Subject: Re: freedom and human kindness (was Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software)
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 4 Nov 1999 11:06:54 -0500

   From: Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com>
   Date: Thu,  4 Nov 1999 10:38:43 -0500 (EST)

   Stephen J. Turnbull writes:
    > the opportunities created by free software are a proper subset of
    > those created by proprietary software, in a "physical" sense.  All
    > of those opportunities are available to firms dealing in
    > proprietary software; it would seem that the revenues available
    > from exploiting proprietary software are so much bigger than those
    > available from "rendering services" that the "sell software
    > products, not programmer hours" model dominates.

   Right, but there are market segments (e.g. operating systems) where
   the existing vendors have such a lock on the market, that the most
   reliable way to enter the market is using free software.  Hence Linux, 
   and oh, I can't remember the name of Cygnus's free embedded OS right
   now.

Cygnus's operating system is called eCos.  And there are several other
free embedded operating systems.

I think the real point about operating systems is that they have
become infrastructure.  The only way to compete against infrastructure
is to somehow force open interfaces (perhaps through government
support, as in telecommunications or eletrical utilities), or to kick
over the card table.  Free software takes the second approach.

Over time, all widely used software becomes infrastructure.  It's
already happened with Microsoft Word, for one obvious example.  I can
safely predict that there will be no successful fee-for-copy
competitor to Microsoft Word.  There may be a successful free-gratis
competitor.  For that competitor to become good enough, it will
probably have to be free-libre.  (I know that there already packages
jockeying for this position.)  (Through bundling, Microsoft has made
Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Windows, appear to be nearly free-libre;
the price is included in the price of the office computer.)

None of this contradicts Stephen's point, except to make the obvious
addition that the nature of the opportunities changes over time.

Ian