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BBC "Not In Bed With Bill Gates" 335

Posted by kdawson
from the nobody-uses-linux-anyway dept.
whoever57 writes "The BBC's head of technology denied rumors that a secret deal with Microsoft was behind the XP-only launch of the BBC's iPlayer. According to Ashley Highfield, the reason that the player only supports Windows XP is that only a small number of Linux visitors have come to the BBC's website. Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear. He also thinks that 'Launching a software service to every platform simultaneously would have been launch suicide,' despite the example of many major sites that support Linux (even if this is through the closed-source flash player)."
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BBC "Not In Bed With Bill Gates"

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  • Lame reason. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:19AM (#21195383) Homepage
    Why is 'a small number of linux users' a reason for going with this? What is wrong with using a format that is available everywhere (including portable players!) as a matter of course?
    • by homey of my owney (975234) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:24AM (#21195443)
      Never mind. The title creates an image that I'm not going to be able to get out of my head anytime soon.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ByOhTek (1181381)
      Hard to find a DRMed format to do that of course.

      <sarcasm>
      I mean, imagine... releasing content on the internet... Without DRM. It would be a catastrophy! It'd lead to chaos, anarchy, pigs flying, snowballs having a chance!
      </sarcasm>
    • Why is 'a small number of linux users' a reason for going with this? What is wrong with using a format that is available everywhere (including portable players!) as a matter of course?

      Because Bill came by with a wad of cash. Like Steve says, the market has spoken.

      The man is clearly a liar.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Or...... you cater to your audience. I don't see the problem with any of this. I STILL haven't coded my website to be compliant with Konqueror or Safari. That's not to say they don't work in either, I just don't care because the ratio of Windows and IE+Firefox to Safari+Konqueror+every_other_OS_specific_browser_ever is something like 100:1.

        The demographic on /. might include every weird browser out there (I'm looking at you Opera.) Slashdot is not "the norm" by any means. I run MANY websites with very comp
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by argiedot (1035754)
          They pay, you see. So once they pay, you can't go telling them 'READ!'. It won't work. Besides, what's wrong with opposing a proprietary closed-source player on principle itself?
        • With Opera being on the Wii I don't think it will actually be that uncommon anymore. Though I did find browsing on the Wii in low-res kind of crappy.
    • Face it, there are tools out there that make it insanely easy to provide content to the majority of users.

      Most likely they went with what some consultant said, to get up and running as quickly as possible with the minimum in costs.

      Now, what would it take to come up with something in Linux that can read this data? Is it even remotely possible?
    • Re:Lame reason. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by twicepending (936496) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:40AM (#21195687) Homepage Journal
      From the Article "We have 17.1 million users of bbc.co.uk in the UK and, as far as our server logs can make out, 5 per cent of those [use Macs] and around 400 to 600 are Linux users"

      Now I imagine that relates to visitors to the rather useless BBC front page, using the same info as used to compile the blog post at http://www.currybet.net/articles/user_agents/2.php> which claims that only 0.41& of BBC visitors use Linux.

      I'm a regular visitor to various bits of the BBC web site and I regularly come across other Linux users and just about the one thing we have in common is that we very rarely visit the front page - like most experienced computer users we go straight to sub-site we want.
  • by 26199 (577806) * on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:21AM (#21195413) Homepage

    400-600 people on Linux use bbc.co.uk (in the UK)? I don't think so...

    Someone needs to recheck their server logs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by johnw (3725)

      400-600 people on Linux use bbc.co.uk
      It's clearly either a made up figure or a case of very creative use of statistics. He would have been better off with a figure like 50,000 - it's surprisingly small but it's not so easy to prove that it's just plain wrong.

      It would be interesting to do a survey of Linux users to see how many regularly use bbc.co.uk. I suspect the figure would be well up in the hundreds of thousands. 400-600 is just beyond belief.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JamesD_UK (721413)
      I read all my BBC stories on Slashdot you insensitive clod. Since I never RTFA, I never visit bbc.co.uk. QED
    • by Spad (470073)
      The BBC news site alone gets something in the region of 40 million hits *a day*. I'd expect them to get 400-600 visitors running something like OpenVMS or AIX - even if you take Linux as 1% of desktops you're still looking at 400,000 hits, so unless every user generates 1,000 hits a day they're a bit off.
    • by goddidit (988396) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:32AM (#21196395)
      An incovenient truth: There really is only about thousand linux users.
      However they are a very vocal minority and because it's somewhat cool to be a linux guy
      some people claim that they run linux when infact they don't.
      I personally run Windows Vista Home Basic but I pretend to be a linux expert on various internet forums.
      Linux's "popularity" is really just a scam to fool newbies into thinking that people actually run linux.
      Then the newbies try actually installing linux and fail miserably,
      you must really be a kernel hacker to install it.
      Frustrated newbies then ask questions on the various forums and on irc and everybody answers to them in complete gibberish. We all get a good laugh that way (expect the noobs, they try the bogus solutions and fail once again).
    • Doesn't answer your question but this is quite interesting

