Subject: Re: Support as insurance
From: Frank Hecker <>
Date: Thu, 02 Dec 1999 00:23:03 +0000

"Stephen J. Turnbull" wrote:
> A feature has "option
> value", which basically amounts to the "upside risk" that the customer
> might discover a benefit to that feature in the future.  But customers
> differ in the value they assign to that option.
> This point is important, because you could argue that the whole point
> of Leviathan software like Microsoft Word is that there are _so_ many
> features that customers believe the total option value must be
> high.

and Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> Microsoft Word has so many features not because most people want
> features, but because different people want different benefits.

I think there's an interesting distinction here between individuals
buying for themselves and individuals buying for others, as in corporate
purchasing decisions.  Individuals buying for themselves may see
potential value in additional features not presently used, but it's also
possible that they may see the additional features as simply adding
unwanted complexity (as in the example of the difficulty of configuring

However in my experience individuals buying for others, and especially
committees buying for others, are much more prone to evaluating products
based on the number of features instead of looking primarily at
reliability, total cost of ownership, etc. This may be because from
their point of view they are maximizing perceived total value summed
across all users. However I believe corporate purchasers are more
strongly driven by present and potential "pain" than by potential
"gain", so I see this more as corporate purchasers minimizing the risk
that any end user(s) will complain about the absence of their favorite
feature; the purchasers care much less about the possibility of any
users complaining about the excess of features.

Ian Lance Taylor again:
> For each feature in Word, you can probably find somebody for whom
> it is a benefit.

And to turn that around: for every feature in Word you can probably find
someone who would not use a competing product simply because it lacks
that feature.  The large the user base within an organization, the more
difficult it would be to avoid user complaints and boycotts if the
organization standardized on a competing product with fewer features
than the "feature leader".

This sort of "feature-driven" product selection operates as well with
mail systems, and I think accounts for the popularity of Exchange and
Notes in large organizations over Internet-based mail systems with often
lower cost and higher reliability.

The moral for FSBs?  Perhaps that for libre software products to be
successful in corporations, at least for broad user use, they'll have to
find a way to satisfy corporate purchasers' demands for more and more
features without compromising the performance and reliability that have
been promoted by many open-source advocates as the main benefits of
open-source development.

Frank Hecker            work:        home: