Subject: Re: street performer protocol
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Tue, 16 May 2000 16:54:42 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <crispin@wirex.com> writes:

    Crispin> "Stephen J. Turnbull" wrote:
    >> I don't think anybody is good enough at producing software
    >> reliably to budget that more than a few firms can hope to
    >> survive long in the shrink-wrap market, period, and open source
    >> firms are at a disadvantage because they do not have a
    >> reasonably long "initial monopoly" period to build up reserves
    >> for the next "killer product."

    Crispin> This seems to predict exactly the opposite of observed
    Crispin> behavior (over 100 Linux distributions).  I submit that
    Crispin> open source companies get to use the community's software
    Crispin> development labors, and thus focus on packaging issues.
    Crispin> As a result, open source companies need far less in the
    Crispin> way of resources to survive until the next killer
    Crispin> product.

Sorry, I should be more clear.  I don't consider a Linux distribution
a product of software development.  The product is (nearly) all
packaging.

Amazon.com knows nothing about publishing.  Linux distributors need to
know more than that about development, of course, but their core
skills are (IMO) closer to Amazon's than to Sun's.  Only a few will
survive as pure free software businesses.

    Crispin> Or a strategy focussed on packaging, distribution, and
    Crispin> service.

Explicitly abandoning development, I see.  That's not what we want!
We want people making _big wins_[1] for _creating_ and _developing_
products and contributing their source code to the community.

Otherwise the clear virtues of open development will be used by
proprietary firms with proprietary licenses (or even source escrow) or
patents, and free software could end up being marginalized, or
restricted to niches like OSes (a big niche, to be sure, but still a
niche).

Eg, AbiWord.  I hear nothing about AbiWord on any of my LUG MLs; but
lots about Star Office and Word Perfect, both proprietary software
AFAIK, although distributed in free-beer forms as I understand it.
Can AbiWord really compete?  We'll see ... but I would bet against it
becoming the kind of force in wordprocessing that Linux is in OSes.

Footnotes: 
[1]  Early retirement is big enough.

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