Subject: Re: Why Open Source Sucks for the Consumer
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2000 11:25:25 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Jean" == Jean Camp <Jean_Camp@harvard.edu> writes:

    Jean> The larger point is that OS/FS is supposed to be THE arena
    Jean> where the network economy is truly understood.. The network

Nobody understands it in the sense of "science" yet.  There are a few
great artists, but they're too busy trying to dominate the industry to
write it down.  Not they that could if they wanted to.

    Jean> economy would argue that billing and phone callls could be
    Jean> transferred to different entities without the user having to
    Jean> establish distinct contacts with each and every contracting
    Jean> entity.  Just like I do not have to know every contributor
    Jean> to integrate the patches.

The "network economy" is not about lowering the cost of physical
networks.[1]  The kind of service you are talking about has always been
expensive, and will remain so.  Cheaper, faster physical networks will
lower that cost, but not faster (and probably more slowly) than it
lowers the cost of other kinds of communication.

The reason is that the _architecture_ of the network is not much
cheaper with computer networks than it was with just POTS + PBX.
True, we can brute force many computations that required "operator
assistance" in the old days, but we still need trained, polite
operators at the core of such a service.  That training (and the
databases behind it) are still very expensive.

    Jean> The seamless interface issue I have is with the business
    Jean> relationships which are so traditional. RH and Dell have an
    Jean> integrated ad campaign and production -- why not integrate
    Jean> the customer support?

An integrated ad campaign is simply a matter of hiring an external
marketing firm and adding together two checks.  Integrated customer
support is a whole 'nother smoke, starting with the negotiation about
the phone greeting (do you know why XEmacs is called "XEmacs" and not
"Lucid Emacs"?)

    Jean> Wouldn't further integrating with independent consultants
    Jean> solve much of the feeding jr programmers problem as well?  I

Yep.  But independent consultants tend to be jealous of their
independence.  More $$$, either buying their obedience or in costs to
work around frictions due to their maintained independence.

The market doesn't always get the answer right.  But to a first
approximation, the fact that the market has not already achieved this
pretty clearly suggests that the cost of that integration is at best
of the same order of magnitude as the benefits (and of course, could
be much worse).

    Jean> suspect that there are people in Cambridge who would love to
    Jean> help me out with an extremely wide range of support services
    Jean> for an even wider range of prices.

Hey, you could even hire a third-rate economist.

Footnotes: 
[1]  What is it about?  One, the order of magnitude lowering of
communication cost has brought about a several orders of magnitude
increase in the ability to disperse organizations throughout a
society.  This increase in average size of organizations in turn
increases the _benefits_ available to their members.  Two, since
systems automatically create "ports" for communication (a crude
example is a removable storage medium), _virtual_ networks of
opportunities for people to communicate proliferate.

-- 
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