Subject: Re: Tim's paradigm shift
From: DV Henkel-Wallace <gumby@henkel-wallace.org>
Date: Sat, 3 Jul 2004 14:55:06 -0700

On 29 Jun 2004, at 03:27, Matt Asay wrote:

> The problem I have with it today, just as I did then, is that it
> provides little normative direction...
> And it doesn't explain why MySQL has been so successful.  They employ
> 100% of the code committers to MySQL - no architecture of participation
> (unless you count QA, and that does count)...
> So, while I gushed on and on about open distribution, Larry posed a
> troubling question:  "If that's such a big deal, how is it any better
> than simply giving the product away for free (no cost) over the
> Internet?"  I didn't know, and still don't.

Good, thoughtful essays don't have to give normative direction.  If you 
figure it out, _you_ might get rich.

The real problem is, this process of continual commoditization is well 
known.  In fact I believe it was Microsoft's explicit strategy in the 
1990's.  It was Cygnus' strategy, and we didn't think it up ourselves.  
It's just the computer industry's tradition of ignoring the past and so 
everybody thinking that he was the first to invent the wheel.  Or in 
Tim's case, reminding people of something, tying it to some new 
example, and having _other_ people think he invented the wheel.

The deal on MySQL is that people are willing to pay for insurance.  The 
insurance in this case is that if something goes wrong (supplier goes 
belly-up, or drives technology in undesired direction, or tries to 
squeeze the customer base too hard) there _is_ an out.  The existence 
of such an out is worth paying for.

This is the GCC business model.  For a while one company in practice 
(though not in reality) controlled 100% of the developer base, at least 
from their customers' point of view.  This allowed them to charge 
unusually profitable prices.  The usual forces of capitalism then 
changed this situation!

I'm trying to get a new business off the ground right now, and we 
consider our business too important to risk basing it on Microsoft.  
For now Oracle is OK, but we have to tread carefully.  I know we're not 
the only ones with this attitude.

-d