Subject: Re: Economics of software distribution
From: asah@ALLSPICE.BERKELEY.EDU (Adam Sah)
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 93 02:29:46 PST

> That's exactly the kind of labor-intensive activity that I don't see
> working out in the long run.  I guess I could summarize the point of my
> previous message as follows.  If you are being paid only for your time,
> then you have to make enough money on your paid, labor-intensive
> activities to pay for *both* the rest of your life *and* the time you
> spend writing software that you distribute for no more than cost.  The
> free software ethic seems to demand this.  But this seems to imply that
> authors of free software have to charge higher rates for those
> labor-intensive activities than people who pay for those same activities
> with the sale of "unfree" software, or else be motivated by idealism and
> be willing to accept less reward for the same quality of product.

The argument here is that people who do nothing but write docs, do tech
  support, etc. will do a better job than those that are "primarily"
  developers.  The evidence is pretty clear on this:
  1. Most companies don't have their top technical people doing tech
     support.  In the fsb model, you would.

  2. The increase in the price tag of that support may well be a _feature_
	 in the marketplace (the law of you-get-what-you-pay-for, as seen by
     businesspeople, who for years bought IBM PCs over clones that were a
     third the price and twice the performance...

  3. The third party docs companies and support companies seem to be doing
     a good job: O'Reilley's X and Unix manuals, Cygnus, the (now several)
     major publishers of PC how-to books...

The catch may be in the FSBs devotion to its software, not its services.  I
  don't think there's a question of whether the support is good enough or
  even worth the price.  I think the question is how you can convince your
  customers that something which is free is really worth the price.

Thanks again,
-A.Sah'93                     ...Adam Sah...asah@cs.Berkeley.EDU...

"There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking stupid."