      http://support.bbc.co.uk/support/ [bbc.co.uk]
  • Miscounting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Marcion (876801)
    I can't believe that. I am a licence payer and visit the BBC website everyday on Linux. I'm sure their proprietary webstats package is just ignoring Linux. He didn't give the number of 'others'.
  • BBC's charter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:24AM (#21195455) Homepage Journal
    The interesting bit here is the Beeb isn't really a commercial organization. They're a public entity which is strictly required [wikipedia.org] to keep itself free of commercial and political influence.
    • Re:BBC's charter (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:58AM (#21195927)

      The interesting bit here is the Beeb isn't really a commercial organization. They're a public entity which is strictly required [wikipedia.org] to keep itself free of commercial and political influence.

      They're also required to account for their spending and for keeping costs down. If they proposed a completely open player and it was a significant amount of money more than the Microsoft one then they would have to justify why they went with the costly option.

      Granted I've not worked in a non-profit organisation, but even so, I think that justifying a larger spend on something that affects less than 0.004% of visitors is going to be a very tough sell for anyone.

  • Chicken and egg (Score:2, Insightful)

    by darjen (879890)

    Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.
    My guess is that they checked their logs before they created the application, and decided that the small portion of linux users on their site didn't justify the extra development costs of multi platform support. Of course, I didn't RTFA so I could be wrong on that.
    • From TFA:

      And as for the battle with the Open Source Consortium? "The 12 people who demonstrated outside our offices have every right to demonstrate," says Ashfield. "But I think 'the 12 people' says it all."

      Highfield used the numbers of non-Windows users visiting bbc.co.uk as justification for the corporation's XP-only release. "We have 17.1 million users of bbc.co.uk in the UK and, as far as our server logs can make out, 5 per cent of those [use Macs] and around 400 to 600 are Linux users."

      • by Toby_Tyke (797359)
        I might be missing something, but that seems to back up the parents assertion. He's talking about bbc.co.uk, the front page of the site, not the iPlayer specific pages
    • by jocknerd (29758)
      You are giving them too much credit. I believe they just assumed everyone runs Windows and didn't even question the video format. I've seen it at my work. We will be putting video's of City Council meetings online and the company we hired to host the videos does Windows Media only. I tried pushing podcasting as an alternative to streaming but was told nobody does podcasting. Now the company has come back to us and told us they can make podcasts available for an extra $400 a month. I'm pretty sure they
  • by JetScootr (319545) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:28AM (#21195511) Journal
    "You don't decide how big to build the bridge by counting the number of people swimming the river."
    Cuz once the bridge is up, hundreds more who couldn't swim the distance will want to cross.
  • ...under the desk, maybe.
  • by paintswithcolour (929954) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:30AM (#21195549)
    "Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear."

    It should be clarified that he was talking about the root bbc.co.uk site NOT the iPlayer site, so it is clearer why the would expect Linux users to visit the site.

    • by Perl-Pusher (555592) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:59AM (#21195941)
      He is throwing numbers out doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. Linux visitors to the BBC site has to be a hell of a lot higher than that. 400 to 600 hundred linux users? I got more than that when I was was working for a local Virginia newspaper! We had over 100,000 visits per day, linux users were running steady at about 2%. The problem with linux users was you never knew which browser they were going to use, opera, firefox, konqueror even EI running under wine.
  • by Tim C (15259) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:31AM (#21195551)
    Because if they had, it would have been perfectly clear that by "the BBC website" he meant bbc.co.uk, as that's actually part of the referenced quote. Given that the site is one of the most popular in the UK, and is used by people from all walks of life, I'd say that their OS usage stats stand fair chance of being representative of reality...
    • The only interesting thing on that site is the link to news.bbc.co.uk. Given that the main use of the beeb's website is for the news and that most people with a clue would just bypass that server and hit the frontpage for the news site the only thing we can infer from the statistic is that most clueless people use windows...
  • by Bushcat (615449) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:31AM (#21195553)
    Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear

    iPlayer is based on Kontiki (owned by Verisign). Windows only, unless you're prepared to jump through virtual hoops, AFAIK. Reading through the user agreement: it's targeting UK-based computer users. Hmmm. Shall we build a Windows, Mac or Linux player? No-brainer, really, when the P2P distribution layer is Windows only.

