Subject: thoughts after a lecture and a question
From: Tom Lord <lord@emf.net>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2002 02:22:30 -0800 (PST)



I attended a talk recently given by a lawyer who works for
Environmental Defense (formerly, the Environmental Defense Fund).  He
was talking about water in California, and gently advocating for the
creation of a system of water markets as a way to (a) avoid public
spending on environmentally harmful water projects that (he implicitly
claimed) are usually economically irrational; (b) use market
mechanisms to overcome (or repurpose) 19th century usage-based
water-rights laws and the inefficiencies, waste, and harm they create;
(c) use market mechanisms to generate investment in conservation.

Well, in a highly qualified way, it was a reminder that "markets are
neat".

So, I've burbled at length, in the past, about my very specific ideas
about how to create markets for free software strategic R&D.

May I now drop the specifics, and turn that into a question?

Let's define strategic R&D as "uncertain development which attempts to
anticipate or create future markets".   It can be contrasted with
"tactical R&D", which targets certain markets, with hopefully certain
development projects.

So, for example, "carrier class Linux" -- that's tactical R&D.  We
know what needs to be done and, pretty much, how to do it, and we know
the market exists.

And, "next generation, tractable middleware" -- that (please make a
generous interpretation of the name - it's just an example) is
strategic R&D.   We speculate about some novel approaches, we are
_pretty sure_ we can do it, and we think the market will emerge as
current middleware solutions reach the stage of getting so tangled up
in themselves that they become intractable.

Now, as free software business models emerge, it seems clear to me
(though feel free to argue) that we need _some_ source of strategic
R&D to make those models "renewable".   Proprietary models have
strategic R&D (mostly in company-specific labs) -- so why not free
software models?

One could say: well, the universities and volunteers provide our R&D.
or, and maybe this is just an elaboration on that, R&D is funded by 
public funds like NFS grants.

But, hey, markets are neat.

So, at last the question dear list, what form does a market for free
software strategic R&D take?  What's bought?  What's sold?  Where do
the trades take place?

-t