Subject: Re: Economic incentives to produce software in a free software regime
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 20:24:30 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <crispin@cse.ogi.edu> writes:

    Crispin> Really?  "Nice car, eh?  Want tires with that?"
    Crispin> Unbundling of essential stuff was a standard tactic with
    Crispin> sleazy car dealerships before I was born.

How do you make money by doing that?  The only possible case I can see
(that doesn't involve extreme customer stupidity) is where the
manufacturer applies pressure to the dealer to keep prices low,
despite local demand conditions justifying much higher prices (in the
sense of "what the traffic will bear," not fairness).  Then it's a way
of getting around manufacturer (or legal) restrictions.

    Crispin> It's still occasionally used by truck dealers in the US,
    Crispin> where being a "truck" means that little things like rear
    Crispin> bumpers are optional.  I don't see this unbundling as
    Crispin> adding efficiency.

If the consumer has the opportunity to shop for both bundled and
unbundled versions across multiple vendors, the customers who don't
pay for equipment they don't want are happier.

    Crispin> Your computer needs an OS.  Like tires & back seats,
    Crispin> installing an OS on a computer is kind of a pain and
    Crispin> requires tools & knowledge.  It adds value for the
    Crispin> consumer if the hardware vendor installs the OS.  It adds
    Crispin> extra value for the consumer if the pre-installed OS
    Crispin> sucks less ;-) Thus a better OS is in the interests of
    Crispin> hardware vendors.  Poof: VA Linux invests in Linux OS
    Crispin> development.

If the convenience value is the only argument for bundling, there's no
reason not to unbundle.  I'm allergic to Red Hat; I might prefer
Debian.  I don't want to fund VA's contribution to Red Hat.  Give me a 
lower price, every time, or fund Debian.

Selling the service of preinstallation _is_ a good idea.  But that's
not bundling.

    Crispin> Why not?  It works.  It's rather difficult to mass market
    Crispin> PC hardware without *some* OS installed on it.  The only
    Crispin> Evil[tm] thing that MS did was to make *exclusive*
    Crispin> contracts that said the PC vendor had to pay for a copy
    Crispin> of Windows/DOS for *every* PC sold, regardless of whether
    Crispin> the customer wanted one.  I see no problem at all with a
    Crispin> PC vendor that offers me my choice of Linux, Windows,
    Crispin> *BSD, or whatever, and may charge a premium for some of
    Crispin> them.

That's not bundling; that's offering the service of preinstallation.
Bundling means denying consumers the choice to to without.

    >> "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.

    Crispin> "I can do it; I want to do it; It won't affect anyone
    Crispin> else if I do it; therefore it is right for me to do it"
    Crispin> works just FINE for me.  That last condition is critical.
    Crispin> You can pee where you want to, except in my soup :-)

Well, as I see it, sharing copies does affect other people: it raises
the price to the licensed users.  I don't share, certainly not cheap
stuff with people in my income bracket.  I don't ask RMS to agree with 
me, but it burns me when he accuses me of consorting with evil.

    Crispin> I see that as fundamental, not word play.

No, _I_ was lazy, played with words, and got snagged.

    Crispin> Huh?  Millions of users, and they're not mass market?
    Crispin> What's your definition of "mass market"?

Explain, please.

I know lots of people who run linux, but use emacs and vim "strictly
from need".

    Crispin> The "deliberate strategy" seems to have been to sell web
    Crispin> servers (a variant on selling hardware).

This is _not_ a mere "variant".  Selling web servers is Evil, at least 
to true believers.  Selling hardware never is.

    Crispin> It's more teasing the field of economics in general.
    Crispin> Like psychology, I view economics as an infant science:

Generous.  We're not going to do better than the weatherman, ever.

-- 
University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."