Richard Stallman's new article: Overcoming Social Inertia

Marcus Rejås marcus at
Thu Nov 8 14:41:29 UTC 2007

On 11/08 11:50, Alex Hudson wrote:
> The ability to see the source, let alone modify it, definitely does help
> reduce the possibility of lock-in. But that's essentially saying, "it's
> quite cheap to switch away from a free software application" - looking
> at the TCO of an application, that might be a significant saving, and
> one which is often unavailable with proprietary software.

Exactly. These are the benefits I would like to stress. These are ways
to show that Free Software has qualities that saves money in the long

> I also don't believe that free software is always cheaper; I can point
> to many examples where it is more expensive. That doesn't mean that in a
> commercial context it would be the wrong choice: it's partly about cost,
> but also about value. If your basic arguments revolve around the cost
> being lower, it becomes difficult to argue in favour of free software
> when it isn't the cheapest.

I now that Free Software can be more expensive initially. Not the least
because of previous lock in troubles and migration costs. I don't think
we should be afraid of this. Free Software has so many advantages that
it really should be the other side that have to prove that they are
cheaper. I mean, if I'm about to give up my freedom (you can translate
it to corporate language if you wish) to a company selling me a piece of
non-free software at least I want it to save me money.

When compared to a non free solution it is always interesting to extend
the time line on which to calculate. What happens with the TCO-value if
we look at 3 or maybe 4 lifetimes instead of one. I know that that coudb
be quite hard, another way to look at it is to calculate with an exit
cost. How much does it cost me to switch away from this piece of

> So, I do agree with you that arguing that it's cheap/free generally
> isn't an amazingly good tactic. But I also wouldn't put it "last" in
> terms of arguments: I think the cost is an important factor, since there
> is a lot of added value in terms of choice and freedom.

I think we are actually talking about exactly the same thing. What I
want to say is basically, don't say that it is cheap or free. Talk about
the other benefits Free Software has, that in the long (or even in the
short) run actually saves money. I think there is difference between
being cheap than to have qualities that makes you save money. I like to
see Free Software as something with many good qualities. And many people
would say that quality might cost but saves you money in the long run.*



*) If these sentences doesn't make sense I blame my english. Please let
me know so I can try to rephrase.

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