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There's "No Such Thing" as Free Software 164

st. augustine writes "This editorial on the front page of PC Magazine UK cites the old "programmers will starve" argument and claims that open source and cheap hardware are driving people out of business, thereby reducing consumer choice." The article is mostly about declining costs of hardware, the little FUD blurb is at the end, although it seems strangely familiar to an article sent in by toolz: this little gem appears on Microsoft.com so it doesn't have to try to be impartial. Read both, were going to see a lot more of this stuff.
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There's "No Such Thing" as Free Software

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  • Yes, Bob, there is such a thing as free software. If you check out www.fsf.org, you will see that it has to do with rights and not price. No one says that creating free software (granting rights/freedoms) does not cost money, time, etc.

    However, there is also free software that also does not cost money and that is software that has already been paid for or funded.
    This can occur in many ways.

    One client wants something. I code it and charge them. I make the agreements necessary to own the completed code and then give it away. (I have done this in the past.)

    A programmer chooses to consider the vast amounts of free software available to him at no cost which he can use to make money, save money, use in his own projects (save time) or use as an education as payment in advance on his own contributions to the pool of free software. I have just done this. I consider the code I write and release as payment towards the code I get. It is one way to look at things.

    Earning enough to eat can be easier than getting vastly rich. ~;-) I am not starving.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    His points about hardware are all meaningless. When a lot of companies are building the same beige boxes and all using the same off-the-shelf parts, the only way to compete is by cutting prices to the absolute minimum. Then, the only way to make enough money to keep things running is to sell more product and wait for enough of the little manufacturers to die-off so you can raise prices again.

    His comment that "there is no such thing as free software" is a bit overstated, but for the most part it is true.

    Others have brought up the Internet as an example of free software, but the US government funded most of that development. The US government funded BSD and its brethren. If you were to look at the majority of free software of consequence prior to the past three years, guess who paid for it?
    Someone always pays.

    Then there was Linux.

    A lot of people have invested their time developing the pieces and parts and put together a really good server OS than can be used by anyone without having to pay anything for the privilege.

    Things are going to change, and it won't be exactly how you envision. The utopian open sourcers are going to be pushed back to the fringes as the old big software companies and the new big software companies begin the exploit the new, level playing field that is Linux. Welcome to the world of Linux as the next great desktop OS.

    Red Hat and other distributors can make money selling the OS in a box, differentiating their releases and adding value through the creation of custom installers and configuration programs. Right now they can even make money by providing support. Most will quickly learn that the cost of providing support to average users is much higher than the money any sane user is willing to pay. Most will have to limit support to yearly business-to-business support contracts. If they want to court and support the average user, the money will have to come from somewhere, and that will be proprietary end-user applications. Red Hat's R&D efforts will be forced into developing commericial applications to pay for the average users, even if they do not want to.

    Another way to feed off the Open Source gravy train is to take the Apple approach and make the developers pay. This is the approach that KDE is taking, and it will work well for them. KDE will be the standard Linux desktop (as soon as KOffice is full featured and stable). As KDE evolves, it will become more and more a necessity to use the QT widgets, and if your going to develop a commercial product, you'll need the QT license. With their control of the QT widgets will come control of the desktop. Behold the next Microsoft!

    The majority of money will go to the same proprietary apps you loathe. Early entrants to the Linux arena will have to throw an open source bone or two at the frothing masses. Eventually, most will either become complacent, their OS choice so justly validated, or will move on the next great fringe OS.

    So, in the next two years watch for a lot of disillusioned people to pop-up in articles on /. complaining about various companies selling-out. Remember that most of them didn't want to; market forces drove them to it.

    So it is written, so it shall be done.

    Views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Anonymous Cowards Inc.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I tend to agree with most of what you said. But I think you read something into what I wrote that I didn't intend on saying. I don't mean to say that "support will be the _only_ source of revenue." What I was trying to say, is that "support will have a larger fraction of the cash value of the package than the executable itself."

    The distribution model is sort of fuzzy, and I don't see as clear of a trend there as you do when you point to Red Hat.

    I believe Red Hat isn't actually making profit from distribution, more from support. I could be wrong here, I guess, but as I see it; 1) Red Hat sells "Red Hat Linux on CD" with a user manual. Documentation is probably more support than it is distribution. and 2) Red Hat includes one month of email support with the "Offical Red Hat Linux." Say what you will about the quality of that support, it is support, not distribution.

    Therefore, I believe, IMHO, that Red Hat is selling support, not distribution. If you consider a Cheap Bytes, LSL, or Linux Mall $1.99 CD of Red Hat Linux, then I believe in that case, you are seeing companies making profit solely on distribution. But, I believe this is a byproduct of the open source development model, not something that relates directly to the income of a developer.

    Also, "The world isn't going to turn into 100% programmers over the next decade." is taking something I said out of context and exagerating it. I said slowly, you point to 10 years. I don't believe that there is a clear defined end point, that's why I pointed to the model of "evolution." There is no clear end point where an evolution of something reaches completion. It's a model of drifting twards something that better fits it's environment. And I said that there was a larger percentage of programmers today than in the past, but by no means did I imply that the world will turn into 100% computer programmers. Therefore you have set up a "strawman" argument, putting up something unrealistic, and poking holes in it. This voids your point, because your not arguing against something real. I believe that's a case of "rather narrow goggles."

    Somehow this went from a discussion of "There is no such thing as free software," the point I addressed, to this discussion of "can the software industry and programmers survive on support profit alone." The latter was not my intention to defend, OTOH, I believe _some_ segment (e.g. Red Hat) has proven that it is a possable, profitable, buisness style for _some_ companies. (I wish I didn't have to do the _stress_ thing with the _underlines_, I just got out of the habbit of doing that, but it appears that some people miss the point if I don't).

    I don't think your going to convince me that shrink wrap software will always be the main source of revenue for the software development community. That point is something I just can't see happening from a basic supply and demand economic standpoint. But if your trying to tell me that there will always be someone selling shrinkwrap software, somewhere, then sure. There are people who sell bottled water too, although the bulk of the world accepts the grade of water sent to them through public utilities (internet) at a much lower cost, and occasionally just filters it themselfs (custom hacks).

    Rob C. (some error, otherwise I would have posted from my own computer)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why do you keep making the jump from 'some software is OS' to 'if suddenly all software were OS the world as we know it would end'? To the best of my knowledge, nobody advocates FORCING all software to be open source. On top of that, you're missing the difference free (open) software, and free ($) software. There are several companies out there making a profit and paying employees competitive wages while selling Open software. Remember, free software is analogous to free speech, not necessarily free beer.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think the response to the question 'Why would anyone want to code for free?' is best summed up by the line the Stone Soup group used to add to the end of the Fractint documentation:

    'Don't want money. Got money. Want admiration.'
  • Yes! He's right! Let's all petition our respective governments to mandate a minimum price on software and hardware, to protect the industry. Otherwise all innovation will end and we will all live in straw huts, eating mud, within ten years!
  • I wasn't being sarcastic about people who think there is a place for proprietary software. I was being sarcastic about people who paint free software (and in this case, cheap hardware) as being somehow evil and opposed to choice, the free market, etc. If a company can't take the competition from free software or cheap hardware, it is they who need to change, not the people providing free software or cheap hardware.
  • There is a huge difference between the freeness of TV programs and free software. Think free speech, not free beer, as they say. Though that is not really the important difference. The important difference is in the degree of reuse that is possible.
    What makes this difference important is that a TV show can't really make use of content from earlier TV shows to any large extent, because the audience will not be as willing to spend their time watching old content. Therefore every TV show has to have mostly new content, which leads to high production costs. With free software, we have a situation where production costs will go down the more free software there is.
    There will still be a cost, of course, but it is quite possible that this cost will be low enough that we can entirely scrap proprietary software development. This is what the free software people are hoping and believing will happen, I think. At least it is what I am hoping for.
  • They may reuse the ideas, but they can't reuse the content, and it is the content that is most expensive to produce, not the ideas. Especially not the ideas that drive most TV shows.
  • Don't forget "bountyware." Sooner or later, I think this concept is going to catch on. Why waste millions developing a package when you can hang the requirements, basic design goals, and some stub code on your web site and let the hackers duke it out for the money?

  • I don't see why Bountyware can't be made to work for desktop applications and the like. If the ISV lays the proper groundwork and makes some working code available from day one, a working GUI for a word processor for instance, it can spend its development resources at a higher level, reviewing submissions, supporting developers who are working on the project, etc.

    As for product quality and correctness, I see no reason why the process would be any different with outside hackers. If an ISV thinks it can pay less attention to code developed in-house than it would to code developed by hackers, it's inviting trouble to begin with. Hackers would be driven by the same interests as employees or contractors; it would be in their best interest to produce quality work. One might argue that the incentive to produce innovative, tight, quality code would be greater with folks who are competing for a prize.

    Granted, there are problems that will have to be worked out before Bountyware will work for larger, more demanding projects, but this is just a lack or tools and plain old experience.

