Subject: Re: freedom and human kindness (was Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software)
From: Bernard Lang <Bernard.Lang@inria.fr>
Date: Sun, 7 Nov 1999 11:52:20 +0100

On Fri, Nov 05, 1999 at 01:24:26AM +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> >>>>> "rn" == Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com> writes:
> 
>     rn> Stephen J. Turnbull writes:
> 
>     >> the opportunities created by free software are a proper subset
>     >> of those created by proprietary software, in a "physical"
>     >> sense.  All of those opportunities are available to firms
>     >> dealing in proprietary software;
> 
>     rn> Right, but there are market segments (e.g. operating systems)
>     rn> where the existing vendors have such a lock on the market,
>     rn> that the most reliable way to enter the market is using free
>     rn> software.  Hence Linux, and oh, I can't remember the name of
>     rn> Cygnus's free embedded OS right now.
> 
> Granted.  My main point is that any open source technique is available 
> to proprietary firms; if it really unlocks more value in a way that
> can be captured in the revenue stream, a sufficiently smart
> proprietary firm should be able to find a way to take advantage of it, 
> too.  Watch'er backs, guys.

There are several pt of views to be considered in any analysis:

- global perspective of how we get better software and/or more
effective economics

- producer pt of view of maximizing profit, which may include having
better products, or a healthier market (possibly even more
competition, ie strategic issues)

- user (private or corporate) who may have to consider costs and
technical quality, but also corporate strategy issues (such as
software longevity, multiple sourcing, evolution and vulnerabilty).

Given the (naturally monopolistic) structure of the software market
(at least where infrastructure/commodities are concerned), the answer
of proprietary software to some of these questions may be less
adequate than that of open source. Thus proprietary firms may be at a
disadvantage.

And the option for proprietary firms of producing open-source
themselves is not necessarily sufficient. Some of the qualities of
open source come from trust and the size of user/developper
community. This may require more than a corporate decision. In fact,
my experience with corporate people is that they are deeply afraid
that open source is a bait, and that there is a catch somewhere.  I am
pretty sure they would believe that even more if the software comes
from a firm with a strong proprietary history, unless it gets
informally labeled as OK by a large community.

-- 
Bernard.Lang@inria.fr             ,_  /\o    \o/    Tel  +33 1 3963 5644
http://pauillac.inria.fr/~lang/  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^  Fax  +33 1 3963 5469
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