    • by kebes (861706) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:00AM (#21195951) Journal

      Shall we build a Windows, Mac or Linux player? No-brainer, really, when the P2P distribution layer is Windows only.
      Sure... but isn't that backwards?

      Generally you shouldn't pick your technology (programming language, toolkit, etc.) and then pick your audience based on what it supports. Instead, you should write out a list of requirements, and then pick the technology that satisfies all those needs. In this case, if one of the requirements was: "Must be available to all fee-paying persons with computer access (i.e.: must be platform agnostic)" then an OS-specific technology would never have been chosen in the first place.

      I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that this is a result of mis-management (e.g. not thinking very hard about requirements) rather than corruption (e.g. collusion with software companies), but in any case I question their planning process.

      (And to those who may respond that "must support DRM" was one of the requirements in the initial design, and could only be satisfied using Windows-only software, I would then say that placing content protection above equal treatment of fee-paying users was, again, a poor design decision for an organization like the BBC.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bushcat (615449)
        I guess it went something like this. And it hurts the Linux & Mac fanboys, but it is the shape of the world: BBC: "We want to get our stuff out to people. People mock us, but we actually do a pretty good job most of the time, content-wise and technology-wise. We want our subscribers to have access to our content." Verisign: "We can help you with that." BBC: "OK, please help us, but at minimal cost to our subscribers, because we have to fight for every pound." Verisign: "Here's the solution with the DR
  • by Nomen Publicus (1150725) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:33AM (#21195593)
    The Beeb did it because it was the cheapest, easiest, but not best, option.

    That said, it was a really stupid move and managed to get everybody from the smallest Linux hacker to the UK government commenting in public about the policy.

    Creating an open "player" for all platforms would have taken more resources at first, but from that point on all future platforms would be supported by the people who use the platform.

    Sadly, the Beeb needs closed source to implement the no-save and timed delete features forced on them by others.
  • Love the summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toleraen (831634) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:34AM (#21195609)

    Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.
    Hey Fudmitter, he's not talking about the media site, he's talking about news.bbc.co.uk. Still that seems a little low. We should have upped those numbers for him and linked his site directly in the summary...
  • From what I know of the BBC, they've always prided themselves on "spreading the word" of the BBC as far and wide as possible, setting up broadcast stations in some of the most remote parts of the world to share their news, informational programming, and perhaps most importantly - the English language - with those who often have very limited resources. I can tell from personal experience - I am able to receive the BBC from midnight to 4 AM on my local public radio station here in Indiana on a nightly basis.
  • by greebowarrior (961561) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:36AM (#21195635) Homepage
    When will people stop whining about iPlayer being XP only? There's no secret Microsoft alliance, and no great conspiracy.

    The main reason why iPlayer uses Windows DRM is because the companies who produce content for the BBC didn't want their shows streamed without some kind of rights management, because, god forbid, it should end up on bit torrent. The cause of this is most likely ignorance on their part, because, as we all know, DRM stops piracy, saves lives, cures cancar and ends world famine.

    The core code behind iPlayer is completely cross-browser, having worked on some of it, I know that it conforms to BBC New Media guidelines, which specifically state that all HTML, JavaScript, etc must be compatible with all major browsers (we even tested major elements of it in Firefox, and quite a few of the developers worked on Mac/Linux boxes)

    There has always been a plan for a Mac/Linux version of iPlayer, but the current DRM requirements being imposed on the iPlayer Core team make it somewhat difficult for them to actually get working on it
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by heraclitus23 (1078159)

      When will people stop whining about iPlayer being XP only? There's no secret Microsoft alliance, and no great conspiracy.

      When non-Windows players (Mac and Linux) don't have to pay a license fee and be excluded from services. Also, the worry is not about the Beeb management, but the iPlayer team many of whose senior figures are ex-Microsoft employees.

      The main reason why iPlayer uses Windows DRM is because the companies who produce content for the BBC didn't want their shows streamed without some kind of righ

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ddrichardson (869910)

      The main reason why iPlayer uses Windows DRM is because the companies who produce content for the BBC didn't want their shows streamed without some kind of rights management, because, god forbid, it should end up on bit torrent.

      That would be a fair argument, except that a large proportion of contents is produced by the BBC at the expense of licence payers, who should be able to access the information they are paying for regardless of operating system. In essence, one could argue that as a licence payer it'

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LordSnooty (853791)
        Actually, these days a lot of BBC content is produced by independent companies and the BBC merely pays for the right to broadcast it. They are no more "the public's property" than any major US show.
  • Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.
    Actually, it is clearly mentioned in the article. The numbers represent users of the BBC website, not the iPlayer site.
  • Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.

