Subject: Re: Outside U.S. versus inside U.S.
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003 02:01:02 +0900

>>>>> "Taran" == Taran Rampersad <> writes:

    Taran> Well, I have been to Japan. Perhaps Okinawa would be a
    Taran> better comparison;

Okinawa is part of Japan only politically.  It is even less part of
the Japanese mainstream than Hawaii is of the U.S.

    Taran> The major factor is where the median income is, I think.

Close enough.

    Taran> The 20% who have the money are typically the ones that have
    Taran> businesses, therefore would be more interested in cost
    Taran> reductions... and they are.

Sure.  The question is how to get those cost reductions.  My implicit
rule of thumb was "if it's a marketed commodity, you need to be able
to do it in-house at 50% of the cost (equivalently, 200% of the
quality), else just buy it in the market."  In the so-called advanced
economies, most "business services" have commodity versions with that
kind of economics for most businesses.  Thus "virtual firms" are a
plausible, even viable, concept.  I doubt this is true in T&T.  I know
it is not true (yet!) in most places where our exchange students come
from (Indonesia, Viet Nam, Malaysia, even China -- we don't get that
many from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan).  In Korea it's infeasible for
quasi-cultural reasons (the chaebol), but the infrastructure is close
to "there".  In Japan, we're still at the plausibility stage.

    Taran> The challenge in Trinidad and Tobago, as an example, is
    Taran> that everyone wants what the rich people have. And the rich
    Taran> people have computers running Windows.

You have my sympathy.  I've heard this over and over again, from
students, faculty, traders from many countries.  Sure, it presents a
business opportunity for you, but it's got to hurt seeing the people
around you using their feet for target practice that way.[1]

    Taran> This is non-intuitive for me,

Because you're thinking technically, and can evaluate the technical
merits.  You also have little idea, I would guess, of what it would
cost your doctor acquaintance, now dependent on his XP box, to lose
the machine for a few days.  What else can he really do except hope
that the "industry standard OS" that the machine was designed to run
(see the sticker on the monitor?) works as well for him as it does for
the Fortune 500 (as far as he can tell)?

So give him _real_ hope.

Have you ever showed one of these guys the uptimes that long-running
Linux or *BSD boxes get?  There must be a few of those guys who have
their uptimes on their home pages still out there!  Have you ever
installed VMware, then crashed NT, and showed them how the underlying
Linux OS doesn't go down, then calmly reboot?  You probably won't hook
him the first time, but "NT in an X Window" is a real eye-opener for
those who don't have time to think about it.

    Taran> Gates and company are very goodat what they do. But here's
    Taran> where they are really slitting their own throats down here:
    Taran> The updates.

Could be.  It could also be that they don't really think there's
profitable low end market there yet, and are counting on the
notoriously short memory of consumers.  Or maybe the dramatic drop in
costs of providing broadband.  "We'll see, won't we?"

    Taran> Nothing I've been noticing in the U.S. seems to be
    Taran> comparable to this situation. It's actually very fun.

That was my point.  There are some things that you can learn from your
U.S. colleagues.  But the ambient business environment is very
different.  Two different realities.  That's what I object to; the
notion that going to Trinidad or Costa Rica or Malaysia gives you a
"reality check" relevant to American FSBs, or to their potential
customers.  It's not.  But I'm not about to tell you that your
perception of Trinidad reality is wrong (or Phil's of Costa Rica); you
live there.

If you show your "unlicensed" doctor the Linux that just keeps on
running ... and running ... and running ... and running ... and
running ... and running ..., that's going to get his attention.
That's money in his pocket, starting on the day he "buys" the product.
That's one more thing he doesn't have to worry about (actually, two:
no vendor racketeering^W"audits") and spend _his own_ highly valuable
time on.

Show that to a typical U.S. doctor, and he'll say, "So?  If my IT guy
doesn't keep the system up, I'll fire him and get one who can.
Compatibility is the thing."  He's _already_ not worrying.
(Exaggeration, of course.  But you see the point.)

And then, in Trinidad, you probably _do_ talk to the doctor, and he
eventually makes the decision.  In the U.S., you probably talk to "the
IT guy", who has a lot more technical (mis)information to come back at
you with, and has quite different incentives from the bossman.  And
the bossman pays more attention to what the IT guy says than to what
you say.

[1]  It certainly hurts me, watching my colleagues who can afford to
step back and think a bit, and even more, should be thinking in terms
of the educational opportunity they could provide their students.  But
instead, they want to give them the kind of training they could buy in
a $1000 "office automation" course.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.