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SubjectRe: Why is Nvidia given GPL'd code to use in non-free drivers?
Larry,

I know your post was directed at RMS, however I felt inspired to respond :)
Perhaps there is an alternate outcome to the future you see, bare with me.

On Fri, 3 Jan 2003, Larry McVoy wrote:
> The problem with your point of view is that you are assuming that somehow
> progress will continue to be made once you have that freedom. Let's just
> look at that for a minute and see if that makes sense.
>
> Postulate that all the software in the world is GPLed. All of it. That's
> your goal as far as I can make out, but let's not argue about if it is or
> is not, it doesn't matter.
>
> Anyone who wants to build on that software can, there is almost perfect
> code reuse. Again, something I think you want, certainly a nice idea.

Add to this:

No Software patents or greatly shorting the length of
software patents.

All hardware specs are published.

>
> Because all the software is freely available, this sets an upper bound
> on how much any company can charge for it. If the amount they charge
> for gathering it up and making a distribution, for example, is low
> enough that other people look at it and think that's too little money
> for that much work, then their prices will hold. On the other hand,
> if they are charging twice that, another company can spring up which
> grabs the software and sells it for the lower price, a price low enough
> that no cheaper company can come in. Obviously, the first company either
> drops their prices or goes out of business.

You seem to view software like a chair or a box of legos? Something that
is designed, implemented and then sold. This is the predominant view,
perhaps software can be thought of as simply:
Ideas + Skill + Time + Natural Resources.

[Snip]
> If there is no barrier to entry and a supplier is charging more it
> costs, a cheaper supplier will enter the market and force the price down.
> Even the most green MBA understands this and I don't think I need to tell
> you that the VC's all understand this. For the sake of discussion, let's
> assume that you agree with that statement (if you don't, don't bother
> to argue with me, I'll ignore you, I'm not here to teach basic economics).
>
> So we've established that in an all free world, even though some money
> will change hands, it can't be significantly more than what it costs
> to perform whatever service is being provided. In other words, there
> is no extra money.
>

Am I correct in thinking that your two primary goals in relation to
software development are?:

1) For _individuals_ to make a good/great living.
2) Software is constantly improved/evolves and that new and innovative
ideas have fertile ground to develop in.

If so, I believe we are in complete agreement thus far.

> Leaving aside the inevitable argument about whether or not the free
> software world is or is not innovative, let's look at what it takes
> to produce new things. The problem is that none of us have a real
> crystal ball. We don't know which ideas will take hold in the market
> and which won't. We can guess and maybe get lucky, but in general the
> guesses are wrong much more than they are right. Look at the history
> of startups. With all the screening that VC's do, all the due diligence,
> we still have failures of at least 9/10 and these days more like 99/100.
> For every Ebay or Google there are hundreds of startups which started
> about the same time as Ebay or Google but are are long and forgotten.
>
[Snip]

In a world where all software is "Free Software" does it not make more
sense to view the "costs" of software development as being equal to
ideas+time+skill+available resources?

You must have the idea/problem/design to begin a software project.

You must have the time and skill available to complete the design or solve
the problem.

Reusable code decreases the amount of time and perhaps skill required to
complete software tasks.

I would argue that most of the problems you see in a 100% "Free
Software" World come from a large Enterprise/corporate mind set, where large
Sums of VC money is required to fund projects. I see a
possible future where software development is seen much like getting your
roof repaired, or adding a new room on to your house. It's
labor+materials. With the advantage that in software world materials are
reusable, the tools are plentiful and affordable (well most anyways). In
this World it's the software developers who are sought after... not the
VC money.

Could this Free Software world support Microsoft or it's ilk? No. Could
it feed the families of millions of software developers? I believe so.

Shane R. Stixrud

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