  • So Red Hat, et al aren't really making money on Linux? The assumption is that when software is Free, no one will pay for a distribution disc and docs. The fact is, most users will run down to Best Buy (or their local IBM rep, depending on the context) and plunk down their change for the software, caring not a wit about source code or openness. This is fine, and shrink-wrap is probably the optimal way to get software to the majority of users who want "plug and play" and hand-holding. If tomorrow morning every package on the shelves at the local software stores included the source, I doubt most users would even know the difference.

  • I must say, somebody should send this guy to an econ course. He is basically saying that high prices are good for consumers in the long run because they help businesses stay afloat. What garbage. Prices for most goods are set in a relatively competitive marketplace. Supply and demand determines price. You can believe that if a given price were not profitable (or at least more than covering the variable costs of production), people would quickly stop supplying computers at that price. This will cause the price to rise. A complete discussion of this is beyond what I can do here, but suffice it to say that this person is crazy. In a competitive environment, some businesses will fail, but that doesn't mean the industry is not healthy.
  • Which is built upon free software. Commercial transport nets like Compuserve and AOL are big...but without the Internet, they would never have grown as big as they are now.

    Thusly, most of MS & Co's business plans would no longer be valid if free software didn't exist.

  • I recently upgraded my computer at home from a Cyrix 166 (not even MMX) to a Celeron 300A. Not by choice, but because I left the case off one night and one of my cats decided that all those pretty wires blowing in the breeze inside the machine were pretty colored twine to play with, and he managed to fry my motherboard. Anyhow -- if it hadn't been for that, I'd still be running the Cyrix, because it was plenty fast for surfing the net and running Applix. The only time I ever wished it was faster was when doing kernel compiles, and how many kernel compiles does the average (non-kernel-hacker) do?
  • >>>
    Sure, Windows costs lots of money and Linux is free. But suppose the purchaser is gifted enough to make lots of money from the use of a program (e.g. by buying a graphics program and selling pictures). With Microsoft, once you pay for your software license, it's paid for. Everything you make, after that expense, is yours.

    I know this doesn't apply to Microsoft, but have you ever heard of runtime royalties for development tools? How's that for infinite price?

    With Linux, you always owe something back to the community, and no one can say how much. The more you make, the more people will expect. In practice, it's a debt that can never be repaid.

    YOU say how much you owe. There may be expectations, but you are free to ignore them. You are under no obligation. "From each according to his abilities."

    (And in case you're wondering, yes, I am a godless commie.)
  • Posted by CompilerBoy:

    The trick to free software is not making money on your software contribution, but making money in a more sideways fassion.

    The free software gives the garage shop programmer a boost. They do not have to develope six man years of code to do the _quick_ neat thing they wanted to scew around with... They can go directly to it.

    What does Compaq care what OS they distribute with their servers/desktops. They will ship whatever people are willing to pay for. If free software opens markets that were not previously available I am sure they will be overjoyed.

    The same for Cygnus and Redhat. They support the free software movement by SELLING support. If you do not have the expertise inhouse to modify your free source Cygnus will contract it out to you. Redhat sells convience and some level of assurance that the code has at least been looked at once by a professional programmer before distribution.

    If the software companies (M$) start getting scared that this is going to hurt their bottom line maybe they should find other places to make their billions. M$'s software has been getting more expensive and many of the features they have been adding to justify a new version have been more a pain than a help (like the paper clip...).
  • Posted by Hungry Joe:

    We operate in a capitalist society. Capitalism relies heavily on the idea that there will be a limitless market as well as limitless resources, however in the field of computers, this first principle does not hold true. No matter how much we can try, you can only sell so many computers to the world, because really, not everyone needs a 500 Mhz machine at home. Demand is going to drop off for these machines, and in response producers are going to have to cut prices to sell them, and after a while they will have to cut production or lose money. That's the way a capitalist economy works, it always has, and no amount of price fixing is going to change that.
  • Posted by stodge:

    "1) Then OpenSource model works and (in most cases) it works well. OpenSource programmers will not starve."

    The first part I dont have a problem with, but the second part I'm not sure about. That's quite a broad statement to make without justification. I'm not trying to drag anyone down on this, but I don't see how an "atypical" OSS programmer can make his money. For example, the guys who leads the Gnome project (sorry cant remember his name as I use KDE :P) has a regular job doesn't he? To pay the bills?

    I would appreciate it if someone could could explain this a little better to me. I program for a living,and I've never written OSS.
  • Posted by My_Favorite_Anonymous_Coward:

    That's true, in the last few years the amount of creativity in the software industry has been a little weak. Although this is a shame,

    Yap, when people realize how stupid "home movie editing" it is. They don't even want to _watch_ programs smarter than sport or westling, why would they want to do things only pro need to do? (Home publishing, duh!)
    The PC market is not dead. People all over the world use PCs for millions of different reasons. Just because it's not a boom market, doesn't mean it's not alive.

    Not until smart home appliances actually appear and PC cost no more than a good VCR.
  • Oh lawdy lawd, the prices, they just keep falling. We gotta do something quick to protect our phoney balony jobs here. Yeah, Like a value added tax. Yeah, that's the ticket. We'll just jack those prices right back up there. And as for software, it's mIcKeY$oFt uber-alles. You Americans just don't recognize a real treasure like us silly English bed-wetting types do.
  • I remember seeing Doug's name on several PC Magazine utilities, and PC Mag's utilities have been more-or-less OpenSource since at least 1986 (I remember when they actually published full source right in the magazine every two weeks). Either the good spin doctors managed to brainwash him into writing this (hint: money talks), or they wrote it and had him put his name on it.

    -lee...in fact, HIS OWN EXPERIENCES refute the anti-Red Hat bits of this article, since he himself was paid to write code that'd be given away. At least, I think ZD paid him.
  • Free software is not a new idea, but the big
    difference between then and now is a little
    something we call the Internet. Days of trading
    code on floppy disks are over. Now almost everyone
    has a computer with Internet access, thus anyone
    with coding talent can collaborate instantly on
    free software projects, and the "trend" is only

    Most teenages have only two questions about computers:

    1. Where do I find dirty pictures?

    2. How do I program this thing?

    So you see, the artistic urge for people to create
    their own software for the sake of wanting their
    own software is not a pipe dream. It is real.

    Again Microsoft does not realize the full impact
    of the Internet. They can't see the tidal wave
    that's about to drown them. Wake up and smell the

  • ...That the people who can't sleep at night worrying about wether free software will ruin customer choice didn't even blink at Microsoft's "Unix is Dead" campaign. And that these self same people consider the "fragmentation" of Unix to be it's critical failure, and instead perfer the enforced sameness of Windows.

    Unlike Microsoft, I cannot think of a _single_ software company that has been destroyed by free software. The role call of software and software companies killed by Microsoft is long indeed.

    The punchline here is, of course, that all evidence indicates that free software _increases_ choice. Consider: Gnome vr.s KDE, Caldera vr.s Redhat vr.s SuSE vr.s etc., Linux vr.s *BSD, Sendmail vr.s qmail vr.s smail, perl vr.s python, vi vr.s emacs.

    Oh, and cheap computers are hardly new- anyone remember the C-64? TI-99?
  • Somehow I doubt that whatever Linus is working on will be freely given away. That guy is saying that free software (notice it's not just open source) is not self sustaining, and I would agree with
    that. It costs a lot of money to develop software, especially good software. Any company that manages to accomplish it will not just GIVE it away, as much as they'd like to. They have to put food on the table after all.
  • Oh yeah, I was reading that part and was thinking... does he expect people will recall the IE vs Netscape incident, or hopes most will not? The later is my guess. Those who don't miss this ironic statemtent will probably chuckle (like myself) while the clueless ones won't give it a second thought. After all, the browser war has been decided quite a few months ago now, and with both browsers being essentially free to the average consumer, most people don't even have the background to appeciate that comment. 'Well, of course everyone's using IE, it's a superior browser, isn't it?' (Says he as his Netscape thrashes the disk for the 10th time this hour... I'll have to fix that.)
  • I bought my RedHat 5.2 cdrom, and will likely do the same for the new update from RedHat. Why? Because I want the printed manual and with all the changes in the RedHat dist concering GNOME and Linuxconf I rather have the "offical" Redhat manual and cdroms....
  • >The US Postal Service has been hurt by the increased use of e-mail. Really? With things like the Melissa email virus flying around, you're going to see more and more people going back to using the US Postal Service and other companies for important mail deliveries. The idea that anyone is going to trust their important documents via Microsoft Software is becoming more and more laughable each day.
  • The personal computer market is pretty much dead as is. The market for the most part is obsessed with how to hoard software and then charge you for it every year despite the fact that you bought it last year already and really don't need to buy it again.

    There's a lot of artificial scarcity and not nearly enough creativity.

    The 'scared' are essentially Luddites that don't see anyway for the market to continue without artificially inflating the level of labor demand or product demand.

    Where would that really put M$ or Apple or Corel if they indeed did cook up the ultimate interface? The vast majority of people would have no more motivation to buy.

