Subject: Re: Free software as a replacement for Microsoft
From: Tom Lord <>
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 23:40:23 -0700 (PDT)


I'd like to understand more about your perspective on software.

"Find under-served markets" and "focus on the customer" are good,
general business principles.  Observing that Microsoft, to name just
one example, has an absurd amount of money and political power is
mentioning an important business constraint on degrees of freedom.

But there's another aspect to FSBs, and that's the technology.

Of the under-served markets, the set of those which you have potential
access to is constrained by the capabilities of the software you're
starting with: what tactical developments does it facilitate; which
isn't it up to; what do you do about the limits?

Your competitors think in those terms, and work on software strategies
that maximize their tactical opportunities.  When they do that, they
often aim for technologies that will induce linkage of the
solutions they present to under-served markets on technologies in
markets they already dominate.  In that way, they arrive at your niche
markets with solutions that tend to be more comprehensive and all
encompassing -- because they can relate those markets to markets you
haven't touched.

I don't see how you can answer that threat from larger competitors
without attacking the markets in which they dominate: devalue that
inter-market linkage.  For that, in my view, you need practical
research: research aimed at dramatically increasing the range of
tactical options Free and Open Source Software facilitate.

You don't have to match the research budget of MS dollar for dollar.
You're starting from a much better foundation.  You probably don't
need to have anyone working on quantum computing or pure math.  You
have the potential cost savings of open source processes.  But you do
have to do *something*, and copying software architectures well suited
for engineering processes based on MS's corporate structure probably
isn't the right thing to do.

Tom Lord