Subject: Re: Software as a public service
From: Bernard Lang <Bernard.Lang@inria.fr>
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 10:57:29 +0100

* Ng Pheng Siong <ngps@netmemetic.com>, le 15-03-05, a écrit:
> On Mon, Mar 14, 2005 at 07:40:37PM +0100, Bernard Lang wrote:
> > PS I believe that proprietary software can survive only in niches.  It
> > is an obsolete economic model. [...]
> > 
> > Which does not mean that the programmers should not be paid.
> 
> Hi,
> 
> I am interested to know how you reconcile these two statements.

quite simple ...

free software is written by people who have to satisfy a need,
technical or otherwise, and who find it more convenient to share and
get also benefits from sharing, i.e. from mutualizing development.

I believe this model applies to organizations as well, wether private
or public.  And they have considerables resources for that.  So I
expect them to develop more and more free software, just because its
the most convenient model for them.

In the market economy, a supplier is just a way of mutualizing the
production of a good needed by different customers.  Free software is
just another form of mutualization.  Proprietary software production
tends to be monopolistic for a variety of reasons, which gives to much
power to the supplier.  Free software leaves control in the hands of
the users, and is then preferable for the users control of his
economic and technical strategy.

Furthermore, it is manageable because software mass production does
not need factories, but only an internet connection and a CD toaster.

Bob Young used to say that Red Hat does not sell software but control.

This is why I believe that free software is the only rational model,
except maybe for niche situations.  But the developers can usually be
paid for their work.  Actually, this model is developing right now in
France, with users (mostly local governments and cities) regrouping to
pay software houses to develop free software for them.

Software patents can probably delay for a long time the development of
this economic model, if they are generalized.  And it will slow the
economy.  But I do hope, or expect, that reason will win in the end.

BTW people who develop free software for the government are usually
paid.  And many companies released free software, but paid the
developers.  What you cannot expect is that, because you have this
nice free software in mind, people will automatically pay you to
develop it.

Bernard

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