The Simple Economics of Open Source

phil hunt philh at
Sun Apr 30 16:11:15 EDT 2000

On Mon, 24 Apr 2000 03:57:00 GMT, 
Raffael Cavallaro <raffael at> wrote:
>In article <MPG.136cc01af4ab703b989709 at>, Richard 
>Hale <rkhale at> wrote:
>>The Open Source software that I have used has been very valuable to me.  
>>Did those who produced it not see as much value in it?
>Well, they probably knew they couldn't sell it as a closed source 
>product and make much money from it.
>Fact is, only commodity items, that are known to many programmers, are 
>open sourced. 


Consider Parrot and leafwa, two open source packages I am writing.
When I put them up on my website, they were known to exactly *one* 

>If there were sufficient demand to support a closed source 
>business, then it would have happened that way.

Demonstrably wrong.

At the time Linus wrote his kernel, there were several closed source
Unices for x86.

>The closed source biggies are not open sourcing the crown jewels. Why? 
>Cause there's plenty of cash still left to milk from those cows. Notice 
>that Apple has open sourced only those parts of MacOS X that *aren't* 
>lucrative consumer software. Where's the Darwin QuickTime (not the 
>streaming server, but the client?) Where's Darwin Quartz, Darwin Aqua, 
>Darwin Cocoa? Don't hold your breath for these, because these parts of 
>the OS are what allows Apple to turn a profit. If they became open 
>source commodities, Apple would become just another clone maker.

This is a reasonably comment.

If Apple open sourced the Mac user interface, they'd be worse off.

What they could do however, is disclose the source (so you can look
at it, but not do anything with it) and and put it on a time-delayed open
source licence (so any release will become open source after X years).

At the same time, they could release a version of MacOS for Wintel
boxes. They could base it on the Linux kernel; this would mean they 
wouldn't have to go to their own separate effort to write device drivers
etc. (They could of course do this without open sourcing the Mac
user interface code).

***** Phil Hunt ***** send email to phil at *****
Moore's Law: hardware speed doubles every 18 months
Gates' Law: software speed halves every 18 months 

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