Subject: So what is an FSB anyway?
From: jaf@inference.com (Jose A. Fernandez)
Date: Wed, 3 Feb 93 00:03:03 PST

    SCOTTM> What other "invisible hand" motivations are there for
    SCOTTM> creating free software, other than circumventing the patent
    SCOTTM> process? Obviously, in the programmer tools niche, there is
    SCOTTM> quite a demand for GNU tools, because they range on so many
    SCOTTM> different platforms. However, once you escape outside that
    SCOTTM> arena, it's quite a different story.

In my opinion, the "tool products" of an FSB would be the current set of
GNU tools: an editor, compilers, a linker, debugger, etc.  "Library
products" will, hopefully, be reusable software components; X11 and the
NIHCL are examples of reusable software available on the Internet.  And
"application products" will be end-user applications; oleo is an example
of an end-user application.

Once the "tool products" are reasonably complete (with the release of
the Hurd operating system), I expect FSB's to turn to the development of
"library products".  And once a sufficient base of libraries is
accumulated, FSB's will turn to "application products".

The "invisible hand", in my opinion, is the commoditization of software.
The "commercial market" will be drastically leveled as free applications
are published, become known, and "compete" against commercially sold
applications.  In this environment, patent law will take an interesting
turn and if we're all lucky, software patenting as we know it will
cease.

The FSB DEI Inc. could optimize its revenue by selling binaries of some
useful thing called FOO and withholding publication of FOO's sources.
The problem, of course, is that FOO could be implemented and published
by the FSB FEIF Inc., at which point ABC Inc. must optimize something
else.  DEI Inc.  could patent FOO, but then it's not an FSB any more and
the issue moves away from the FSB arena.

I rather admire Cygnus' FSB model: Cygnus provides a technology service
for customers who need some useful thing BAR and are willing to pay for
its timely implementation.  Yet once BAR has been implemented, it is
published for the benefit of everyone.  [I could be completely wrong
here; Cygnus might be making BAR's and withholding their publication,
but I'm hoping they're not.  [I hope no one at Cygnus takes offense at
this comment.]]

I expect the big challenge for an FSB, in the long term, is building and
maintaining a reputation for good service and good citizenship.