----- Forwarded message from Larry McVoy <lm at bitmover.com> -----
From: Larry McVoy <lm at bitmover.com>
To: "Adam J. Richter" <adam at yggdrasil.com>
Delivered-To: john at dogbert.internal.antefacto.com
Cc: linux-kernel at vger.kernel.org
Subject: business models [was patent stuff]
Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 15:24:52 -0700
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Mail-Followup-To: Larry McVoy <lm at work.bitmover.com>,
"Adam J. Richter" <adam at yggdrasil.com>, linux-kernel at vger.kernel.org
Jumping on the chance to cause more discussion... This probably ought to
be off on some other list, but I don't know what that is. Alan will be
sending out the guards to herd me back into the ward, but I've escaped
for the moment and I'll make the best of it :)
On Mon, May 27, 2002 at 02:52:13PM -0700, Adam J. Richter wrote:
> Eventually, as some companies are bought or go out of
> business, it is a statistical certainty that some of these patents
> will pass into the control of parties that do not care about the GPL's
> penalties for enforcing a software patent
If the free software community is ever going to really compete with the
non-free software community, they simply have to come up with a better
business model than giving it away and trying to make money on support.
It's economics 101 - a free market will go to whomever can provide the
needed service most cheaply. With no barrier to entry, that means as
soon as the price gets high enough, someone will resell the product for
less. Which results in razor thin profits, if any at all.
In my opinion, it's time for the free software fanatics to ease off and
let some moderates come in and try and define a reasonable compromise.
We all need to realize that we can let businesses figure it out themselves
and we may not like what they decide, or try and define a compromise
that can be lived with. Whether you like it or not, the patent ploy
works and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it if it is a legit
If you hold the "It's GPL or bugger off" position, people will figure out
how to work around it and it is virtually certain you won't like what they
do. If you offer them some sort of reasonable compromise, I'll bet they
take it. If you don't, you get to live with whatever their nasty evil
business minds dream up.
This whole line of reasoning is why I detest the OSI and Eric Raymond
in particular. They had a chance to define a "Buiness Source License"
or some other compromise and get the world to consider it as an option.
Instead, they just made a lot of noise and for what? Ask yourself -
how much more open source is there in the world today versus 5 years ago.
Imagine that pile. Now take the OSI out of the picture and tell me what
would not be in that pile anyway. Bloody little. The OSI squandered a
golden opportunity to really change the world, and I find that depressing
Sorry, I'm wandering. The discussion I'd like to see is one in which
people explored the values they hold dear and tried to come up with a
business model which preserves those values and allows that business
to compete with the likes of Microsoft. Yeah, yeah, I know that Linux
kicks butt for print serving and web serving, but the 99% reason it
does is price. It's not because Linux has new compelling features that
Microsoft doesn't have, it's because it's hard for Microsoft to compete
with stuff that costs zero dollars. The problem isn't where we are,
the problem is where we are going (or more to the point, not going).
How is Linux and open source ever going to be a leader, producing new
applications, new protocols, new languages, new markets when it doesn't
generate the incredible amounts of revenue needed to build all that?
Ask yourself - how much open source is a reimplementation of what has
already been designed and implemented, and how much is fundamentally new?
That new stuff costs huge dollars, not because of the cost of building it,
but because of the cost of building all the crap that turned out bad
but provided the insight that lead to the new stuff. It's really not
that hard to reimplement something, open source has proven that beyond
all doubt. What it hasn't proven is that open source leads to new ideas,
products, and markets. So far, open source follows, it doesn't lead.
A reasonable business model might change that. There may be other ways
to change it, but something needs to change or 20 years from now there
will be open source versions of all the current popular apps, but still
playing catch up on the next generation.
My 2 cents.
Larry McVoy lm at bitmover.com http://www.bitmover.com/lm
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----- End forwarded message -----
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