Subject: Re: Economics of software distribution
From: ghost@ALADDIN.COM (L. Peter Deutsch)
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 93 07:34:16 PDT

> 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.

Good point.  But someone still has to write the software, and the person
writing the software has to make a living.  If the person is spending
his/her time doing technical support, he/she isn't spending it creating
the software.  In small companies, you have to choose how to use limited
resources of people's time.  Also, if the best people are doing tech
support, that implies that the quality of the software itself will be
lower, since it won't be built by the best people.

>   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...

Yes, but not for the huge majority of individual users; and part of the
point I was making is that you can't make a mass-market, low-margin
product using the free software model.

>   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...

Again, if the software producers use the model of "put out products that
are hard to install, use, and understand, and let someone else pick up the
pieces," I can see that.  That works with X, Unix, and MS-DOS.  But what
if I have higher aspirations for my product's end-user quality, which
makes all that stuff unnecessary?  Or if I want to put out a product that
is useful only as a software component to a modest number of OEMs, so
there is no market for that stuff?

> 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.

For big business customers, I'm sure the argument can be made, but
small businesses and individual users want solutions, not technology,
and OEMs want something as close to that as possible.  A "solution"
that requires expensive support or waiting for the market to produce
usable documentation is only a solution for a relatively small number
of people.

L. Peter Deutsch :: Aladdin Enterprises :: P.O. box 60264, Palo Alto, CA 94306
ghost@aladdin.com, ...decwrl!aladdin!ghost ; voice 415-322-0103 ; fax 322-1734
	    "Implementation is the sincerest form of flattery."