Subject: Re: ok, FSBs created schwag; now bet the farm on something better
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 16 Sep 2001 21:32:18 -0700

Tom Lord <lord@regexps.com> writes:

> For almost a year now, I've been trying to raise awareness of the need
> for Free Software R&D labs.  In my opinion, there ought to be some
> collective investment in R&D by companies with Free Softare and Open
> Source interests.  I've put forth a rough business model by which R&D
> projects can be implemented affordably and made a variety of
> suggestions for particular lines of research.  I've put forth a
> general strategy for achieving technology transfer and for building
> new businesses around the results of successful research.  Is anyone
> listening?

Where do you expect the money to come from?  When Microsoft started
doing serious research, they had a secure revenue stream.  Most FSBs
are living essentially hand to mouth, as Cygnus was when we were both
there.  It's not possible at present to get significant venture
funding for research.  From my perspective, your comments on this
topic are just a fantasy unrelated to any business reality.

> Because so many FSBs are small, and many not yet profitable, I expect
> that the idea of investing in research seems like a pie-in-the-sky
> fantasy to some execs.  I, on the other hand, believe that making
> modest research investments is not only a good idea, it is vital to
> the growth and perhaps even the survival of open source businesses.
> (And hey, there's tax incentives for it.)

The tax incentives are nearly meaningless, because Red Hat, for
example, can quite properly write off most of their engineering staff
already.  The standards for the research tax breaks are not that high
when you're building software.

> Bet the farm on an effort to create new Free Software technology.
> Enlightened customers will like you better for it.

But it won't bring in enough revenue to support itself.

Why shouldn't the proper place for FSB research be where it has
historically been: in the academic community?

Ian