Subject: Re: Successful FSBs
From: Ben Elliston <bje@redhat.com>
Date: 27 Oct 2002 09:30:35 +1100

>>>>> "peter" == peter bryn jones <peterjones@eudoramail.com> writes:

  peter> Normally I would expect value to be created by releasing
  peter> software that offers new functionality, although it could be
  peter> achieved by removing the costs associated with using
  peter> proprietary software, through the creation of an
  peter> alternative. Value can be captured by acting as a standard
  peter> service company for the free software. In the case of
  peter> replacing proprietary software the value created for users
  peter> would be equivalent to the cost of the proprietary software,
  peter> if the free software was similarly useful, and a proportion
  peter> of this value could be captured by offering service contracts
  peter> for this software.

When I read Peter's comments, I started thinking about an unfortunate
trend I have noticed in the free software community.

Maybe I am not seeing the situation for what it really is, but my
perception is that much free software today is just a clone of
proprietary software packages.  It seems akin to the automotive
industry in years gone by, whereby one company would spend all of the
money on research and development and then another company would churn
out replicas.  Perhaps it is a natural requirement that we "catch up"
with all of the proprietary software on offer that people want to run
on free operating systems?

One package that I think highlights this situation is GNU Octave.
Having observed some of the Octave mailing lists, it is clear that
most Octave users want nothing more from Octave than for it to be a
bug-for-bug compatible MATLAB clone.  Unfortunately, this leaves
little room for Octave to do things *better* than MATLAB and I think
this short-term approach of satisfying those kinds of user demands is
probably hindering free software in the long term.

Ben