    That realization (that we all are essentially buying the same things over and over again, despite need) is bound to happen sooner or later, even without free software.
  • ...for your clarifications..

    My only rebuttal: I don't believe most of the software in the world today is shrink-wrapped: it's custom in-house software at banks, financial houses, manufacturing plants, IS deparments everywhere and the government.

    It is said that 2/3 of the world's data lies on IBM servers - most of it non-relational at that. Most of those programs are in-house. They will *always* be proprietary, as they are so specialized, there is no reason a community should be formed around the code.

    So, this was my perspective: the software market is going to continue to be largely driven by custom, proprietary software. Programmers who make a living at that can then spend their free time (if they really want to :) on making free software...this is what Bruce Perens does.

  • I agree that he doesn't "Get it", but I think if you think that the software industry can survive on "support profits" alone, you don't quite get it.

    While support is important, it isn't enough to sustain a multi-billion dollar industry. And if you think "they'll downsize, they can't stop the Linux J1H4D!", I have news for you. Most people feel that giving up their freedoms (especially if they DON'T CARE if the source is free because they can't code) is fine for convenience. This means that free software is something to continually fight for - it is NOT an inevitability.

    The world isn't going to turn into 100% programmers over the next decade. For that reason, There is room for BOTH free and proprietary software in this world. Furthermore, a company wanting to reach current levels of profit would need many indirect flows of cash beyond support - including distribution fees ala. RedHat.

    Free software is important, and it is good that we move in that direction, but it's also important to take stock at what the barriers to this future are today. The picture you painted is viewed through some rather narrow goggles - it's important to see beyond your perceived "inevitability" of freedom - it is NOT inevitable. You have to fight for it.
  • Quick tell Cygnus, Red Hat et al that they are Waisting their time.
  • When phone service was introduced, telephones were so expensive people would lease them from the phone company rather than purchase them. As sales volume increased and control of development was released to other business entities, competition ensued and the price of phones dropped. ICs were developed and the price of phones has dropped to roughly the price of the hardware. Wireless phones were developed, which are now given for token monetary amounts (the $1 exchange of money to make a contract binding) -- yet manufacturers of telephony equipment and service providers now enjoying economic health.

    I believe this parallels PC hardware and software. The technology and volume have reached the point where the cost of the hardware is minimal (a few hundred dollars at the low end to a few thousand for people who want the most bells and whistles). The software more closely follows the wireless phone industry, give it away, and charge for the service.

    Programmers aren't starving, because companies like paying somebody to manage resources, including computer hardware and software. I get paid a living wage just to keep my company's network of computers, printers, routers, etc running smoothly. This includes writing custom scripts for processing data, adding features to the accounting system, and the myriad other details every company needs.

    I just had another job offer last week, to do consulting on "free" software systems for several companies around town...

    I don't think I'm going to be starving anytime soon.

  • I can only speek for myself. I don't intend to claim that support is the _only_ way to make profit other than shrinkwrap.

    1) look at employment ads. (you or will you discredit that too?) Programmers _are_ being hired more and more by companies to work on projects that are not "shrinkwrap software."

    2) How can you discredit RedHat, or O'Reilly when it is clear that they do make a profit from thier products, which include GNU/GPL work? It's a fact. Add to that list, VAResearch (yes, they employ people to do programming, but they don't sell shrink wrap software), and now SGI, SuSE, Caldera, ... That is a long long list if you look around, and it's growing. Just because people bring up "Red Hat" as an example frequently does not mean that they are the only one. Would you say Microsoft is the only one making money on shrink wrap software because it's the one that get's talked about the most?

    3) Support your comment "Trust me guys, it ain't workin' -- just makes it look like you and your plan can't stand up under scrutiny." Where have you seen the Open Source model fail? Is the open source community getting smaller? Are there less people programming open source software now? Are companies that sell/use/develop open source products loosing money? You accuse the arguments of not being valid, and then don't make any support to your statment that it's not working?

    Bob Young doenn't have to code a single line to prove Open Source is effective. What has Bill Gates been coding lately? If he hasn't been coding, does that prove that Closed Source is failing?

    Beowulf has no more to do with this than Meept does.

    The iMac? I am sorry, please expand on how the iMac proves that Gnome or KDE is never going to succede? I don't get it. You mean industry is moving twards something that is a lot of market hype and "simple" but the GNU/GPL community is getting more complex and harder to use and not getting any public attention? I don't see your point.

    Please provide some information about the "not wanting to pay for support" statement. I see no indication that closed source shrink wrap software is any more ready for the computer illeterate than open source is, so I don't see a point your making there. I don't see how people not wanting to spend money on anything makes a point either. Why do people buy the "Offical" SuSE (see, I didn't say RedHat) if they aren't willing to pay for support. Can you explain the profit in Word Perfect if it's not support and documentation that people are buying? (see, I didn't say Red Hat). Can you explain how good programmers are making good money for hardware companys like SGI, IBM, SUN, VAResearch while working on GNU/GPL code?

    You can't write these things off as not important if they _ARE_ happening. I would have to say the author of the "there is no such thing as free software" artical made a better case against GNU/GPL than you are. And his main point was that Hardware venders are paying for the development. Even if THAT was the case, it still would mean that hardware vendors see better profit when there is a larger market for thier product, and providing more applications will expand thier market. Still, it would be a plus for the idea of open source, not shrinkwrap.

    To close your eyes at the many avenues of revenue companys can make from open source and limit it to the discussion of "support" only is not the point. The fact that open source movement is growning and some people fear it, and some people are blind to seeing it, that, is the point.

  • by BadlandZ ( 1725 ) on Monday April 19, 1999 @08:50AM (#1927696) Journal
    "Many have cited the efforts of IBM, Sun and HP to contribute to the Open Source pot. I would argue that the only reason they've been able to do so is that they have other business that allows them to fund this development. Think of it this way: if you're a small developer and you have six hours to write code today, would you spend it writing something that you'd give away or something that you could charge someone money for so that you could buy dinner tonight?"

    Hehehehehahehahehaehahaha. Yea, OK. Sure. Let's see... He managed to prove that he STILL "just doesn't get it." I suppose he doesn't believe in evolution either, and we just "appeared" on the planet suddenly too.

    Software is undergoing an evolution, it's that simple. The cashflow will come from support, not development. That is showing. The percentage of the people in the world that can code a valuable application is going up, and the law of supply and demand only proves that GNU/GPL is going to be the way of the future. Does he believe that there are eventually going to be 1000's of Word Processors that are commercial, and they will all sell for $100 a copy?!?

    Talented coders prove thier worth with GNU/GPL, and get hired by companys after they prove themselfs. This is because of economics. Companies can't afford to hire people that are really good to make a shrik-wrap software package forever. But, they are learning very quickly that thier support mechinism is seriously lacking, and thier highschool dropouts with good phone voices aren't hacking it as phone in support techs. Companies will loose buisness selling a fancy product with crappy support. It happens slowly.

    There are many companies that still do buisness the "old way," but that is slowly changing. When people order software today, they are more consirned about support. When big buisness orders a software solution now, they are more and more looking at something that can be modified to suit thier specific needs after they get it. It's not fully there yet, but it's clearly moving that way.

    Software is evolving, this guy is a dinosaur and doesn't get it. Programmers will bring home good paychecks after this evolution, but it is not going to be for shrinkwraped software, it will be for solid tech support, and custom hacks of open source software to specificly suit a companys need. I don't think dinasours understood Darwins theory of evolution, and I don't think you could teach them either. This guy is a dinasour, don't waste your time listening to his arcane grunting.

  • Cassius is right. Surely most coders in the world are doing some sort of vertical market software.

    The open source model means that the software is free - but the support isn't. Nor is customisation and maintenance.

    Look at the recent article about the hotel chain installing Linux on all their servers. The only people who won't get paid because of this are Microsoft.

    • The hotel chain IT team will get paid to customise the system to be used in all their hotels.
    • The help desk will get paid because no matter how stable the OS is, users are still users
    • The sysadmins will have their hands full coding and downloading MP3's while they wait for the Win95 clients to crash.
    I don't see too many losers here. I don't see anyone who won't be able to buy their tea.

  • I'm not sure I understand.

    You're saying that, without proprietary software companies, there would be no demand for personal computers? Or, are you saying there would be no fantastically rich companies on the stock market based on software?

    If your point is the latter, I agree. That follows from our assumptions. But I don't agree the demand for personal computers would fail. Look at the Internet; when I first got on (fall '89), there was no web; Archie was still being maintained; and, contrasted with today, there was little noise in the signal.

    Before companies started putting their URL in their ads, people were asking for the Internet. It wasn't the marketing that drove that demand; it was a percieved need.

    It's the perception of need that drives demand. Marketing is geared to inciting that perception. But, lacking marketting, real need drives demand.

    Besides, computer manufacturers (Dell, Compaq, et al) are good at marketing and convincing people they can't enter the new milenium without a new PC. I'll bet you a Starfire that Gateway has sold more PCs than MS.

