Subject: Re: Free Software vs. Open Source
From: Ben_Tilly@trepp.com
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 13:47:47 -0500


Norbert Bollow wrote:
> Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com> wrote:
>
> > Businesses, to be as successful as they can, must not
> > adopt any morality.
>
> What exactly do you mean with this?

When businesses are judged by their economic returns, the ones that put
generating those returns behind other factors are at a serious
disadvantage.

This disadvantage may be survivable if you have high margins.  However
it seems that most fsb opportunities are in service businesses which
naturally have tight margins.  (Indeed a large part of the value to the
customer is a guarantee that your margins have to be tight.)  Any fsb
that does not understand that has poor long-term survival prospects.

This does NOT mean that a free software supporting running a fsb is
required to make moral compromises.  You just need to pick a business
model and problem where it makes economic sense for you to act as you
think is right.  For instance Bob Young founded and ran Red Hat on an
economic theory in which GPLing everything made more cents than the
alternative.  Despite the fact that Red Hat has consistently acted from
economic principles and not moral ones, it has consistently made the FSF
happy, right down to funding projects to compete head to head with
potential proprietary threats.

If you want some ideas for how to find such business models you can
read through the open source literature, ask on this list, and pick
up the book Information Rules by Shapiro and Varian.

Cheers,
Ben