Subject: Re: Sun, BSD, and GNU
From: craig@jcb-sc.com
Date: 31 May 1999 17:25:08 -0000

>The GPL, via Linux, is definitely
>undermining the ability of people to sell proprietary software,
>and changing the business models to ones that treat software as a
>commodity, with the business value created not by the software,
>per se, but through added value such as branding or channels of
>distribution.

Well, this is interesting to hear, as it comes from someone who
I imagine is a lot more plugged-in to the relevant portions of
the industry than I.  Thanks for sharing!

>* Builders of new *services* on top of the commodity software
>layer.
>
>To me, this last bullet is the BIG point that everyone is
>missing.  Craig said earlier that we shouldn't consider companies
>that just *use* libre software, and don't produce it, in
>considering the economic impact of free software.  But I consider
>that the real "wave front" of innovation in the computer industry
>right now is precisely among those companies.  ISPs, information
>providers like Yahoo!, ecommerce companies like Amazon.  They are
>building on the open source platform, and not returning a whole
>lot to it.  But you guys don't rag on them, because they don't
>distribute software; they just provide services, and so you don't
>think of them as software businesses.

Not sure which Craig you're referring to, but I doubt I said this
quite that way.

What I do believe, though, is that, in the areas we're discussing,
those businesses do get additional value if they have the source
code to the program they're using, and they're assured of that if
that includes GPL'ed source.  If they don't *value* having the
source, it doesn't matter much to them whether GPL or BSD/X11
sources are involved, I would assume, in which case, indeed, we
probably shouldn't consider them as having anything other than a
trivial effect on the "equation" we're discussing.

But if they're sufficiently-big-enough or -well-run companies,
they'll probably return value to the original free software in the
form of bug reports, if not actual funding of improvements.
Anyway, I figure, if they're leveraging the availability of free
software in a way that doesn't directly improve it in the way we
might understand, but they're profiting off of it nevertheless, then
that's evidence that free software is making the world cheaper to
run...it's silly to pay even $.01 extra for a CD from amazon.com
just so they can afford to purchase the hardware and software,
as well as hire the staff necessary, to coddle WinNT.  Yet we'd be
paying *far* more than that, I would think, if instead of WinNT,
they had only MS-DOS available, so it's not so much the free software
the benefits the whole economy, it's the technological improvements...
which it might turn out that free software delivers on a more
consistent basis.

        tq vm, (burley)