Subject: Re: Pitching Free Software [Quotes]
Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 09:59:36 -0300

You left one out that perhaps bears mentioning.  It happened to me
about a year ago:

  Some will consider the cost and likelihood of repair vs.
  the cost of replacement, and buy a new toaster.

In my case, it was a 4 yr old VCR.  As it happens, it was a high
end unit with excellent electronics and mechanicals that I might
well have chosen to get repaired.  Such high-end units do not drop
in price over time.  Since the most likely source of the problem
was a dog hair wound around a spindle somewhere, it should even
have been simple enough to fix).

I checked around, and the lower bound on expected repair cost was
2hrs x $60, and a new (if slightly less functional) unit was $160
or so.  As you point out, there is no guarantee that the repair
will work -- even if you go to a repair shop.

I pulled the unit apart far enough to give it a careful cleaning,
but decided that I'ld probably screw up the mechanicals if I really
tore the thing down trying to find the problem; it clearly wasn't
designed to be torn down that far after the factory.  This
certainly influenced my decision not to get it repaired.

I concluded that the marginal $40 was low enough that I should
just buy a new unit.

A few differences between software and appliances are:

1. Software is complex enough that we don't do "unibody" designs. 
It often *can* be repaired, though the repair cost is huge unless
you can amortize the learning curve over lots of customers.

2. Software is expensive enough that it's harder to just chuck it.

3. There is essentially no likelihood that a bug which survives the
first X months of version N will be fixed in version N+1
(diminishing returns).  X varies a bit with supplier, but it's
somewhere under 5 months for most products.

A random thought:

If money can only be made from support, there is a financial
incentive to inject bugs that will not be found by month X. 
Reputation is a statistical game, and the appearance of progress
rather than the actuality of progress is what counts.  Ugh.