neat story

Alex Hudson home at
Wed Mar 20 10:43:45 UTC 2002

On Wed, 2002-03-20 at 10:19, MJ Ray wrote:
> I was discussing this at length with some former colleagues last night.  We
> found two possible ways for programmers to make money from programming:
>   1. Sell your programming time
>   2. Sell scarce software
> <snip>
> from reproducing it (which is what most people do now).  The challenge
> facing free software companies (like ours) is to move users of software that
> currently uses solution 2 to solution 1.  It is a different model, isn't it?

It's not a vastly different model, it just depends on the market. I can
enumerate the shysters living off of model 1, making pots of cash for
crap software. The particular example I can think of is financial/stock
control software (I have practical experience of these particular
shysters ;), but it's larger than that: look at SAP, for example.

The problem market is commodity off-the-shelf software, which people
expect to have X number of features and don't expect to need to be able
to configure/adapt to their needs - people are adaptable, and are
willing to adapt to software (incidentally, another reason we have crap
usability in software..). COTSware has been particularly important in
the proprietary world, because without one standard piece of software
(e.g., Microsoft Office) you don't get to interoperate well with others.
Of course, this is different with Free Software, and perhaps if Free
Software was prevalent the COTSware market would all but disappear,
because the advantages of the "One Way" would be outweighed by the

So really, the answer is to look to markets where COTSware is not the
prevalent form of software. Bespoke programming services, special needs,
interfacing projects, etc. GnuE is not at the stage where people will be
implementing it out in the wild yet, but I could see quite a cottage
industry springing up around it when it gets going (I believe people are
already making money from deploying GnuE to some extent?). To a large
extent, web services are also an example of a viable market, because
anything which is 'non-trivial' is unlikely to be implementable with
COTS. However, we know what state that particular market is in...


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