valinux goes propietary?

smaffulli at smaffulli at
Mon Aug 27 07:14:47 UTC 2001

> On Sun, Aug 26, 2001 at 07:37:23PM +0200, Wim De Smet wrote:
> > > Good analisys, but there is something missing, the problem is not "yeah
> > > my company is doing free software so the investors are preoccupied", the
> > > problem is that the "old economy" is trying to put the "free software
> > > economy" out of his market (this is a big problem and not only on the
> > > software).
> > Off course, it also has something to do with the fact that numerous
> > companies went out of business the past months. Investor trust is hard to
> > find, and a conservative business model is the way VA Linux is trying to
> > convince them to stick with it.
> Am I the only one not scared by this? I agree with your technical analysis,
> but there are some profound implications. I found ESR's explanation poor to
> the point of me losing what little respect I have left for his ideas, in
> that I find his arguments weaken with every thing he publishes (the idea of
> furbage I thought missed the point and begged the question; his explanation
> of VA's 'change of tactic' is little more than a tacit admission of defeat).
> What is particularly galling is that no-one seems to be coming out saying
> how bad this is - OSDN in particular (vested interests, I know) seems to be
> becoming more and more anti-Free Software. The fact of the matter is that to
> attempt to please investors, VA are developing closed applications. Let's
> buy ESR's explanation, and call it proprietary tinsel. And let's assume it
> does very well. What do investors learn from this lesson? That closing
> software makes more money. So the pressure to produce more closed apps will
> be applied: investors will see no line, no law of diminishing returns. They
> will keep pressing for more closure until they stop seeing the benefits, and
> probably beyond.

This was and still is my fear! I am tremendously worried by this, I can see all the people I talked to (some were starting to be doubtful about the "classic" software business models) starting to giggle "good guy, but such a dreamer!" And it's not just a question of personal proudness :-))

I read ESR's comments, and while I agree that he doesn't need to be replied for every paper he writes, I think this time we should all stand together and shout how BAD this example from VA is. It is going to support the Caldera's and Love's theories (Free Software is good, as open standards are good: you can use them to build your proprietary stuff on top). 

I think about all the people (I know personally a couple of them) that were investigating the possibility to release their new software under the GPL: our arguments are still valid, but the not-yet-convinced guys will interpret VA's move as symptom that Free Software simply cannot work as a business model. When Eazel went belly up I was not upset at all, but now with VA it's different. I thought VA had a solid business plan: they used to sell hardware and services, mostly. 

> Even animals, at a very basic level, learn by reward. VA closes app, VA gets
> a cookie as a reward. Good VA. Investors want more of the same. They want
> more cookies. Sad, very sad. 

I would add: worrying, very worrying :)


Stefano Maffulli aka Reed                   | Milano Linux User Group a close-up on italy  |
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