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Re: sustainable development

From: olafBuddenhagen
Subject: Re: sustainable development
Date: Tue, 27 Oct 2009 00:34:45 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.19 (2009-01-05)


On Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 09:26:03AM +0200, Arne Babenhauserheide wrote:
> Am Dienstag, 22. September 2009 03:15:34 schrieb
> address@hidden:

> > > The means they use is to provide a Pro version which offers
> > > improved performance by some changes which everyone could do
> > > himself in the sources.
> > 
> > Err... I don't quite get it. So is it free software what they sell?
> > Do they provide the modified sources?
> Jupp - it's just that nobody takes the trouble of compiling those. 

They wouldn't even need to compile -- just find someone who already has
a copy of the binary, and is willing to pass it on...

> All that "Pro Version" stuff is in my view just a very neat marketing
> stunt - and they make very good money from it. 

Yeah, interesting business model: sell copies of a binary to people who
don't understand that they could get it at no cost elsewhere... ;-)

I have some doubts though that this model is sustainable in the long
term :-)

And what does "good money" really mean in this case anyways? I'm not
inclined to believe that the revenue is large enough to pay any serious

> Giving people prebuilt binaries and an automatic update service can be
> quite a nice deal.

Well, that's essentially the RedHat model; but there is one more
important ingredient to it: trademarks. While the actual software in
RHEL is free, the RetHat trademark prevents direct redistribution of
binaries on a larger scale -- rather, projects like CentOS have to
recompile everything after removing the trademark. RHEL is sold with
support contracts; but I think what makes customers willing to buy these
is not so much the support, but rather tha branding...

This model is acceptable from a free software standpoint, as it doesn't
seriously limit the freedom of actual users. Yet it's not exactly the
prime example of free software business models: just like the
traditional proprietary model, it is centered around creating a
"product", and then getting individual customers to pay for each copy --
only that scarcity is not created by demanding licenses for use of the
software itself, but by the branding attached to the "official"

In a true free software economy, no artificial scarcity need to be
created at all. Customers do not pay for the ability to use particular
"products" (not even indirectly through branding), but rather for the
further development of the software. Developers charge for the actual
work being done -- and once payed, the availability of the results
doesn't need to be restricted.

> > > You won't be able to create a self-running money machine, though.
> > 
> > Very few people manage to do that with proprietary software. So few
> > in fact that it's insiginifcant. I don't think it's even appropriate
> > to mention it in this context... It's just not true that people
> > writing proprietary software get richer than those writing free
> > software.
> Maybe my view is bent by M$ - and Apple (proprietary GUI). These are
> the ones I mostly see as making big money (with products for regular
> people). 

My point is that the proprietary software developers at Microsoft and
Apple do not really make more money than free software developers at
RedHat and Intel, or the custom software developers at CSC... The people
who earn a lot for money with Microsoft or Apple, are a handful of
investors and managers -- they get a lot of money for building and
running a company, not for developing software. Actual software
development almost always happens on a regular salary. The idea some
people seem to have that developing proprietary software is a way to get
rich, is just totally detached from reality.


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