Subject: Re: Economics of software distribution
From: tiemann@CYGNUS.COM
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 93 21:59:17 -0800

   Date: Wed, 17 Mar 93 11:43:05 -0500
   From: drg@CANDIDUS.MA30.BULL.COM (Daniel R. Guilderson)
   Subject: Economics of software distribution
   I tend to agree with Peter.  R&D has to be funded somehow and I'm not
   convinced that there is a way for a company to recoup money spent on
   R&D through selling "mass-market" free software.  It's ridiculous to
   think that you can subsidize R&D by selling manuals or providing
   support because if the market is lucrative enough you will have others
   providing the same services without the liability of R&D expenses.
   And it doesn't help matters that currently R&D is a major expense.
   Russ's business works because R&D is being funded by companies that
   are trying to sell hardware.  The mass-market software business
   doesn't have that luxury.
I think this posting shows very clearly the result of not completely
adopting the paradigm of free software.  R&D, the way proprietary
software companies do it today, does not work with the free software
model; I am not surprised.  R&D can--and is--being done, but not in
ways that many readers on this list are willing to recognize.  For
example, I read today that some 30,000 programmers are looking for
work on the east coast, after having been laid off by their DoD and
DoE employers (either the gov't themselves, or contractors for the
gov't).  30,000 programmers boggles the mind: that's probably 100
times the number of people working on GNU in any capacity whatsoever.
If these guys were properly cooperating and coordinating their
efforts, I'm sure they'd all still be funded, but instead they are all
duplicating (badly) the work of everybody else, and together they
collectively cut themselves out of the market.

   On the otherhand, I hate the idea of hording software forever.  I like
   Peter's model and there are other models which are nice compromises
   such as copyrighting the software for a couple of years and then
   releasing it into the free domain.

The question is: do you like the free software model enough to let go
of the proprietary paradigm?  As long as you prefer to discount the
fact that hundreds (or thousands) of people at universities and
research institutions are doing (or could be doing) "R&D" that
directly feeds commercial free software projects, you will have to
live with the reality that free R&D is not possible.