sales to clever reverse-engineering customers.

> There is no track record which associates proprietary documentation
> and drivers with greater success in the marketplace.

I disagree.  Most highly successful vendors today are as proprietary
and monopolistic as they can get their customers to accept.  Opening
some of their IP only makes a supplier more money when the customers
choose to *stop buying* from more closed suppliers.  What makes
openness profitable is the customer making closedness less profitable.
If the supplier makes the first move, it loses.


A member of the League for Programming Freedom (LPF) http://lpf.ai.mit.edu
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Brian Bartholomew - bb@wv.com - www.wv.com - Working Version, Cambridge, MA