Subject: Free lite and proprietary full versions (was: A few thoughts)
From: Bob Young <bob@redhat.com>
Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998 12:42:25 -0400


David,

If your assumptions were correct here then your concern (clever 
strategy?) would be valid.  But (fortunately) they aren't.

First off, we can't judge the future of free software by the past, 
mainly because there are so many more users and developers than there 
ever have been before, which means that the competition among free 
software developers is greater than it ever has been, and that 
competition is growing.

So where in the past, and perhaps still today, you might get away 
with the strategy you are proposing, in future any developer who 
attempts a strategy such as giving away the "lite" version and 
keeping an "advanced" version proprietary will find himself at a 
competitive disadvantage to those developers who pursue a more open 
model.

An interesting experiment in this area that may prove my hypothesis 
(or may disprove it ;-)  is the KDE vs Gnome desktop projects.  KDE 
and Gnome are both well written, effective, and advanced-design 
graphical desktop programs, both are freely redistributable. At this 
time KDE is more complete and useful.  

The principal difference between the two desktops is that  KDE 
is built against the free-for-non-commercial-use proprietary Qt 
libraries - which is one approach to the strategy you are proposing, 
whereas Gnome is built against the completely freely redistributable 
GTK libraries.


Cheers,   Bob.


> A lot of people focus on the fact that businesses will need software
> regardless of whether it is free or not, and this is good, I agree.
> The thing I was able to put my finger on is this - what happens to
> people who really are innovators in this free software world?  It
> seems to me that if I had something truly new, that hiding it, and
> being the only source of it for a certain period of time (untill
> someone made a free version), is going to be my best bet as far as
> profits are concerned.  After a certain point, it loses value, because
> of immitations, and I could free the source.  This is sort of what
> netscape has done.
> 
> Now, that's an ok model, and *most* software would be free, but the
> cutting edge would not.  Free software would be for those who copied,
> emulated, and maintained the code of others.  Not that this would be
> bad, but...  I'm just starting out my career as a programmer, and
> naturally, I aspire to be the best that I can - on the 'cutting edge'
> if I'm good enough.  So, working my way up, I do free software, and
> then, at the pinnacle of success, hide what I create?
> 
> I appologize if this is not totally clear, but it really leaves a
> nagging doubt, if the *best* is not free, it says that that which is
> free is probably not the best (it could be, but not very logically, in
> an economic sense). 
> 
> Hrmm, I'm not sure if I have effectively communicated what I think,
> but I find myself somewhat confused.
> 
> Thankyou for any thoughts that might lead my investigations in new
> directions, or even clarify some of these ideas:-)
> 
> Thankyou for your time,
> -- 
> David Welton                          http://www.efn.org/~davidw 
> 
> 	Debian GNU/Linux - www.debian.org
> 


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