Subject: Re: the Free Software Movement in Industry
From: Seth Gordon <>
Date: 23 Aug 2001 16:03:14 -0000

   It sounds like your previous employer's customers have effectively
   implemented a competition.  They have some criterea for picking the
   best billing system, inform the players of the contest, and then wait
   for bids.  The winning team gets a wind-fall, perhaps spread over time
   and correlated to the growth of the telco's needs: that's the "prize".

   In what way is that incompatible with the GPL?

Both the telco sponsoring the bidding and the software companies
bidding for the prize have incentives for the winning package *not* to
be GPLed.

The telco's directors wouldn't want to devote large amounts of money
to sponsor development of features that the telco's competitors could
then download for free.  (For some software projects, this wouldn't
matter so much, but not for a project so close to the company's core

Conversely, the software companies' directors would want the
flexibility to say, "Our bid to telco A is too low to cover the cost
of the extra features we are implementing for them, but that's OK,
because those features will make our product more attractive when we
bid for contracts at telcos B, C, and D."

I can only see two ways for telecom billing to become dominated by a
free-software package:

(1) General-purpose open-source packages become more powerful, until
an effective telecom billing system can be written in just a few
hundred lines of Perl (version 15) running on top of PostgreSQL
(version 20).

(2) The ITU offers some large heap of money for the development of an
open-source reference platform for telecom billing software, which
every local telco can download and specialize.

"Rav would never cross a bridge when an idolator was on it; he said, 'Maybe he
will be judged and I will be taken with him.'  Shmuel would only cross a
bridge when an idolator was on it; he said, 'Satan cannot rule two nations [at
once].'  Rabbi Yannai would examine [the bridge] and cross."  --Shabbat 32a
== Seth Gordon == == == std. disclaimer ==