    He's not talking about media downloads, but the entire bbc.co.uk site which, according to Google, is about 3,310,000 pages.

    From the article:

    Highfield used the numbers of non-Windows users visiting bbc.co.uk as justification for the corporation's XP-only release. "We have 17.1 million users of bbc.co.uk in the UK and, as far as our server logs can make out, 5per cent of those

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      They didn't do a Linux version because only 0.0035% of users are identifying themselves as running Linux.

      They are, however, locking out about 855,000 Mac users. Not that, compared to ~16M Win users, that's extremely much, but it's not exactly insignificant, either. Not if your standard is to bring your program to everyone, which does fit the BBC.
  • Given that the BBC had to wrap the iPlayer videos in DRM to satisfy the rights holders, what open source equivalent could they have used? Or would they have had to write something completely from the ground up?
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      The bbc broadcast unencrypted over satellite, cable and terrestrial. Why the DRM requirement now? They're already broadcast DRM free to most of northern europe.
      • by s7uar7 (746699)
        For the same reasons that the RIAA demanded DRM for paid downloads when their tracks are already broadcast DRM free on the radio.

        Exactly what those reasons are, I couldn't tell you, but I suspect it's a combination of a lack of technical understanding by the people who make the decisions and the perceived (and to a certain extent proved) threat from filesharing.
  • Obviously, after 6 years of /., I'd expect no less...

    Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear

    Highfield's (the chief of tech) argument is pretty solid actually. The BBC site (bbc.co.uk, not the media download area) has 17 million monthly visitors, out of which 600 use Linux.

    It does make perfect sense to please the 99% of the users first and then cater to the specific needs of the other 1%.

    [...] despite the example of many

    • gnash plays media these days. Yes, it doesn't do a perfect job of emulation, however it's straightforward to stick to the parts of flash that work in both gnash and flash.
    • by gaspyy (514539)
      Sorry to be replying to my own post...

      Yes, the 400-600 figure is absurdly low. I based my original post on the assumption that no one is lying or massaging the stats to prove a point...
  • The BBC spokesman said that BEFORE they instituted the iPlayer software, they had very few visitors using Linux. The submitter then tries to refute this statement by using the current state as to why there would have been fewer visitors in the past.

    Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.

    This is disingenuous and does not refute the fact that 94% of the visitors to the BBC site were using Windows before the iPlayer rollo

  • The BBC don't own, and therefore can't (be seen to) give away, the content.
    They have to at least pretend to make it difficult to 'hack' the player and capture the content.
    If they release a Windows player and it gets hacked, no-one cares (yet another Windows hack, film at 11).
    If they release a Linux player and it gets hacked they'll be roasted for loosing the content (how dumb are you? releasing a player on a platform where users can recompile the kernel to defeat your DRM?!?!).
  • Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.

    The BBC is more than media downloads. It is the prime news site in the U.K. If the BBC isn't seeing many Linux users, it could be because there aren't many Linux users.

  • Until it came out they had hired a former MS exec.

    I think it was funny that they pooh-poohed a demonstration by a dozen people. Any number of people come out to protest a technology choice should be an eye-opener. One of the first things I learned working for public radio was that you didn't piss off opera fans. There weren't very many of them, but they were vocal and passionate. Much like Linux users. The Beeb should have more class.

    It still surprises me to find IE only web sites from big companie

  • Executive summary: "Management ineptitude with statistics, not conspiracy, behind stupid BBC move."
  • I love the BBC
    I love it when they're pissin' on me
    And I love MTV
    I love it when they're shittin' on me
  • Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.

    I'm pretty sure they had a web site before they put up these media downloads, and I suspect that they probably looked at those stats before deciding that their visitors are mostly running Windows.

  • by Tibixe (1138927)

    We have 17.1 million users of bbc.co.uk in the UK and, as far as our server logs can make out, 5 per cent of those [use Macs] and around 400 to 600 are Linux users.
    I read news.bbc.co.uk and use Linux. so I am the 0.2% of the users mentioned there :P
    There must more than 600, because a "Latest BBC Headlines" bookmark comes "preinstalled" with Firefox.
    (At least with the ones I've seen)
  • Why not just stick the files up in MPEG4 or some other open codec (or even the DIRAC codec which the BBC has/had some connection to)?

