Subject: Re: Lehman Report, Software patents, and more
From: Mike Stump <mrs@cygnus.com>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 1994 14:39:17 -0700

In article <m0qdWPM-000I8SC.cygnus.fsb@crynwr.com> you write:
>I'm suggesting that free software businesses might be economically
>more efficient IF they can solve the problem of software creation.
>So far Cygnus has done a good job (see gnu.announce).

Well, I sometimes wonder if we solve it or not.  In some respects we
do, in some we don't.

What we seem to be doing now, is to skim off the top, and use this
extra money to fund R&D, just like a normal company.  But is our
ability to do this temporary, as we don't have any direct competitors
that try and underbid us with our own product in the same market
segment, or is it a permanent feature?  I don't know.

Right now we run somewhere between 1-5% on research and initial
development.

But in general, the free software model does favor status quo, and no
innovation in some respects.  But, I think one also has to look at the
big picture of free software.  Because it is free, that means people
that might feel like innovating (for whatever reason) have a lowered
cost (as the basic software is free) to innovate.  Also, they are
definitely a superset of people that would innoate in the non-free
case.

I mean, look at TCL.  I see these neat sounding things, like
multimedia-ready mailers for TCL/Tk, work-group enablers, Interface
Builders and the like.  I call this raw innovation.  Also, look at
good old emacs, it now has a built in adventure game, just in case you
get bored, isn't that innovation?  I think that the innovativeness in
the shear number of people that could innovate, if they desire to,
despite the fact they are each, less likely to innovate when compared
to someone that is paid full time to innovate, might outweigh the
innovativeness of the smaller, but more motivated innovators of
traditional software.

But, the only way to know for sure, is to try and expand the fsb
business, and see if in general the companies can be innovative and
remain that way.

Cygnus is adding exception handling support and run time type
information to g++, this is innovation, isn't it?

But you may ask, is this type of innovation the same as creatation, or
is creation something else.  I donno.  Maybe it is just small scale
creatation.  This might led to another interesting question, if all
the software in the world were free, would be need large scale
software creation?  Or only little bits of innovation here and there?
I contend, that the goal, is to _make_ it such that we only ever need
a little innovation here, and a little there to do software,
regardless if free software works or not.