Subject: Re: Economics of software distribution
From: ghost@ALADDIN.COM (L. Peter Deutsch)
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 93 12:42:58 PDT

> What I'm saying is that a large portion of the software produced by
> the defense dept is duplication of software that the commercial should
> be producing and that other gov't depts are producing.  I've seen
> reinventions of "Show ME" (an X-based conferencing aid), "InterViews"
> (a C++ class interface to X windows), several ports of GCC and GDB
> that, would they have been done properly, would now be in use by
> commercial embedded customers, etc.  What I'm saying is that if they
> could cooperate better, they could more easily adapt to serving
> commercial markets instead of being thrown out of work.  The reason
> they are out of work is the market's way of telling them "your work is
> too expensive/not good enough".

Why do you think they do these things instead of contracting with the
original authors to do them (in the case of gcc/gdb), using what's freely
available (InterView), or licensing Sun's sources (ShowME)?  This doesn't
seem to me to have anything to do with either cooperation or freedom, just
with stupidity, NIH Syndrome, and bad mandated or traditional procurement
practices.

In any event, the overwhelming volume of both DoD and MIS software is not
in the "generic system software" category that you describe and that GNU
focuses on.  It is specific applications that do not have commercial
relevance or value.  A lot of people think that better software
development methodology and/or tools would improve the situation, by
leading to more reusable code and lower effort per customization, but it
seems very unlikely to me that free generic system software would help
much.

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."