Subject: Re: Why Open Source Sucks for the Consumer
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 14:30:38 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <> writes:

    Ben> For me one of the most insightful things I have seen on this
    Ben> was an engineer talking about his impression of ESR's thesis.
    Ben> Apparently in engineering the closer you get to "basic
    Ben> infrastructure" the more open things get.  But as you head
    Ben> towards consumer products it gets far more locked.

    Ben> He didn't see any reason that software will be different.  I
    Ben> have not seen any since.  However neither will I claim to be
    Ben> convinced that this need remain true.  Here is why.

    Ben> What is different about software is that today's consumer
    Ben> application becomes tomorrow's basic infrastructure.  (Think
    Ben> browser.)

Um, this is just the same thing that your hardware engineer was
describing taking place in Internet time.  I don't think this is a
qualitative difference.

And as far as I know Stallman has not yet given Internet Explorer
equal status with Motif as a "platform library" you can link with
without violating the GPL.  :-)

    Ben> However I do not see that the recognized abstract
    Ben> importance of an issue turns into action.  Unless companies
    Ben> who depend on open source develop a policy of proactively
    Ben> recognizing and dealing with what they think might become
    Ben> threats, this is a battle that will continue to arise.

Heresy, Ben.  Translated into terms a biz school student would
recognize, you are coming close to advocating that OSS give priority
to (strategic) marketing.

Tim will be comfortable with that, I expect.  Obviously, I am.

But even though I'm comfortable in principle, in practice there's a
big sticking point.  Pooh Bears chase honey, Tiggers bounce.  Tiggers
do not like honey, they like being first-rate bouncers.  OSS people
are not good at marketing, aka proactive behavior, almost by
definition.  They focus on the code.  So putting marketing at the
center of long-term strategy looks like a loser to me; Pooh Bear is
going to eat all the honey.  As usual.

Necessary component?  Obviously (speaking for myself).

Central?  Bad idea.  We're going to have to face the idea that (a
Constitutional Amendment lacking) this battle is for eternity.

The thing is, there is no such thing as a "software firm", only firms
that happen to produce software now.  (ITT stands for "International
Telephone and Telegraph," a strange name for a company that mostly
runs hotels.)  Even if we stamp out all proprietary software firms
late this afternoon, by 10 am tomorrow somebody will be hiring
programmers to work on a new proprietary product.  If it's good,
customers will buy it.  And the whole thing will start over again.

And proprietary ("anything goes to make money") firms are likely to be
_good_ at chasing those customers.  Honey is their raison d'etre.

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