Subject: Re: My ears are red (was Re: the walls have ears)
From: Crispin Cowan <crispin@cse.ogi.edu>
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 01:51:45 -0700

"Karsten M. Self" wrote:

> To you, not MSFT.  To MSFT if they stumble hard enough, but that wasn't
> what I was looking at.  AbiSource has to appeal to those to whom neither
> MS Word _or_ WP is an acceptable (or viable) option.

Here's where I think that AbiSource's business plans may be misguided.  I don't
believe that anyone is going to make significant headway against Microsoft Word
on Windows platforms any time soon.  Frame is vastly better than Word, and it
doesn't have significant share.

Thus AbiWord ONLY has a chance on non-Windows platforms, i.e. Linux.  On the
Linux platform, AbiWord has to somehow out-compete Word Perfect, Applix, and Star
Office.  I do NOT see the GPL as a significant feature in and of itself; it is a
meta-feature that enables rapid addition of actual features.

Therefore, in the near term I think AbiSource has to figure out how to use their
existing technology base and their GPL model to produce a word processor that is
more attractive to some market segment than the existing word processor solutions
for Linux.

If AbiSource has the investment capital to hang out for the long term, then the
GPL may actually come into play, allowing AbiWord to become strictly more
featureful than all it's competitors, allowing AbiWord to compete and win against
the entrenched word processors on Linux, and potentially Word itself on Windows.
But I see that as a very long term development.

My perspective:  I'm an academic and a software guy, but I do kernels, not
applications.  I am not going to contribute to AbiWord, but I just might buy it
if it meets all my paper-writing needs.  At present, none of the native word
processing systems for Linux meet all my needs, so I use Frame 4 under WABI to
write papers.  Unless something changes, I'm likely to transition to Frame 5.5
under VMWare.

Paul has told me that he doesn't think that "academics" are a big enough market
sector to be worth it.  He's probably right.  But I postulate that he won't make
much progress until he finds SOME sector that is not presently being served.
Entrenched sectors that are already happy with the products they're using are not
very open to new products.  Academic paper writing is not well served, except by
LaTeX, and non-native applications.

Crispin
-----
 Crispin Cowan, Research Assistant Professor of Computer Science, OGI
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