Subject: Re: Free software businesses
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 16:30:23 +0900

>>>>> "Thomas" == Thomas Lord <> writes:

    Thomas> Our hypothetical customer for embedded systems
    Thomas> customization isn't [interested in open source].  Well,
    Thomas> she is, but she doesn't know it.

I think that the claim under discussion is that she isn't.  The
argument that she is, is familiar, well-worn, and rehearsing it out
loud is precisely what would make you persona non grata at Gumby's
office, if I understand him correctly.

    Thomas> "We'll deliver and help deploy your new CRM system
    Thomas> including client software for your sales force laptops.
    Thomas> It's $X for the server and $Y per seat deployed for the
    Thomas> first N seats -- yes, we think you're going to grow to
    Thomas> need N seats.  After that, if you need nothing further
    Thomas> from us, it's $0.00 per additional seat.  And if you do
    Thomas> need something more, while we hope you'll choose us
    Thomas> [.....]  Please compare us to SAP, Oracle, etc."

I don't understand the deal.  Are you charging per seat up to N seats,
even if they start with, say, N/2?  What if he says "I'll take
$(X + 1*Y) of that deal, please?"  Are you going to say "No, I was
lying, you have to take at least N"?  Or suppose he says "Actually,
I'm thinking M*N seats eventually, and right now I'll take
$(X + N*Y/M) worth with no cap on the number of seats I have to pay
for if and when I use them"?

Or are you charging a flat $(X + N*Y) based on *your* estimate of N
seats?  Don't you think he's going to say "No thanks; that doesn't
address my cash flow uncertainties"?  (Not to mention "WTF do *you*
know about *my* business's growth potential?!")

    Thomas> I think Gumby is (in part) offering very good sales advice.

Oh, come on.  Many years ago the OSD was written to avoid the words
"free software" because (a) too many people thought it meant "zero
price", and (b) because it was associated with an ethic that was, and
is, fundamentally suspicious of big businesses and big profits.  Now
we're being told to avoid the words "open source", too, for what seem
to be the same reasons?

As I understand it, the claim is much deeper than that.  It's not just
the words, it's the practice of free software that doesn't matter to
business.  *Some* features of free software are *sometimes* useful,
but *which ones* and *when* are too case-by-case for free software as
a whole to be considered a "strategy".

I disagree, I think, but I'm still trying to figure out what he's
trying to say.

[2]  IMO, so much the worse for the GPL, if so.

Graduate School of Systems and Information Engineering   University of Tsukuba        Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
        Economics of Information Communication and Computation Systems
          Experimental Economics, Microeconomic Theory, Game Theory