Subject: FSB marketing, was Re: Novel anti-software-patent article
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2000 12:30:39 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Frank" == Frank Ch Eigler <fche@elastic.org> writes:

    Frank> Stephen wrote:

    >> [...]  One thing that is different for software from other
    >> industries is that marketing (and tuning the product to a mass
    >> market) can be far more costly than development.  [...]  One
    >> way to pay for that kind of marketing muscle is to award the
    >> innovator a monopoly.  I don't know if that's the best way to
    >> do it.  But I don't know of a better way.  Ie, "active" way.
    >> [...]

    Frank> Is it naive to think that an FSB has at least one unique
    Frank> advantage over a non-free SB, in that free software can to
    Frank> some extent market itself?

Yes, it is extremely naive, and no, it is not naive at all.

    Frank> It can proliferate at near-zero cost to the users and make
    Frank> a name for the FSB in the process.  It may be enough
    Frank> attention to maintain a smallish FSB.

Or even a biggish FSB, with minimal marketing effort and that
"honest".  If you're in it for fun and a comfortable living, I think
it's harder but by no means prohibitively so.  (Can't say from
experience, but the people on this list certainly include a fair
number of people who have done well by doing good.)  From the point of
view of the profit-hungry FSB, it's not naive at all.

But don't forget, firms like Microsoft and Apple can do this too, to
some extent.  Yesterday my wife installed some drivers for her new
printer.  As far as she's concerned, QuickTime 3 was zero-price.
QuickTime 4 Pro costs money....  Illusion, yes; I'm sure Canon pays
Apple royalties for that "free" software.  And she noticed the Apple
name out loud.  "I didn't know Apple was a software company."

And they do give away stuff at price zero from their web sites.  It's
not exclusively an advantage of FSBs.  In fact, you can argue that
it's only an advantage to the extent that proprietary firms are
shooting themselves in the foot (cf. Shapiro and Varian, _Information
Rules_; this is one of the most important points they make).

    Frank> Maybe bitter-tasting marketing efforts become required only
    Frank> when the FSB is unsatisfied with the natural rate of free
    Frank> software spreading.

What's naive is thinking that here the issue is how the FSB can make a
profit.  The issue with IP is not a matter of policy for the FSB only.
It's a matter of _social_ policy.  FSBs cannot, as DJ and Brian
Bartholomew point out, abdicate their responsibility to worry about
the social costs and benefits.  FSBs cannot (IMHO) honestly advocate
changing the IP system on the basis that it would make it easier for
them to do business, and ignore the social issues.

The problem is that there are lots of things (internationalization,
localization, ensuring driver availability, documentation, tutorials,
800 support numbers) that require lots of money to pay for them, and
people won't do for the fun of invention---at least, not to deadline.
And the marketing itself; if people don't know your product exists, it
does them no good.

"Proliferating at near-zero cost" basically means _no financial
returns_ to the developer.  If there are any returns, _somebody's_
paying a cost!  You can't use a "name" to pay programmers (to do icky
boring stuff like I18N) or translators (for localized message
catalogs) or buy peripherals (to ensure compatibility).  You can't use
that kind of "name" to force hardware manufacturers to be your driver
development and alpha-test organization, as Microsoft does.  You can't
use a "name" to run television commercials to let the "if the banner
doesn't appear in 6 seconds, on to the next link" crowd know that you
can run the latest Sony and Dreamcast games on Linux.

And those couch potatos _are willing to cough up bucks_ for those
services.  They're not dumb lusers; they just have other uses for
their time than we do.  They do not know about FreshMeat, and even if
they did, they wouldn't really understand how to use it.  "Configure?
Where's the Setup icon?"

Our problem is that IP, which is a fairly good solution to their needs
(everybody pays a premium which covers services that they couldn't
guess they need), sucks as an environment for FSBs.

But the thing is that an FSB has to operate on a fee for service
model, since they can't really jack up the fee for product very high
(and stay free).  FUBAR, Inc, is _not_ going to be pleased if the fees
they pay Cygnus to optimize GCC for the FUBAR 42 are used instead to
write a catalog of Tibetan messages for Code Fusion!  Or even do core
development on it.

Yes, Cygnus can finance it out of profit, and FUBAR Inc never needs to
know what that profit was or where it went.  All FUBAR needs to know
is that Ugly Duckling Solutions consistently charges 20% less for
equal quality work, and I doubt they'll care that UDS never translates
GCC messages to Klingon and that their Source Code Finder is just a
sh wrapper around `find / -name *src*'.

Even with a name like "Cygnus" you have to find some way to pay for
that kind of work; AFAICT they've chosen the traditional
"pay-per-copy", maybe even "pay-per-seat" approach, for Code Fusion.


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