    The ownership of software has not determined the demand of computers. The ownership of software has just forced everyone to constantly re-invent what has already been invented.

    At least, that's my opinion. I could be wrong.
  • Wait a second. Shows re-use old material all the time. In fact, original programming is rare. Sure, the cosmetics change, but the meat, the core, the jokes, the characters, are all re-hashed I Love Lucy. It's all variations on a theme.

    The biggest difference between free TV and free (speech) software is this: free TV is created by a bunch of suits thinking up new shows ("It's like All In The Family, but the daughter moves in with another woman!"), except when it's thought up by one person and pitched to suits ("It's like Kolchak: The Night Stalker, but with two FBI agents.").

    Free software is created by the people who actually use it. It's like public access TV, only everyone has the resources of George Lucas. Sure, 90% of it is crap. But, but Sturgeon's Law, 90% of *everything* is crap.

    If TV started out as a public access medium, it would be a different world today. And I bet TV would be a lot more interesting.
  • There are a lot of different jobs for free software programmers:

    1) In-house support for large companies

    2) Teaching

    3) DBA/programmer/sysadmin for any company

    4) Self-employed consultant

    5) Tech writer (books will be in demand for a long time)

    6) Electonic Engineer (a *real* engineer)

    7) Garbage man

    8) Sesame Street muppetmaster

    9) That guy in Mall of America who builds huge lego models all day in LegoLand. (He probably doesn't code, but he *could*.)

    10) Special effects maven (Mr. Lucas, if you need any help, just e-mail me.)

    11) Did I say programmer? No? Programmer.

    I work as a DBA in a hospital. I code on free software at home, and any code I write at work I release as free software, unless it's bound by NDA stuff, in which case I release it as free software among other people bound by the same NDA. (That software would be useless to anyone who doesn't use the database we use anyway, so I don't feel too guilty. A little, but not too much.) I make as much per year as a typical MS code monkey, only without the stock options. Big deal-- I'm still living comfortably, and I have a warm fuzzy feeling contributing to something in which I believe.
  • Yes, in fact I recently bought 2 distros for full price: Debian 2.1 (with contribution) and SlackWare 3.6. Why? several reasons:

    • Downloading a distro is a pain in the neck. I did it once with SlackWare 3.3 (my first Linux install) and I never wish to do it again. Impossibly slow at home and the corporate firewall blocks everything except HTTP and Netscape's FTP. (Point and click for a zillion files - ouch!)
    • The CD storage format is convienent to use, and it is nice to put the disk in and have things work.
    • I can afford it, and I consider it a point of pride to contribute, especially to Debian.
    • Even though I could build everything from scratch, I consider my time more valuable than that.
    • I got the Debian distro to upgrade my main computer; the Slackware was partly nostalgia and also to put ZipSlack on my wife's Windows box without disturbing her current setup.

    The free availablity of the source has nothing to do with the above reasons, except as an essential selling point.

  • In fact, he sounded like he was arguing for price supports (like farming and dairy). Insane!
  • Feeling of obligation, of moral debt to the community, and the effort to contribute back to that community has very little in common with the bogus and completely out of date "Labor Theory Of Value".
  • Open-Source does, in fact, limit consumer choice. This is even stated in the GNU Manifesto; one of its ultimate goals is to "eliminate competition."

    However, the result isn't another Microsoft, even in this scenario. Why? Because even though there is one (insert type of software here), people are not limited by the whims of one company. The ideology behind Open-Source, or at least part of it, is that if a piece of software lacks something you want, you can add it to that piece of software.

    Now, about the whole "programmers will starve" bit: that's nonsense. However, the job of the programmer will change significantly. A programmer will no longer be able to be just a coder (though, in the ideal scenario, other people will be contributing, and this makes up for that coder's abscence). The programmer will also have to support the program; there is, after all, no better person to provide upport for a program than the person who made it (assuming that person has the proper communication skills; something which will also become necessary for a programmer to have).

    Will they make as much as they do now? Probably not. Some might, certainly the best would. Consultants probably would, as companies maintaining software pay them to undertake big jobs. But not all programmers would; the times are changing, and those who fail to change with it will likely be lost.
  • I didn't say it was right, or that the author had a clue what he was talking about. I simply said that it was well-written, by a master propogandist.

    There were some nice little touches, for example Richard Stallman having a genius award, with the word genius in quotes. What does that say about the award?

    This one needs a reasoned response, picking the mistakes and misdirections very carefully.
  • Any way you look at it, developing legal arguments has costs. The "freely copiable legal arguments" movement doesn't seem to acknowledge this.

    To get good legal arguments, someone has to put in the time and effort to develop and maintain it. If someone wants to do this for free, that's fine (note: few lawyers do). However, if someone wants to do this for a living, that means selling legal arguments for money. Once the legal argument is free, the lawyer doesn't have much of an advantage over competitors for selling service, books, or whatever. In fact, the lawyer has one big disadvantage, i.e., the competitors didn't incur the cost of development.

    So the point of your post, though they don't say it very well, is that freely copiable legal arguments is not a very good business model for legal services. To make it work, the lawyer needs to be able to sell something that no one else has. However, once the legal argument is freely copiable, everyone has the legal argument.

  • Kill the messenger!

    The person we have to blame for this is one of Intel's founders, Gordon Moore.


  • I get paid twice the average family income doing manufacturing tech work and programming is a hobby at home. Should it be illegal for me to program for the fun of it? I would starve if I couldn't program.
  • The no-cost OS and applications frees up money to develop the high-end applications that have not yet been implemented because most people spend too much money M$ software. I belive that busineses have a limited amount of money to spend of software. By getting the OS and some common applications gratis, they have more of a budget for computer consultants, network infrastructure and custom software. The future looks bright for software developers. Only the dinosaur companies like Microsoft have to worry. We mammals are going to take over! gbs
  • by aheitner ( 3273 ) on Monday April 19, 1999 @11:55AM (#1927710)
    Mr. Kane actually responded -- which I find amazing considering the volume of mail he likely got. Here is his response, and he makes some valid points:

    Ari -
    Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, keeping up with all the 'feedback'
    I receive is a full time job, so I will have to keep my comments brief.

    Unfortunately, many people equate 'open souce' with free software. This is
    not a model that can last. Many companies supporting open source
    development are hardware companies that find it easy to get wider support
    for their products by getting on the Linux bandwagon. But can a company
    even the size of IBM that lost $1bn last year in their PC business afford
    this sort of development over the long haul? I doubt it.

    Also, considering the many problems AMD has had over the past several
    quarters not making money, how long can they afford to provide a cheaper
    alternative? They may have captured the retail market (not a Linux
    stronghold I might add) but at what price? And when K7 comes out and is no
    longer compatible with the Intel socket/slot architecture, will they even
    be able to keep that?

    I'm not against Linux or Open Source per se (I have Red Hat, NT and 98 all
    installed on my laptop) but the only reason why companies have been able to
    afford to sell things at a loss these days is because of the insanity of
    the stock market as the money is in the equity valuation, not in whether or
    not a company can be profitable. When that goes away, where's the money
    going to come from for software development?

  • by aheitner ( 3273 ) on Monday April 19, 1999 @09:09AM (#1927711)
    Dear Mr. Kane:

    I must disagree with you about the state of consumer choice and Open
    Source software. Open Source Software (OSS) does not represent a decision
    not to make money from selling software. Many companies do -- RedHat and
    Caldera in the US, Pacific HiTech in Japan, and SuSE in Germany are just a

    Why does this work? It stems from a realization that the software market
    does not work in a traditional economic sense, nor anything remotely like
    the hardware market (an example of perfect competition if there ever was
    one). MicroSoft can sell as many copies as they want of Windows at
    essentially no cost, once it's developed. The box, CD and manual represent
    a negligable part of the $90 (much more for WinNT) cost of the software.
    The cost to them is in fact technical support -- which is why the
    technical support has gotten so bad recently, to the point where you must
    pay for every incident if you are a regular customer. This is what OSS
    Value Added Resellers actually sell. Anyone can download a copy of RedHat,
    but you have to pay if you want technical support. Even MicroSoft
    acknowledges this is a good idea -- their coming reorganization includes a
    whole division of "Knowledge Workers".

    And what of the programmers who write free software? The argument that
    they won't because they'd rather be paid is invalid -- they already do.
    Linux runs on hardware from Personal Digital Assistants (the PalmPilot and
    Compaq's experimental Itsy) through destroying WindowsNT on desktops and
    servers (see ZD's own articles comparing NT and Linux as a Windows
    Networking server) through supercomputers among the 100 fastest machines
    in the world (IBM built a Linux supercomputer with off the shelf parts and
    a $40 RedHat CD that was as fast as a Cray during LinuxWorld Expo in San
    Jose a couple of weeks ago). The base of superior software already exists.
    Many programmers contribute the tools they need, written to solve their
    own personal requirements. Others donate their time for fun (such as my
    friend Ian Peters, a fellow Carnegie-Mellon University student and the
    GNOME Games package maintainer). Still others are employed by OSS VARs to
    increase the value of the product -- in this catagory are Alan Cox the
    Linux hardware guru, and a big chunk of the GNOME desktop environment
    team, all employed by RedHat.

