Subject: Re: My ears are red (was Re: the walls have ears)
From: Paul Rohr <paul@abisource.com>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 21:55:51 -0700

At 06:05 PM 6/8/99 +0000, Karsten M. Self wrote:
>What's your T-Shirt URL?

http://www.abisource.com/buy.phtml

>You've got a presence already.  

Thanks.  It's always hard to know whether we've spent enough time away from 
the code to do the necessary amount of evangelizing. 

>Might not hurt to talk with Augustin,
>Young, O'Reilly, and co.  Handling rejection is a good skill to have
>anyway.

With all those IPOs looming on the horizon, it might be a bit difficult to 
get their attention in the near future, but ...

>Well, I know a lawyer with an outfit in Florida who might be looking for
>a docketing app.  It's an outgrowth of a scheduling/asset management
>system.  You'd want to wait until you've played with scheduling systems
>a bit.  I can drop you more info if you'd like.

I think our plate's plenty full enough right now.  Thanks, though. 

>Today's market is different in that there is a clearly
>established standard (MS Word) and some highly competitive alternatives
>(WP, AmiPro (? Still around ?), vim,...)

Do you really see them as highly competitive?  From a feature perspective, 
you'd think they ought to be, but when you look at market share, it's a 
whole 'nother story.  Trying to out-do MSFT head-to-head at a proprietary 
business model is an easy way to lose.  

For all that I *believe* that FSB branding strategies and business models 
can have an innate appeal to *customers* -- even those who never use a 
compiler -- I have to admit that this belief hasn't yet proven itself in the 
marketplace, at least for apps.  Good thing I'm an entrepreneur, or that 
might scare me.  ;-)

Operating systems and dev tools sure seem to be doing well these days. 

>Think Ghostscript/Ghostview.  Idea is to initially fund development of a
>high-ticket or high-value item as proprietary, closed software.  

I understand the model, but I still don't like what it would do to our brand 
positioning.  It's very easy to explain to people that we're 100% GPL, so 
they can trust us.  People like and respect us for the purity of that 
stance.  

Call me crazy, but I see the combination of great products and a great 
GPL-based brand as a wonderful way to acquire and retain customers.  I love 
the idea of having customers who pay us because they *want* to -- all I have 
to do is keep making them happy and they'll keep sending money my way.  If 
they just paid us because they *had* to, they'd constantly be looking 
elsewhere for alternatives.  

Hybrid models just aren't that intrinsically appealing to me, because you 
take on too many of the PR burdens of proprietary companies, without being 
able to reap all the financial benefits of being a full-bore (traditional) 
capitalist.  Straddling fences can be done, but without perfect balance, it 
can really hurt, too. 

Am I the only one who thinks that FSBs are best off applying licenses like 
the GPL to ultra-high-volume applications, where the fact that not every 
user pays you hurts less?  

>That's the legal side.  The marketing/business concept is what I like to
>call "DPL" -- delayed public licensing.  The idea is to market the
>product as proprietary for a time (a year, maybe more, maybe less), then
>re-license it under a public license.    

I don't see how that'd work for a mass-market horizontal product (like, say, 
an office suite).  Early in the development of such a product, it's got 
fewer features, which restricts its usefulness to a smaller population.  
More mature products, with fully fleshed-out feature sets, are what sells 
well into corporations who spend all the money on software anyhow.  

However, under a delayed license, you're trying to force the people with 
money to pay early, so that it's available to everyone else later on.  Why 
would they do that?  It sounds like this could easily devolve into a "free 
rider" problem, at least in my markets.  

To put it another way, I think I understand why that model works for Peter 
Deutsch, but I don't see how to make it work for me.  

Paul