Subject: Re: Structural impediment makes free software inferior to proprietary software.
From: bweiner@pts.mot.com (Bob Weiner)
Date: Sat, 27 Aug 1994 16:03:24 +0500

Chris Maeda <cmaeda@cs.washington.edu> writes:

	I'm sure someone will eventually write something free that
	compares, but the fact that the current gap is so wide suggests that
	there is some structural impediment to the production of high quality,
	high value-added free software.

There certainly is, in fact, more than one impediment exists.

1.  Anyone who has any money to lose by the growth in free software use has a
    strong incentive to increase the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding
    it.  Such people often claim that you won't be able to get good support
    or good documentation with free software or that no one will keep it up
    to date when system libraries change.

2.  Software patents can prevent the redistribution of free software as we
    all know.

3.  The U.S. market at least doesn't understand the free software marketplace
    yet.  Social thinking in the U.S. is highly conditioned by economic
    thinking such as "How much money is it worth?"  Few organizations
    understand that solid software can be built and maintained under a free
    software model.  As a fine example, look at the patent office's token
    hearings in Silicon Valley where it became clear that there was at least
    a need to decrease the term of software patents, yet the PTO is trying to
    lengthen them now in the name of International uniformity.  So much for
    being an intellectual property leader.

In summary, the current state of things says little about what is possible
within a free software marketplace and much more about the forces inhibiting
growth in free software.  Despite all these barriers, the marketplace is
growing faster than we realize as the spread of Internetworking technology
makes distribution simpler and faster.

Bob
These are my own opinions and have nothing to do with any organization with
which I may be affiliated.