Subject: Re: open source definition
From: "Robert A. Bruce" <rab@cdrom.com>
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1998 05:26:47 -0700

Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com> said...
>Picture a world like the one in Neil Stephenson's _Diamond Age_: Every
>manufactured object has the cost properties of software.  Big up front
>cost to design the first one, nearly zero cost to print out copies.
>This is the world I want my profitable free software development plan
>to work in.  I call this the Star Trek economy problem.
>
>Basing a business's revenue on old-fashioned, hard-to-reproduce things
>like cdroms, books, or consulting hours, is a perfectly fine and moral
>thing to do.  But it doesn't answer the question I'm interested in.

We sell most of our CDROMs for $39.  The replication cost is less
than 40 cents, or about 1% of the retail price.  If the replication
cost was zero it would make little difference to my business.

A company based on free software can't make money by restricting
distribution of the software.  So we must find some other way to get
a competitive advantage, such as better marketing, packaging, support,
etc.  You seem to be saying that this means we aren't really software
companies.  By this circular logic it is impossible, even in theory,
for a "real" free software company to exist.  

There are quite a few profitable companies that develop free software.
Some make their software free out of alturism, but for most, freeing
the software is an essential part of their strategy.  If my company
tried to make our free software non-free, our customers would abandon
us, our sales would plummet, and we would go out of business.

	-bob