    I also note that Intel's perfect following of Moore's law, and the
    constant pricing of a "nice" computer system (used to be about $2500 here
    in the US) was an artifact of the way Intel made all the machines. Those
    chips cost Intel much less than they're selling them at. But for many
    years they had a monopoly and no pressure to cut prices. But along came
    AMD and Cyrix to cut into Intel's marketshare in the sub-$1000 value
    priced PC arena (the kind of machine that will soon make a PC a standard
    appliance in every home in North America and Europe), and all of a sudden
    there was competition. Intel has already lost the lead to AMD for market
    share -- and the rule of thumb about pricing is out the window.

    As of now, processor technology can still be developed by the big guns
    of AMD, Intel and Cyrix on a Moore's Law track (works well, since it gives
    the engineers a target), but there are arenas in the hardware market where
    the law simply doesn't apply. In 3D hardware the product cycle is closer
    to 9 months, and each new product has many more than twice as many
    transistors, since the leading manufacturers such as 3Dfx, nVidia, Matrox
    and ATI are competing on a technological playing field with near constant
    pricing between them.

    If you have yet to try Linux, I suggest you do. There really is
    something to Eric Raymond's "Cathedral and Baazar" model of software
    development. We don't use Linux because we're foolish lunatics. Millions
    of us use it because it's better. That's why Linux is gaining market share
    in corporate servers far faster than any other player.

    Yours sincerely,

    Ari Heitner
    DC: 703/5733512 CMU: 412/8623003
    "You know how your whole life flashes in front of your eyes before you die?
    That's just gdb unwinding the call stack . . . "

    CC: Bob Kane of PCMagazine UK

  • Nowhere is this more evident than in the pages of this month's issue, which contains 80 PCs from 32 different manufacturers. While this might sound like a lot, consider this: last year's PC blockbuster had 91 systems from 39 manufacturers. While 24 of the companies in last year's round-up also submitted systems this year, that leaves 15 that didn't, for a number of reasons, not least of which is that many aren't around anymore. Only eight new companies have submitted PCs for the first time this year.

    And this is the stated evidence that PC prices are unsustainable??? That a few integrators have gone out of business? Would he care to compare this result with the US airline industry deregulation? And then to claim this relates to the upcoming failure of Moores law because high tooling costs are driving volume manufacturing, which is what's also driving low prices, is either disingenuous or blatent ignorance. If, as he says:

    So for Intel to continue to be successful, each new fab must be able to pay for itself, which means building not only faster microprocessors, but also more of them. This system encourages manufacturers like Compaq, Dell and IBM to take greater and greater volumes.


    Unfortunately, because of the volumes, price incentives and desire to grab market share, Machrone's Law is now broken. This has led to eroding margins for suppliers and downward pressure on prices. Even Intel has had to buckle under this pressure by cutting prices on CPUs to its largest customers, Dell, Compaq and IBM. Combined with pressure from AMD at the low end for even less expensive CPUs, one has to wonder where Intel is going to get the money to continue fab development into the future.

    then Intel must be stupid enough to price themselves into oblivion by charging less than cost plus profit. By any rational free market position they deserve to go out of business because of critical poor planning (if this is actually the case, which I strongly doubt). That's the whole point of a free market, otherwise we'd need a regulatory body determining price structures -- which sounds suspiciously like Socialism. Somehow I doubt the author of this would admit to being a closet Socialist, so where are these arguments heading?

    There's no such thing as free software, and there's no such thing as a cheap computer. Those who say otherwise are endangering tomorrow's IT choices.

    OH, now I understand. Those arguments that Intel is damaging its future with low prices are really just a straw man to prop up the argument that Free Software will destroy the "tomorrow's IT choices." By this line of argument all collective effort by groups of individuals not managed by a for profit venture are somehow damaging tomorrows potential markets. One could include Churches, private non-profit charitable organizations, food co-ops, community theater (you could have spent that time at a movie -- think of the lost film industry profits!) community sponsored parks, you name it. This line of thinking, when taken to its extreme, would tear local communities apart -- along with Internet communities. And it's frightening... just look at the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment) [citizen.org] for a good look at what multinational business stands to gain when these kinds of rules get codified into law, and why it's a great threat to worldwide democratic progress.

    It would be laughable were it not representative of worldwide trends in conservative elitist think tank, and multinational corporate, popular opinion.
  • This guy fails to consider the fact that a lot of companies apparently have a poor business model. Everyone seemed happy to jump into pc sales, not thinking that the market might just become saturated one day. And now that just about evereyone interested has a pc, these companies are starting to worry. And we should feel sorry for them?

    No, now is the time for the good companies to differentiate themselves. That is the natural evolution of business. This is not the oil industry: you cannot arbitrarily raise prices and expect people to continue paying.

    And as far as his last three statements:
    >There's no such thing as free software, and
    >there's no such thing as a cheap computer. Those
    >who say otherwise are endangering tomorrow's IT

    1. There is such thing as free software. It pre-dates the stuff sitting on store shelves.
    2. There is such thing as a cheap computer. People all over have suddenly begun purchasing them.
    3. I say otherwise, and I find that tomorrow's IT choices are looking better than ever.
  • I'm not sure that the existence of shrinkwrap was what caused the explosion of pc purchases. It seems that the first wave was people wanting to get onto the Internet. And the computers they bought came with "free" Windows 95. Gaming on this platform came later.

    As far as usability, that is still debatable. I have never met anyone without computer experience who found Windows 95 intuitive. In my experience it has always been a matter of conditioning.

    Consumers are usually going to pursue the best deal. Often this means the lowest price. The US Postal Service has been hurt by the increased use of e-mail. That indicates that they should look for alternative ways to make money. But it doesn't mean that people using e-mail are "endangering tomorrow's messaging choices."

    Open-source developers have done a fine job of getting reliable, useful products to the masses. They have every incentive to test and verify the product. But that does not mean that the testing and verification is done by a closed group of people on the payroll. You're right that the packaging is usually not a big concern. But the functionality and reliability are a huge factor.

    Now, more than ever, consumers are becoming aware of the choices available to them. If they choose something other than shrinkwrapped software, then the companies who rely solely upon selling that software will become victims of technological darwinism.
  • no one will study software engineering because there won't be any great
    jobs in it?


    i guess that's why no one studies philosophy, theology, history, theoretical
    physics, or even primary and secondary education.


    nice fud, but alan cox's paycheck proves you wrong.

    come to think of it, so does his rejection of your job offer.
  • What I love about his arguments is that they're logically inconsistent -- he says that free software is both bad (destroying competition) and that it can't work (why would somebody write free software ?). Logically, only one (at most) of these arguments can be valid. Either Open Source is successful and a potential threat to commercial software, *or* it isn't successful and it's a non-issue. You just can't have it both ways.
  • Some of you mentioned how Linux has broadened your educational experience at school. Without the millions of corporate donations, don't you realize that computer science departments across the country would start to resemble the other "non-profit" fields... like history, english... with their broken-down desks, poor infrastructure, and little capital investment?

    Er, are you familiar with the principle of scientific funding agencies like the NSF and NIH? Corporate funding isn't the only source of scientific funding (my entire graduate career in the states was funded entirely through non-corporate sources); personally I feel that the increasing percentage of corporate funding relative to governmental funding in science is by no means an entirely positive move. Consider, would we know that smoking causes cancer if that research was funded by Phillip Morris? If Microsoft gets control of CS departments, do you think the scientific work will be unaffected?

    And if history and english are poorly funded, perhaps this is because people in these fields haven't explained exactly how yet another paper about Shakespeare or Abe Lincoln is supposed to improve the world and thus be worth subsidizing.
  • ...Necessarily. I mean, I'm a student, I write software, and I'm not in it to get a good job. I'm in it because it's interesting. I plan to do research. The fact that this is going to make me money is a great side benefit. All sorts of artists think that way, and I think a lot of computing people do too. Programming is our art. Money is a nice reward for doing something that we love. But there are lots of ways to make money.

  • I seems that the universities are the worst enemy
    of Micro$oft. People gets smart and it is not
    so easy to take their money.

  • Didn't anyone find it interesting that along with the run-of-the-mill FUD, he also used RMS's GNU-Linux whining AGAINST the Linux movement...

    Yet another example of, together we succeed...divided we fall. Instead of RMS giving the FUD-miesters more fuel to go on, by bickering over a NAME, wouldn't it be better if he was championing the success of Linux?

  • Never mind that it has worked for decades...

    >While free distribution is a great marketing tool
    >(think about all those samples you get in the
    >mail), what does it say about the product itself?
    >Frankly, it says that the product (or the effort
    >that went into making the product) has no value.
    >Is that what you software engineers out there

    It's the product that has no value. The programmers' time and effort have value, but the product doesn't. At least, not in monetary/economic terms.

  • Prices on things dropping isn't exactly a new phenomenon.

