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Can You Sell Open Source Software As Generic Software?

from the someone's-gonna-try dept

Michael Robertson is at it again. Starting new companies and trying to shake up the status quo. A lot of people don’t like his style, which often involves goading the companies he’s trying to undercut into suing him, but he certainly gets attention. He’s now trying, yet again. This time taking a page similar to his adventures with Linspire — which was based on the idea of taking Linux to the masses by packaging it in a friendly way. Om Malik points out that Robertson’s latest effort, CompareSoft is about packaging and marketing other open source applications to make them more consumer friendly. So, yes, basically taking things like OpenOffice and GIMP and putting them in a nice box and selling them in a store for much less than Microsoft Office or PhotoShop. Even though people can download them for free, he’s betting they’ll be willing to pay for the nice packaging, which will make them feel more comfortable. He’s comparing it to the generic drug market, saying that this is like “generic” software. Of course, the analogy breaks down because there isn’t an easy way to just download generic drugs for free just yet…

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Comments on “Can You Sell Open Source Software As Generic Software?”

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Don Gray says:

Business people like Michael...

Will provide much of the force that helps push Open Source into the mainstream.

I can only hope to be as creative some day.

The summary is factually correct but slants the information in such a way as to imply that what he is doing with CompareSoft is morally wrong or that the people who would buy CompareSoft are somehow being duped.

It is my opinion that nothing could be further from the truth. What he is doing is capitalism and marketing at its best. He is providing a service and being paid for that service.

How many small businesses that buy the majority of their software from a Staples or an OfficeMax have never heard of open source software? Don’t know that a second option exists? Well, according to Michael’s marketing research 90+%. He is providing an option for these individuals and companies that will save them substantial cost. And yes, provide them the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from buying an attractive box with comforting, official-looking corporate information.

I applaud his efforts and wish him the best.

Chris says:

Re: Business people like Michael...

Agreed…This seems no different than charging people to put Linux distros on cd’s and shipping them. Whereas a dialer doesn’t want to wait for the download, likewise a novice Linux user doesn’t feel like stabilizing a nix box. But still wants the simpler funtionalities of free software at a reasonable cost along with a free liscense. I fhe wants to be the one making the money, more power to him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

“The $200 for Windows is worth it just for the level of support.”
Except that when you get down to it, there is actually very little free support (from Microsoft) even once you have bought Windows. You still have to pay to actually call, wait on hold for 3 hours, and eventually talk to a human being that usually ends up being lacking in the IQ department anyways. So no, you’re not really paying $200 for the added support, just the product, which, frankly, I would just rather get it for free without the “support” that I don’t get anyways.

Frank Daley says:

Michael Robertson's CompareSoft is an excellent in

What many critics of this initiative keep forgetting is that tens of millions of people still buy most of their software via retail channels.
Yes, the software market via these channels is peaking, however it is still worth billions of dollars.
By providing open source solutions for this market segment (e.g. boxed products, step-by-step tutorials, etc) Michael Robertson will introduce many millions to OSS that otherwise would spend many more years under the thumb of Microsoft.
Congratulations to Michael Robertson for an excellent initiative.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Michael Robertson's CompareSoft is an excellen

What many critics of this initiative keep forgetting is that tens of millions of people still buy most of their software via retail channels.

Not forgetting that at all. As I said, I think it’s a decent idea, but won’t be *that* big. There are a few reasons why:

(1) There are other, cheaper software products on the shrink wrap market, and they don’t sell all that well. Microsoft is still the recognized brand, and even if other packages are compatible, people don’t feel comfortable with them.

(2) For things like Microsoft Office, many, many people still get them bundled when they buy a computer, rather than buying retail. And, then, they’re more interested in upgrading, rather than getting something entirely new.

The GIMP offering may have a better shot, but only if they’re selling GIMPshop instead of regular GIMP. Regular GIMP still confuses a lot of your average Windows software users.

Ray Trygstad (profile) says:

No Subject Given

The real value to OSS lies in the professionally produced manuals and tutorials; the CompareSoft page says they will “donate any code or documentation we develop for the project” back to the Open Source community. I don’t know about you, but a professionally produced manual to the GIMP will be worth a lot to me. Historically some of the best documentation ever produced has been for free (although not necessarily Open Source) software. The old AOLPress Manual (software and manual still available at http://members.aol.com/rjdriver/aolpress.htm) is unquestionably one of the finest software manuals I have ever seen anywhere by anyone, and makes any documentation from Microsoft look like the pure drivel that it actually is.

William says:

I think its fine

The way I look at it is… there is nothing wrong with putting a free item in a package and selling it retail. If he is willing to help support the product, provide documentation with it, and help to get some of the open source items in the flow of everyday life, More power to him. The way I look at it is, its like taking air, you know, the air we breath in everyday for free, and packageing it in a can so that people can spray their computers out. Its no different than that, if someone can figure out a way to charge for air and not get any fuss over it, then he should be able to sell open source products with out fuss. The only reason people are even upset about it is because of who it is. If I were to do the same thing, there would not be a bunch of people complaining.

Andrew Strasser (user link) says:

Re: Counting on the idocy of the masses.

Many companies take different measures that count on the human consumer to be dumb enough to be tricked by them. One of the best examples of this is the fact that in an assembly line if a company runs a bad batch they don’t stop production. They continue production and then may do any various assorment of things to try to save face. Many times the items are put on market for people to be hurt by or whatever. They expect that 50% of people would return an item. To not return something you bought that doesn’t work and collect your money is not a smart practice. This is all common practice in business and anyone who’s ever been involved with a larger corporation knows that they don’t just accept the stupidity of the masses they depend on it.

Don Gray says:

Re: Re: Counting on the idocy of the masses.


What a dismal view of the world!

Also, in this case, I believe you are confusing stupidity for ignorance. The people that will buy ComapreSoft aren’t stupid, on the contrary, they will be doing a Compare(ison) and choosing what appears to be a very similar product for significantly less money. That’s not stupid.

They are however quite ignorant of there options prior to walking into the store, otherwise as some have pointed out they MAY have downloaded the software for free from the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Counting on the idocy of the masses.

I couldn’t HELP but think of women in a general sense when you said that Don..

We can make diamonds, either better or just as they appear in nature. It’s just carbon, and it amazed me it took us as long as we did.

And, if I’m not mistaken, the only way to tell a well made artificial diamond with the ‘real thing’ is because the companies that make the artificial ones sort of caved in and embedded their logo or some such thing microscopically on the diamond somewhere, but I know for years jewlers were wetting their pants over what a run of the mill factory in Jacksonville was pouring out every day. They cost like two bucks a pop to make, too.

Yet, women continue to pay obscene amounts for something that ‘came from the earth’. Yeah. A) Diamonds are far more numerous than emeralds, its just called monopoly and B) the peridotite portion of the earths crust is a veritable diamond field. They ain’t special — but as guys, of course, we still have to please them…

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