    Stick it behind a login page (with only people who have TV licenses able to get access).
  • I'm sure Bill Gates will be happy to hear this news. Someone call him up.
  • recent surveys and sales data shows mac sales are now out numbering pc sales in major universities state side, given Europe's more progressive leanings it's pretty easy to extrapolate similar if not greater trends across the pond, not to mention bbc does have an American division.

    and guess what, mac runs a posix interface. It's not that hard to make the mac version linux friendly.

    In other words, this is a cop-out at best, and more likely his claims are an outright lie.

    However, never attribute to malice or
  • After years of looking at Linux, wanting to use Linux, and feeling Linux just wasn't ready (all the while hating myself for using Windows, feeling like a beaten wife), I've discovered the Glory That Is Ubuntu. My God, that is some brilliant shit. I did a demo install in VMware just to see how good the latest version is. Can I say wow? Yes, yes I can. What's more, flash under firefox looks great. I can run youtube vids with full motion and sound, no lag, and it's great.

    The point to this long story, why aren'
    • Plus there's gnash, which is an open source flash player which will play youtube videos, or at least until the next time they rev to a newer version of flash.
  • Linux makes up a very small percentage of desktop users, less than 1% probably.

    HOWEVER, Mac users are a significant percentage. There are statistics that claim 16% for notebooks, and I've got my own stats that don't disagree (based on mac addresses). There's also an impression that Mac users are more willing to pay more for most things.

    So the stuff we make definitely has to work with Macs. Does the BBC's "Windows XP" only stuff work on Macs running MacOS? Without too much hoop-jumping.

    BTW, I've even seen a
  • I like how the BBC was obviously trying to draft on the recognition of Apple's iNames but without the, shall we say, fucking courtesy to actually run on the Mac out of the box. Nice one, tools.
  • by rx-sp (1161741) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:47AM (#21196615)
    This man is clearly a small-minded idiot who the BBC should be ashamed to have on their staff. Frankly, I don't care a jot about support for Linux or Mac. That's not where I'm coming at this from. I'm coming at this from the simple tenets of the BBC's constitution, that "Nation shall speak peace unto nation". This is on the plaque outside Broadcasting House, the BBC main HQ. It's why the BBC has offices in eastern countries you've never heard of. It's why the BBC broadcasts programs for minorities. It doesn't say "Nation shall speak peace unto nation provided they're running a compatible operating system". That's like it saying, "National shall speak peace unto nations provided they have white skin", or "Nation shall speak peace unto nation provided they support the British government's war on terror". There are no bars here, for any reason, trivial or otherwise. It really is disgraceful that this man is in a position of power in the BBC. It shows how far standards have slipped in the BBC. The iPlayer project will very probably be cancelled anyway because another fuckwitt is running the BBC and has massively overstretched the organisation, so that it's now cutting back by billions of pounds. Generation X has all growed-up and they're simply not up to the job.
  • 'Launching a software service to every platform simultaneously would have been launch suicide'

    Why is it I have no problem viewing media on other sites except the BBC, how is it Youtube has no problem launching a cross platform service. What possible technical difficulties are there in running streaming video, none ...
  • 400 to 600 Linux users out of 17 million? I find that hard to believe...That's less than 0.003%.
  • Given the constraint that this media could not be put out in an open format (since then it could be used by non-BBC customers who were not covered by a license) I would have had to do the same thing.

    I don't like windows. I'm headed towards linux (most of my apps are now OS agnostic except everquest).

    But as a project manager, it would be insane to delay delivery to 95% (they claim 99%) of my customers for several months. It is probably not even profitable to try to service 1% of the customers but as a gov
  • Interview on Groklaw (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Snart Barfunz (526615) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @01:12PM (#21199905)
    Read this if you think iPlayer is a good idea - http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20071021231933899 [groklaw.net]

    Mark Taylor of the UK Open Source Consortium makes the point that the BBC has spent 100 million pounds on the iPlayer project. They're also going broke and will have to sell their flagship London headquarters building for - guess how much?

    So, this project has already beggared the BBC. Am I too paranoid in seeing this as the first step in yet another Microsoft 'embrace and extend' play? They've had ambitions to own broadcast TV for ages. If they can prove their DRM works for a major broadcaster over the net, next step will be to DRM the broadcast TV. After that, if your TV doesn't have Windows Inside, you'll be shit out of luck.
    • After digging around, this is the best stat I can find - In March 2004, there were 24.5 million licences in force. So the iPlayer has cost every licence holder over 5 pounds - and that includes the huge majority who will never use iPlayer. Let's be optimistic and imagine a takeup of 100,000. That means the iPlayer has a per seat cost of 1,000 pounds. So, two questions: would you pay 1,000 pounds for a copy of this piece of software? And is it fair that non-users are subsidising you to the tune of 995 pounds

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