    Some of the things I can think of right off the top of my head which started out as incredibly expensive but eventually became household items:

    cotton products (thanks to the cotton gin)
    gelatin desserts (it used to take hours to make these, now you can do it in 5 minutes out of a box)
    cell phones, faxes, and pagers
    instantaneous news (first daily via the paper, now via everything)

    The list goes on and on; I keep thinking of more things the longer I think about it.

    We live better, longer, smarter, and healthier now than royalty used to just a few centuries ago. Hot and cold running water, gas and electricity at the touch of a button, public education for the masses, amazingly soft and colorful clothes, soft mattresses, decent plumbing, warm (or cool!) dry housing, more leisure time (in general), food that the royalty would have been jealous of ...

    We've really got it made, when you start thinking about it.

  • The latest thing in interpersonal relationships is the idea of "free friendship". While free these days is looked as something good, "free friendship" should be looked at from a somewhat different perspective. . . .

    While free friendship is a great marketing tool (think about all those people you hardly know who say "hello" to you), what does it say about the friendship itself? Frankly, it says that the friendship (or the person so desperate to find friends) has no value. Is that what you people out there want? . . .

    What you're left with is a bunch of amateur friends who need to have real jobs to make ends meet. Are these the type of people you want as friends, the type your social life depends on? . . .

    In short, I'm not against friendship being given away. I just want the folks who are good friends to be paid--and paid handsomely--for it. That is the proper model for the industry. So the next time you think about having some "free friends", consider its cost to real friendship.

  • This is already happening. Isn't Sun offering some reward (a pittance compared to commercial development costs) for the first practical application of XSL?
  • Of course at some point the market for Word Processors and Spreadsheets is going to be dominated by free, quality products.

    If you want to stay profitable in software, and avoid having open-source software put you out of business, there are a number of ways to do it.

    1. Go into a vertical market. Embed in your software some specialized knowlege about a field that not any college kid is going to be able to distill into code. For example, my friend designs software for lighting at large theatrical events. This requires interfacing with hardware that is not available to most people, and requires knowing how theatric lighting is done.

    2. Get a great brand. A good brand name can insulate you temporarily from heavy competition. Look at graphics tools - it doesn't matter if the gimp ever becomes better than Photoshop. Photoshop has brand recognition among designers and very little is going to change that.

  • Both of these articles are just examples of Microsofts attack strategy. They seem to be trying to find a weakness in the OSS model that they can exploit and use to rid themselves of this threat. This is just an example of the 'You get what you pay for' attack, something that products like Apache and Linux have all but defused.

    As time goes on, MS will continue to attack from several angles, looking for one to one to do major damage. If the OSS community is vigilant and stays away from the same tactics, it will come out on top.

    So read the articles, make a good argument to counter the statements, and watch the fun as a dinosaur tries to avoid extinction.
  • Just because he expresses an opposing view to many people here doesn't make it FUD....
  • I find this view to be completely false. First, it would imply that software developers write software because they have no need to write software (hence no value). And it also implies that no one else needs the software either. It implies that a developer writes software with the single intent to make money.

    I don't think that the driving force to write software is to sell it. Software is written to provide functionality that someone needs. Software has value because it can fulfill that need. How developers fulfill the need to continue developing software is up to them. Some choose to fulfill that need in ways other than selling the software.

    To imply that free software has no value also implies (for example) that Internet Explorer has no value to Microsoft. But we all know by now that the value for Microsoft to develop IE was to kill an "unnamed" competitor's market share.

    I am not against the notion of buying/selling software. I am just against the notion of buying/selling bad software that creates problems when in fact the consumer bought it to solve a problem.
  • Read http://www.opensource.org/
    especially the case studies...
  • Yuck.. the FLUX article. It's too obvious to be FUD, it's just stupidity.

    While free distribution is a great marketing tool (think about all those samples you get in the mail), what does it say about the product itself? Frankly, it says that the product (or the effort that went into making the product) has no value. Is that what you software engineers out there want?

    What is free has no value. That statement should be framed and put up on a wall. Excuse me? BiND, Apache - half-the-internet. Guess this software has no value then...? Let's all just switch to MS Visual DNS Pro 4.0 SP3 - it costs more, it MUST be worth more!

    If, however, you gave away all software, how would you pay the creators of that software? You destroy the subtle motives that only cash can bring--motives such as food on the table, a warm place to sleep, and so forth. What you're left with is a bunch of amateur coders who need to have real jobs to make ends meet. Are these the type of people you want developing the software products your business depends on?

    This whole statement assumes that the programmer's product is released by somebody else who needs to pay for this programmers time. One difference in paradigm of the Free Software Movement is that it is the PROGRAMMER who owns the code, and releases it. In other words - the labourer controls the means of production (Damn red commie ratfinks!). Look, no-one is going to design a multi-million dollar specialized application for your company specifically for free. Free Software is about providing a good piece of software that can be used by everyone. It is not about making everything free. It's about making the fundamental operations needed to be provided by a computer, available to the masses, and not concentrated in the hands of highway robbers to take money from you for things that you MUST do. "ls" is free. "gcc" is free. "Molecular Modeler 3.13 by Fictitious Software (tm)" is NOT FREE. It's about people providing a service to a community, and (cover your children's eyes people) DONATING IT.

    Ironically, these folks are sowing the seeds of their own destruction. If they actually succeed in making software free, no one will be willing to employ them to create a product with no value. Soon, students will stop studying software development in college since there won't be a way to make a career out of it.

    How so? There will always be jobs that the average student programmer cant handle by himself. And one HAS to ask the question - if there is a programming task that can be completed by a student in college - then WHERE do you get off charging exorbitant prices for it? If Apache can provide a better solution for half the servers on the net, and it is created by a bunch of college students - WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT THE COMPANY WHICH PROVIDES THE SAME (OR WORSE) PRODUCT, AT A HIGHER PRICE??

    If intellectual property isn't property, then just what is property? Why not just give away cars, houses, and everything else?

    When person A gives person B a car, person A does not have the car anymore. When person A gives person B a copy of the blueprints of the car, person A loses NOTHING. This is the difference between "material" property, and "intellectual" property. There are circumstances where "intellectual" property should be protected, but in the LARGE majority of cases, it is used in a selfish and bigoted way, which does very few people any good, except perhaps the peron "owning" the intellectual property.

    If software is free, why does it matter who takes credit for it? After all, aren't we all just one big, happy family contributing to a great, shared codebase for all of humankind? Why should it matter that someone uses some code from someone else? The way I see it, "credit," better known as fame, is just another method of payment. If the big kahuna of the FSF wants free software, he shouldn't demand the payment of fame for its use.

    Fame is different from money. If an author writes an article for a magazine, and gets paid to write that magazine, he has NOT SOLD THE RIGHTS FOR THE CONTENT HE WROTE. Fame and money are not mutually substitutable. Stallman's push behind GNU/LINUX is not as much for personal fame (though that could be factor), but to gain a spotlight for a movement that played a major part in the success of Linux. He wants his idea, and products based on his idea, to succeed. He is pushing his ideology, not demanding "payment" for his software. The argument made here is VERY VERY childish.

    In short, I'm not against software being given away. I just want the folks who write that software to be paid--and paid handsomely--for writing it. That is the proper model for the industry. So the next time you think about using some free software, consider its cost to the software industry.

    Thank you for standing up for poor programmers everywhere, downtrodden upon by the cruel selfish bastards of the Open Source and Free Software. Let us all start a REVOLUTION against our Open Source oppressors!

    You know, I really dont give a SHIT about the software industry if it provides bad products at high prices. If FS should be considered anything, it should be that it is the BEST competitor to come along in a LONG time - and just hope that it will jumpstart an industry stagnated with the likes of Microsoft, who rely more on glitz than real work and good products. Linux,GNU,FSF is here because there was a need, and it fulfilled that need. Those in power, those who were growing fat on their bad software, are now apprehensive that this movement might actually FORCE THEM TO MAKE BETTER PRODUCTS (What a travesty of justice and capitalism THAT would be!).

    The arguments made in this article are not even worthy to be read - except for the fact that they give you a glimpse into the fears of the software giants as they exist today.


  • In the first half of this century, there were scores of small automobile manufacturers, with factories all over the United States, and in places we no longer think of as having any relation to this industry.

    Over the years, many changes occurred: Henry Ford revolutionized the way cars were made, on assembly lines instead of one at a time (much cheaper); starting in the 1950's, companies began to design cars to be safer; in the 1970's, more efficient engines were produced to meet the oil crisis; the list goes on and on, but basically ways were found to improve cars while either reducing the price or at least keeping it stable.

    If the author of this article were correct in his assumptions, we could expect to have little choice today in what kind of car we wanted, what options it might have, and so forth.

    Oddly enough, cars, while not exactly cheap, are nonetheless cheap enough that almost every adult in the U.S.A. who wants to drive can afford one, and some people are willing to pay outrageous prices for top-of-the-line models. In the meantime, cars are safer and more efficient than ever before.

