Subject: Re: street performer protocol
From: Crispin Cowan <>
Date: Wed, 24 May 2000 02:07:53 +0000

"Stephen J. Turnbull" wrote:

> >>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <> writes:
>     Crispin> Kind of.  I argue that this is the uncommon case (libre
>     Crispin> products tend to have multiple vendors).
> This is a statistical fallacy (similar to but clearer than most of
> your "empirical" arguments).  _By far most market segments in IT have
> *no* *zero* *not one* *not even a wannabe* libre vendor._  Therefore,
> since all software _can_ be libre, it is very rare for a product to
> have multiple libre vendors.

That's a different claim.  I said "libre products tend to have multiple
vendors", not "products tend to have multiple libre vendors".  I completely
agree that the latter claim is false, which is why I never advanced it.

The point I'm pushing is that OSS has an advantage to customers in that it
reduces lock-in.  OSS only has this effect if there are multiple vendors for
the same OSS product.  Thus the important claim is that OSS products tend to
have multiple vendors.  That most products have zero libre vendors is

> You can't disprove the extrapolation of that unconditional probability
> to the future history of the software industry (which more or less
> corresponds to the argument that the competitive advantages of OSS are
> highest in precisely the market segments where OSS is prominent
> today),

Is it so hard to believe that the OSS advantage is strongest in the markets
where OSS is most prominent?

> any more than I can disprove the extrapolation of your
> conditional probability (which corresponds to the argument that OSS is
> a general method that works more or less equally well for all software
> development).

While I believe this to be true, it is not the point I'm trying to make.

My claim, once and for all, for the purpose of this discussion, is that a
single libre product with multiple vendors has a modest advantage over a
single proprietary product with a large market share (Linux vs. Windows) and
that a single libre product with multiple vendors has a large (crushing)
advantage over a fractured market with numerous incompatible proprietary
vendors (Embedded Linux vs. {VxWorks, QNX, etc.}.

It is *also* true that being one of the competing vendors of that libre
product is no fun:  you end up in the commodity business.  But lots of people
seem to do quite well in the commodity business, from Dell to Delmonte.  The
commodity business is the end-game of a properly functioning free market,
where ample goods are delivered to consumers at thin margins.

Hmmm ... perhaps that's the theoretical take here:  libre products accelerate
the commodization of that product, and then the market, thus accelerating the
tragectory towards the asymtopic commodity line that maximally benefits
consumers in a mature market.

Crispin Cowan, CTO, WireX Communications, Inc.
Free Hardened Linux Distribution: