Subject: Re: Economic incentives to produce software in a free software regime
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 09:36:18 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <> writes:

    Crispin> "Stephen J. Turnbull" wrote:

    >> >>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <> writes:

    Crispin> Consider the view that commodity software is just an
    Crispin> inducement to sell hardware.

    >> Specialization leads to efficiency, as a general rule.  Both
    >> lower costs, and the right product being delivered to each
    >> individual user.

    Crispin> I completely fail to see how your comment relates to my
    Crispin> comment.

Bundling products together is a bad idea for efficiency, both in
production and consumption.  This may be indirectly good, for example,
if bundling somehow kneecaps a monopolist, thus reducing price and
increasing consumption.  Seeing as bundling is typically a strategy
used by monopolists to constrain customer choice, the exact opposite,
you're starting off on the wrong foot on two counts here.

The classic hardware/commodity software bundling strategy of all time,
of course, is Microsoft's license-per-CPU contract; they didn't even
have to deliver an OS per CPU to collect their pound of flesh.  "Buy
our box, and get a _Free_ DOS!"  Looks a lot like your strategy to me.
Not company you want to be keeping, not on this list, anyway.


    Crispin> Here also, I fail to see what one has to do with the
    Crispin> other.  If I substitute the word "goldfish" for
    Crispin> "economics" in your arguments, then they also cease to
    Crispin> make sense ;-)

"I can do it; I want to do it; therefore it is right for me to do it"
has always left me cold as an ethical argument, whether you're talking
about national sovereignty or copying bits.  You may not have meant to
write it that way, but it sure looks like that's what you wrote.

Do you want to gloss that passage for me?  Here it is again:

    Crispin> This is (I believe) the source of why he calls it
    Crispin> "domination" to be prohibited from doing that which there
    Crispin> is no natrual barrier to doing (copying software) and
    Crispin> every economic incentive to do so.


One for Crispin:

    >> Sure it is.  As long as one person is willing to pay someone
    >> else to customize one of the free programs, your world either
    >> disappears when they make the contract,

    Crispin> No!  A contract to do customization is a service
    Crispin> agreement, not a sales agreement.

Got me.  On the word play.  (That's too grudging; you got me, fair and
square.  Fair warning though: consider the point conceded only for the
moment.  "I'll be back.")


    Crispin> The free software model suggests that if there is a
    Crispin> mass-market need for software, then either someone will
    Crispin> write it for fame and glory, or a hardware vendor will
    Crispin> write it to sell their hardware.

    >> The free software model suggests no such thing.

    Crispin> Says you.

What happens in practice and what the model suggests are two different
things.  The model does not suggest that these _will_ happen; it
offers them as possibilities.  This is an important, and frustrating,
difference if you are a businessman looking to finance your daughter's
education via an FSB.

    Crispin> In practice, it seems to be happening: Emacs, Vim, GIMP,
    Crispin> Mozilla, AbiWord, Gnumeric, ImPress, MagicPoint, Maxwell,
    Crispin> Siag Office, CBB, GnuCash, ...

MagicPoint is a genuine example of fame & glory AFAIK.

Emacs and Vim are not mass-market.

The Gimp is fame & glory, I assume.

Mozilla is an example of a proprietary firm which has adopted not only 
open source development methods, but has released its
consumer-oriented product under an open source (is that [tm]? I can
never remember who gets the seal of approval except that Sun and
Aladdin don't) license as a deliberate strategy.  Fits neither of your 

AbiWord is intended to finance the retirements of its developers,
according to their statements.  Fits neither of your categories.

I don't know what the rest are.  Exercise for the reader.


    >> (Discovering more mitigating factors, and discussing how to
    >> realize them, is the raison d'etre of FSB.)

    Crispin> Or post hoc rationalizations to explain how we should
    Crispin> have expected it after it has already happened :-)

Tease me (with justice) if you like; I wear asbestos long johns and a
bullet-proof ego.  But remember, you with the dot-com in your dot-sig:
real businessmen plan their subtle successes; they don't rationalize
their avoidable failures.

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."