    There were many consolidations in the industry, and many of the original automobile manufacturers were either bought out or went out of business -- but this has little to do with whether cars can still be a profitable industry -- it only means that it has changed. The same will happen with software, and some current big players don't want to lose their privileged positions, as is proved by the utterly laughable Microsoft article. For consumers, however, free software is great.

    Alan R. Light
    Monroe, North Carolina

  • Whoo. Bravo Ari. If they don't publish this in the next print edition of PCMag... well...

    Need I add that Good Programmers Won't Starve. Good Programmers can always Get a Job.

    Actually, does anyone else see a parallel between the "Open Source = Programmers will Starve!" and "MP3s = Musicians will Starve!" FUD campaigns? Obviously, the dynamics aren't quite close enough to make a decent analogy, but you know...

  • Ignore the FUD. Just reply, "We will bury you"

  • Actually, my first thought was that this (RMS's GNU-Linux whining AGAINST the Linux movement... ) was the only thing that Boling got correct in his article.

    I agree with you on this... it shows a very real problem within the OS community when we resort to such petty bickerings.

  • I work for a small company that does consulting and shrinkwrap software, and we write quite a bit of free software. Not only is it a lot of fun, there are three major business benefits:
    1. Support: Not only do we sell support contracts, large corporations often just feel better paying for something, even if they could get it for free, because they'll have a vendor standing behind a purchased product.
    2. Admiration: There is no better advertisement for a consulting organization than working code that your potential clients can look at and try out for themselves. We are known in our little niche primarily because of our free software offerings, and it gets us a lot of paying business.
    3. Productivity: We get more work done for our clients in a shorter amount of time because we can reuse our free source code on every project, so we're only building the unique parts of the project instead of reinventing the wheel all the time. More productive means higher rates.

    So we don't usually make money directly from free software, per se, it is more of an investment - it pays off over the long run for the aspects of our business that do make money.
  • The flux article just goes to show that Microsoft and their partners (read ilk) still don't understand the difference between free speech and free beer.
  • Would you care if he did? I mean as long as you had free (beer) access to the kernel, do you really give a shit?
  • The problem with this (and other) articles is that they rely on the assumption that a software company can only generate revenue by selling the software itself. Totally overlooked is the service end of things. Case in point, the computer store I work at makes more money from it's service department than sales, as do some car dealerships I know of.

  • Cheap hardware? Affordable, ubiquitous computing? Hyper-competition? Hello, the declining hardware costs are NOT our problem. It's called "economics", man. The fact that there are 80 computer builders advertising in PC Mag UK is sufficient evidence, in my mind, that either there are a lot of really stupid people out there, or that the PC industry, while low on profit margins, is high enough in volume that it balances out.

    And he forgot the converse of the whole thing, too. Suppose you've just started a new software project and you're hunting around for tools to use. Suppose further that you're fresh out of college, with little cash, and the parents aren't giving you that interest-free loan. What do you do? Take out a loan at a bank and buy a Microsoft compiler suite, or first try and figure out Cygwin32?

    Sure, I could buy Codewarrior and code for Linux. Find me someone who did (and isn't coding for any other platform).
  • This article seems to reinforce a growing trend in FUD; Microsoft, as usual, has been leading the pack frequently. Their argument is that they are all about innovation. Well, I'll be the first to say that they are full of it. OSS certainly does take business away from proprietary software companies. But, one must ask before automatically assuming that OSS is bad, does the proprietary software OSS replaces deserve to be charged for? I think back to when I was still using Windows and how a certain FTP product (which wasn't very Cute) was charged for. I also remember how a tool to update the time of a system using the Internet was shareware and charged for. Do these tools really deserve to be charged for?

    OSS has come to fill a niche that has long been waiting to be filled. The crime against innovation occurs when software companies, who are employing usually very capable programmers, such as Microsoft, waste their programmers' time by having them work on FTP programs or other more simple programs where not much room for innovation exists. Just taking a look at the FTP programs that are beginning to come out OSS and comparing them to the commercial Windows ones shows how there is no reason why paid programmers should be wasting their time writing FTP programs when a hobbyist programmer can do just as good a job for fun. In my opinion, the company making the FTP program should be run out of business since they are not applying the talents they have to worthy challenges.

    Operating systems follow somewhat the same argument, though they also have an even greater need for innovation than everything else since operating systems run everything. Thus, teaming thousands of minds together to improve an operating system (such as Linux) rather than a programming team of even a couple hundred will likely produce better results.

    I say that as long as college students and hobbyist programmers exist, OSS will exist; and it should exist, because without it the world will be left with greedy suits running businesses in which the only innovations occur in FTP programs and the like. Proprietary software should be charged for when it is worth the charge, and not when it is a waste of intelligent programmers' talents.

    That's innovation for you.


  • " (FUD about computer suppliers dying...) The person we have to blame for this is one of Intel's founders, Gordon Moore. "

    " Moore postulated a 'law' back in 1965 stating that transistor counts would double roughly every 18 months, bringing an exponential rise to computing power in relatively short periods of time. "

    And he is to blame for what, now? God forbid I ever state a law that will ruin an entire industry :)

    Every day that passes is another day I wish more that most of the computer-geared mass media would just go away....
  • From the article:
    Giving away software is a great marketing tool. It's hard to compete if your competition is free. That's something that a number of companies have discovered. Now it's Microsoft's turn with Windows NT versus Linux. Still, if all software was free, none of us would have a job.

    Sounds like this is just the tactic that MS used in its battle against Netscape. More lost irony.
  • That's nice and all, but there's no supporting facts that the software industry can survive and prosper on support alone. It's truly amazing how many people around here take it as an immutable law, just because a handful of companies were able to make it work for them.

    See, most people don't want to pay for support. They don't want to pay for software either, but when it's a choice between the two, they'd rather have something that they can easily use themselves instead of having to call for support every five minutes. And no, most people don't care whether or not they have the source code to their software. Most computer literate people don't even care about that, much less the masses.

    The industry, as it always has, is moving toward making things simpler -- just look at the success of the iMac -- more expensive than the competition upfront, but simple enough that relatively few customers are going to need to pay for "support" later. Like it or not, the main reason why Linux is getting so much mainstream press is because the newbie journalists can use KDE or GNOME to try it out. In other words, because it was made simpler for those people. Simpler, meaning that there are fewer times that they would need to pester a knowledgeable friend or hop on IRC (the hobbyist's form of "support").

    So, if we want a lot of people to be making money from Linux, there's going to have to be a Hell of a lot more demand for support than there is now. Unfortunately, that conflicts with the fact that everything's getting easier to use. Easier to use, less support needed, fewer support people needed, more free software programmers working at McDonalds between coding stints.

    It would really be nice to have a real explanation of how this economic model can continue to work in a world of increasing simplicity -- preferably, and especially since we're talking about how the programmers' economic stability, not the revenue stream for those that leech off of them, something a little more substantial than the tired arguments of:

    1. Bob Young/RedHat! What's he been coding, anyway?
    2. Tim O'Reilly! So fond of the free software model that he sells a proprietary, closed-source web server and has made selling Windows books a higher priority within his company.
    3. Beowulf! Oh c'mon, you know someone will argue that sooner or later! ;-)
    4. Wow, you're just so stupid that you'll never get it, so I can't explain it to you! / Do you work for Microsoft? / Do you work for Apple? As more legitimate questions get asked about the viability of this economic model, I see more and more advocates resorting to this one. Trust me guys, it ain't workin' -- just makes it look like you and your plan can't stand up under scrutiny.


  • Quick, before you post a flame of these people here on slashdot--

    Send them email instead pointing out exactly how and why they're wrong. Don't bother to flame; flames will just make them think the free software people are a bunch of assholes.

    Take your time writing the email, too; it's not like here where if you get your reply off first you'll get your article listed at the top. Better that they get instead a bunch of well-thought-through messages than anything else. If you can't think what exactly to say, go read what other people have written in the past about free/open/* software and crib from that; there's no shame in borrowing good ideas, as long as you don't claim that you thought them up all by yourself.

    In short, do something that helps. Sure, ranting on here is stress-relieving and fun at times, but here you're preaching to the choir. Better to help get the word out to the unwashed masses.
  • There will always be a need for closed source development. Most of the money spent on software development is in-house development. Companies make software for their own use. This will always be the case. OS gives these companies open tools to do this work so that hey are not locked into a proprietary solution from a closed source vendor.

    The economic model for existing commercial software is flawed. The development costs, while substancial, are fixed up front costs. The more units you sell, the less the development cost of each. This economic model gets us locked into single OS, single Office Suite solutions because those are the most economically efficient even though there are long-term costs accisiated with this solution: i.e. vulnerability to viruses and upgrade extortion.

    OS is a different economic model. Hardware vendors build drivers and give them away. They recognize that software is a necessary cost of doing business -- not a profit center. under the OS economic model we get the source because we need it to adapt the HW to different operating systems. Once OS has a greater hold in the marketplace, HW vendors will see the advantage of OS drivers -- a larger marketplace for their products.

