Subject: Does anyone buy software anyway?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 10:19:04 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Martin" == Martin Kochanski <> writes:

    Martin> But does anyone *buy* Word? Surely they just get it as
    Martin> part of Office; and they don't buy Office either, because
    Martin> it comes bundled with their computer system.

Surely you don't think that MSFT _gives_ that bundle to the OEMs?

And I would suspect that the majority of installations of Word are
based on a deliberate corporate choice (where the firm is user, not
OEM).  I know my lawyer is agonizing (well, for all of ten seconds
every couple of months) over whether to switch from WP to MS Word.

So somebody is choosing to buy.  And I suspect that user
dissatisfaction _will_ trickle up to the decision-making layer.  The
fact that Word comes gratis with their systems means it's an easy
default for users.  But free software comes gratis, or cheap, at
least, because of the open source.  So the issue is transactions cost,
really, ordering or downloading and installing.  Need to overcome the
lock-in effect, which MSFT has leveraged by its licensing policy.  But
word processors are like cars: if you can't just sit down and drive
it, you won't use it (I'm talking "mass market," not the members of
FSB, of course).  So download + install + file format conversion
really is the degree to which MS can lock customers in.

To beat MS on its home ground, you'll need to come up with some
feature wins (to prove you can do it) and heavily market the idea that 
open source "guarantees" (let's not be fastidious, we're fighting the
world leader in FUD, here :-P) a continuing stream of similar future
wins.  Can be done.  Likely?  Well, "do you feel lucky today?"  That's 
a question for entrepreneurs!

And ... you need to do something about the huge costs of file
conversion for many users.  Hmm ... isn't the world going to go XML in 
the next couple of years?  Do you see the window of opportunity I do
in that?

Hey, Paul:  what do you think about that?

    Martin> This surely is the problem with marketing free
    Martin> software. In the perception of most users, existing
    Martin> commercial software is *already* free because it comes as
    Martin> part of the whole package. Ten years ago people bought a
    Martin> computer and then bought the software; now I would guess
    Martin> that the majority of computer users have never bought
    Martin> software and never will.

Bought?  Dunno.  Just got mail from a <name of nationality deleted>
who says that <her country> is well-known to be the capital of stolen
software.  Probably most people don't buy, personally.

But the prevalence of computer viruses in the MS world suggests to me
that people sure do _install_ a lot of software on their computers.
In many business models for free software it's number of installations 
times rate of usage, not purchases, that matter.  Here in Japan, many
people are closet computer nuts.  That is, they buy the computer, it
drives them nuts, so they put it in the closet and it doesn't come out 
again for years.  In the proprietary model, that's a win---you got a
purchase out of somebody who really didn't want your product after
all.  (That, by the way, is both the reason for the success of the
Japanese economy in the catch-up phase 1950-1980, and for its current
doldrums.)  That is no win for an FSB!

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."