Subject: Re: How accurate is Metcalfe's law? (Was: Ximian software)
From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Sun, 6 Jan 2002 16:31:55 +0100

On Sun, Jan 06, 2002 at 08:51:39AM -0500, Gerald P. Dwyer, Jr. wrote:
> At 06:02 PM 1/5/02 -0800, Josh wrote:
> > >  Bill Gates has become very very wealthy by
> > > selling relatively shoddy software. This
> > > happened because his revenue was based on license
> > > rather than on quality developer time, and that
> > > happened because society granted him a property
> > > right in something which is not obviously property.
> >
> >I have to disagree here. From being a Microsoft fan since the 1980's, as a
> >kid who came to know DOS quite well, I watched Microsoft get to where they
> >are, and I honestly believe it's their marketing / mindshare that got them
> >there. I believe the licensing issues were not a factor at all, nor any
> >other IP issues. It was all marketing, and some backstabbing. The fact is,
> >Microsoft knows their customers quite well (doesn't always listen to them).
> >They know them a lot better than IBM did at that time.
> It is fun to bash Microsoft. I also think that it misses some things that 
> MS has done right technically.
> The PC world is standardized on software, not hardware. That's the big 
> difference between MS and Sun. MS software will run on almost anything. 

is this a joke, or can you explain.
  There were several attempts to port MS on other platforms than the
PC, and they were all abandonned at some point.  But Linux and BSD
  Or do you mean all PCs ... and then, they got much help from
hardware manufaturers who could not sell their components without
making sure it was MS compliant.  And Linux or BSD did not have that

> This is hard to accomplish and I think that MS does a pretty decent job of 
> it. OS/2 was better software and there were installation problems there too.
> IBM and MS are largely responsible for the standardization on software.

IBM did it ...  MS just benefitted ... if they could have prevented
you from looking at DOS code, they would have ...
  One major reason Apple lost is that they owned both software and
hardware, and kept it proprietary.
   IBM did not believe, and is why they won ... they did not try to be
very proprietary.  At the time, harware was more costly than software,
and the competition on hardware permitted by IBM allowed both design
improvements and loower prices.
  That, and the fact that the name IBM (and even IBM compatible) was a
marketing advantage.  MS just benefitted from the situation.

  And the lesson should be in favor of free software.  It was in a
sens free hardware: anyone could modify and reproduce ... for a
licence fee that was small enough compared to the cost of reproducing.
Of course, in the case of software, the licence fee is seldom small
enough since producing software can be done without monetary
investment, and the marginal cost is close to zero.

   This comparison gives me an idea regarding software patenting.
Since the economy of software is without marginal cost, and only in
initial investment, if there are software patents or similar
protection schemes, licencing should not be on a royalty base, but
only in up front payment, so as not to distort market structure.
  But of course, there will be no law telling how rights are to be
licenced.  Why not, by the way, since deciding how IP is to be managed
would be a proper extrapolation of clause 1.8.8 of the US
constitution ?

> IBM 
> gave away the source for the BIOS. I got a hard copy of the source for the 
> BIOS with my first PC (an AT&T in 1984). MS did not give away the source 
> for DOS, although it was trivial to disassemble -- with the debugger that 
> came with MS-DOS. MS sold MS-DOS, which worked on lots of hardware, not 
> just IBM-DOS. This was to MS's advantage, of course. It also was to 
> everybody else's advantage. There are PCs all over the place now, but not 
> Suns. This common software platform is why a friend of mine can think about 
> getting a pretty good notebook for $2000+ instead of around $5000. That's 
> why the Net is so big, which helps free software.
> The fact that it was to MS's advantage is a not a negative. I would not 
> want to rely on MS's benevolence. Or IBM's or Sun's or Oracle's or Red Hat's.
> This is not to say that Bill Gates is a nice person. You don't have to read 
> much to know that's not true in certain dimensions. This does not mean that 
> MS always follows the law. That's not true either.
> MS used to take care of programmers. There was a continual battle between 
> MS and Borland. Now, there hasn't been an upgrade to the C/C++ compiler in 
> several years. Nobody wants to write anything that'll be widely distributed 
> on Windows unless it's a niche product. As Karsten Self said, they've eaten 
> their seed corn.

Is that so ?  I am sure people still produce for windows because it is
the larger market in the short term, which is all a start-up company
can consider.  Yes, it is suicide in the long term if they are
successful ...  but it is better to die later than right away.
  If the seed-eating theory were any good, people like Adobe should
have more stuff running on linux.

> Personally, I think that MS is in the same position that Lotus was when 
> they decided to use 123 as a "cash cow". MS is at its peak in terms of 
> operating systems and will collect the economic rents for quite a while.
> This is the opening for free software. Ironically enough, MS helped us get 
> here.
> Jerry

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