    As a result, there is not less demand for programmers, there is at least as much.
  • To: flux@microsoft.com
    Subject: write what you know

    Regarding the insufferable piece of self-serving fluff at

    Mr. Boling does not understand simple laws of postindustrial economic
    models, and should therefore reserve his punditry for other domains of

    1. In Paragraph 7, the argument that free software sows the seeds of its
    own destruction makes several erroneous assumptions. "If they actually
    succeed in making software free..." implies that free software is an
    all-or-nothing movement, which it is not (save perhaps to stalwarts like
    Stallman). Free software will never penetrate highly vertical markets;
    this domain will be left closed-source and highly profitable.

    2. Paragraph 8 extrapolates the free software argument beyond reason to
    ludicracy in a failed attempt to attempt to make the free software concept
    seen ludicrous. The logical conclusion of Stallman's argument is NOT the
    freeing of all intellectual property; this is either gross
    misunderstanding or intentional mendacity. In any case, the hyperbolic
    extrapolation of this erroneous assertion to "If intellectual property
    isn't property, then just what is property? Why not just give away cars,
    houses, and everything else?" is yet another failed (and quite laughable)
    attempt to sow fear in those with a vested interest in the current
    economic system that free software may lead to the downfall of said
    system. The quality of the argument is something I'd expect from the
    climax of a legal pulp novel.

    3. Paragraphs 9-10 show that Boling has not bothered to read either of
    Raymond's works on free software, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and
    "Homesteading the Noosphere", or even the Microsoft-generated "Halloween"
    memos that referenced these works. Boling would understand the reason
    credit matters had he read these works. His lack of understanding of these
    foundations of the free software movement shows a lack of journalistic
    acumen, and would be embarrassing even for a first-year newspaper
    copywriter fresh out of college.

    In the future, your public relations and marketing arms would be
    well-served not to point to such badly written fluff as support for your
    arguments. It only makes you look stupid and scared.


    Brian H. Trammell
  • I think we should stop focusing on his point about "putting food on the table". His point seemed to focus much more on the continued inovation in hardware more than anything else.
    And he's right. Sub $500 PC's are definitely going to take bites out of the computer industry's pocket. But is that?
    When you look at the general populace, why do they buy a computer? In most cases it's word processing, and web surfing. Do any of those people need machines faster than there are today?
    My answer would be: not yet.
    If Intel is worried that they won't be able to afford building their next processor, then they perhaps should first find a reason to build it in the first place. Besides heavy multi-media apps, (in most cases: games), there is little reason for Joe Shmoe to go out and spend the money this author claims they should be shelling out.
    Looking at what it available rightnow, I couldn't even recomend buying top of the line now: What I'm I going to use it for? How fast does my word processor really need to be? If the author were to mention some peice of software, proprietary or otherwise, that required a faster machine, then perhaps he would have a better point. Until then, he should shut the hell up. Being a writer for PC magazine, when was the last time he paid for his own computer anyway?

  • ...so is it evil too?

    It's interesting that a Microsoft pawn says that free software may put companies out of business, while Microsoft itself has tried to put Netscape out of business by making its competing product free. Now they're crying foul when somebody advocates free software.

    I think by now we're all used to this hypocritical double talk from MS.
  • Last time I looked, lots of folks in the selling air* industry were still making money, even though yes, air is free.

    *Selling air industry: Companies like Linde and Air Liquide that sell liquid air or fractional-distilled components of air; folks that sell compressed air to SCUBA divers, etc, etc....
  • The vertical market has always paid the developer top dollar. But what about embedded systems? Seems to me that this is the future for high-dollar development. Just about everything is going to be computerized and it won't matter if the proms have free software in them.
  • Where to start . . .

    First of all these articles are blatantly manipulative FUD. "Oh pity us stuff is cheap" and "you'll STARVE because of these 'other people'" seem to be the major themes. Yes, now lowered consumer prices are bad and open source is the ENEMY of all of us programmers. It's hard to imagine anyone falling for this garbage.

    What was truly pathetic is the lack of knowledge about Open Source shown by the articles, especially the FLUX one. Open Source would mean more opporutnites for programmers - they'd have code to improve (and create better products), quicker bug fixes, the ability to make their own bug fixes on the job, and more customer trust. Open Source to me means more competition, not less. Most importantly, the articles miss that Open Source can make money in SUPPORT, in helping the often-forgotten customer.

    I'm a programmer/analyst consultant. Open Source to me means more work not less - because I'll be able to better adapt and serve those who need me. It means I can tweak products and compare code, and ultimately be a better (and thus better paid) consultant.
  • Tons of software is written for specific customers these days - the project I work on, for example, is a financial reporting analysis tool for a major corporation. The software is built specifically around the corporate financial structure, so it would be useless to anyone else; there's never going to be a GNU Financial Reporting package or whatever that would do the same job. But Free software would still improve this picture greatly. As it is, we do our development with bug-ridden proprietary software, and deploy the product on a bug-ridden proprietary OS. Using reliable & proven Free software products would make this sort of project better for user & developer alike, and there are thousands and thousands of these projects keeping programmers employed in the business world.

    That is why the spread of Free software won't put programmers out on the street. There will always be a place for the programmer/analyst who can walk into a business situation, distill it to a logical system, and write a tool that will allow the customer to do more/faster/better. The only difference will be that programmers will have more hair, because they won't be pulling it out every time they get a random GPF and have to spend another 20 minutes rebooting their workstations.
  • Back in the early 1900s, another time when monopolies were powerful, the ultrarich made arguments against charity, saying that it undermined the capitalist system. They believed instead in "social darwinism," where the smart and beautiful make money and live to procreate, and where the stupid and ugly died of starvation before producing young.

    It's interesting that the monopolists here are using a similar argument, that the computer industry will be undermined by free software, that the only good way for software to be produced is with monetary incentives. There was even some antiAmericanism implied, by labeling free software as anti-capitalist.

    But it's the same bullshit now as it was 100 years ago. They're trying to use pseudologic to assert that their monopoly is justified, that any other model is unscientific and evil.

  • I just can't resist calling your attention to these great quotes from the MS Flux article, namely:

    While free distribution is a great marketing tool....what does it say about the product itself? Frankly, it says that the product...has no value.


    ...if you take Stallman's position to the logical conclusion, all intellectual property from patents, to books, to music and art--should be free. If intellectual property isn't property, then just what is property? Why not just give away cars, houses, and everything else?

    The first, makes the fundamental capitalistic mistake, assuming price == value.

    The second is just so far out there I can't even begin to explain whats wrong with it.

  • This article really seems to miss the point about what the free software movement is about.

    Regardless of whether software is free there are who's going to implement the solutions for a company?? There will always be jobs for IT professionals regardless of the price of the software.

    As I see it the Open Source movement is part of the economic shift towards a service based economy .
  • From the Microsoft article:

    "What you're left with is a bunch of amateur coders who
    need to have real jobs to make ends meet. Are these the type of people you want developing the software products your business depends on?"

    Some would call this hypothetical company Microsoft.

    A suit, not necessarily proud of it, but not entirely ashamed of it either.
  • From the "Flux" article:

    > If intellectual property isn't property, then just what is property?
    > Why not just give away cars, houses, and everything else?

    Well, mr. Boling. If you would like to make a copy of my house, I won't be stopping you. And just like with free software, you only have to pay for the cost of making the copy.

    This article is amusing, isn't it? :)
  • He is not talking about hackers. He is talking about "contemporary" businesses. While hackers can code all they want in their spare time, "contemporary" businesses have to *pay* for software no one (or almost no one) will buy. Right now the reason Red Hat is making all this money is because people moving to Linux are unsure. They want the manual, they want the support. I am talking about desktops here, BTW. Now I ask, those of you already familar with your free OS, did you buy your last Linux CD, the one you are using now? A show of hands anyone? There are exceptions of course, and these are probably a minority. The only way to know for sure would be a *POLL*. Rob, *POLL*? A *POLL* on this would be interesting.


  • I know their are probably a few of you who *buy* their CDs and I'm not talking cheapbytes either. Like I said, you are probably a minority. This is an unfair argument, I know, we really need a *POLL*.

    (cough) (cough) *POLL* Rob? (cough)


  • This guy is totally overlooking the fact that there are developers that *want* to develop code and then give it away. The pleasure of creating something good far outweighs that pleasure that would come from making money off of it.
    Linus is the prime example . . . he has yet to make money directly from the kernel! Do any of us think he has trouble putting food on the table?
  • I think that all this free software makes programmers much more productive workers. Just like factory workers make more than manual laborers because they use machines, programmers who have access to big open source toys make more because they create more value for each hour worked so companies think it's ok to pay them a lot. Similarily lawyers are just integrators of previous open source legal arguments that can't be copyrighted and they make tons of money. Sure you can make $300,000 a year doing Oracle Consulting but that's because Oracle makes database programmers extremely productive. With open source though you can make $200,000 a year as a perl consultant using purely open source products and this will go up as the tools approach commercial quality.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev