Subject: Re: the walls have ears
From: shapj@us.ibm.com
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1999 08:45:31 -0400

Suppose I GPL some code that is buggy and then sell support.  Presumably I can
ship faulty code and thereby improve my support revenues.  At first glance, the
incentives would seem to point this way.  It isn't so clear.

When I first go into the business, I have nothing but code.  The only way to
build a sustainable position in the business is to develop positive reputation.
I can't do that by shipping buggy code.  Later, the code is established, and my
ability to ship buggy code is bounded by the cost to someone else to learn the
code and build a support position around it (actually, we also need to factor in
a cost for the risk to them that I will clean up my act and leave them looking
stupid, which is a significant risk).

Examples in which this has been done include Cygnus (gcc) and Lucid (xemacs),
though in the latter case the issue was rate of evolution.  There may be others.

The point is that there are economic feedback mechanisms in place, and the
knife-edge that Brian proposes abisource might walk is very sharp indeed.

Jonathan S. Shapiro, Ph. D.
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
Email: shapj@us.ibm.com
Phone: +1 914 784 7085  (Tieline: 863)
Fax: +1 914 784 7595

... they [abisource.com]
are giving away the razor and selling the blades, er, GPLing the
application, shipping gratis, and selling support.  I conclude the
product is designed to be bad enough to require support.