Subject: Re: low signal
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2001 10:12:44 -0500

Rich Morin wrote:
> I wouldn't like to see the list get quite that narrow, but I do
> have a related idea to suggest.  I would like to see some case
> studies of successful companies which rely on and/or support
> Free Software.  Here are some possibilities:
>    Apple
>    Cygnus
>    IBM
>    O'Reilly
>    Red Hat
> All of these firms predate (and most survived) the .COM boomlet.
> What can we learn from them?

I don't know what lessons others derive from that, but here is what I

Apple, IBM, and O'Reilly are companies whose business models are not
based on free software, but whose proprietary interests make supporting
some free software projects in their interest.  In other words they
found that supporting free software was congruent with their overall
interests, but their business model is more traditional.

Cygnus was a company which got a lot of business from doing custom free
software development for others who needed the free software work done,
but whose businesses were not based on free software.  (Instead they
were more likely to be selling custom chips.)

This strongly suggests to me that the answer to the question, "How will
future free software work be funded?" is that in large part it has been
and will continue to be funded by companies with a need for free
software, but whose business models are not based on it.  This
dovetails nicely into a conversation we had a few weeks ago about the
fact that service-based industries tend to have low profit margins and
so would not be in a good position to make significant investments in
developing free software.  That may be true but I don't think it will
stop the future production of free software - it will just be produced
by other players in the market.