Miscellaneous

by Mike Masnick




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...

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Don Gray, 18 Nov 2005 @ 8:49pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Randy, 18 Nov 2005 @ 9:32pm

      Re: Business people like Michael...

      I would agree if 1) he got permission from the companies that produce the software and 2) he is providing the documentation in printed form and 3) he provides the fact that the software could be downloaded for free.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Chris, 18 Nov 2005 @ 10:12pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 18 Nov 2005 @ 10:50pm

      Re: Business people like Michael...

      Sorry if you thought I implied it negatively. I don't think that at all. I think it's a good idea, actually. I'm just not sure how big a business it really is. Again, it wasn't meant to slant negatively.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2005 @ 10:05pm

    No Subject Given

    Support is the business model for selling OSS. IF he packages it, documents it, and supports it, it will be a success. Some people are willing to pay for the peace of mind that there is a number you can call instead of posting to underground forums for help.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Guru, 18 Nov 2005 @ 11:17pm

      Re: No Subject Given

      "Some people are willing to pay for the peace of mind that there is a number you can call instead of posting to underground forums for help."

      The $200 for Windows is worth it just for the level of support.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2005 @ 1:04pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Frank Daley, 19 Nov 2005 @ 1:46am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 19 Nov 2005 @ 1:49pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ray Trygstad, 19 Nov 2005 @ 6:43am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    William, 19 Nov 2005 @ 3:48pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Andrew Strasser, 19 Nov 2005 @ 6:25pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Don Gray, 19 Nov 2005 @ 7:59pm

        Re: Counting on the idocy of the masses.

        Wow...

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2005 @ 11:44pm

          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...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Etchy, 20 Nov 2005 @ 11:31am

    Good For Him!

    This is a very positive step for OS technologies. However, he should partner up with a computer maker, to prepackage this stuff into an ultra cheap lap or desktop.

    Get a few companies on board, and families and regular consumers will follow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Haggie, 21 Nov 2005 @ 3:34pm

    Gimp

    I have my freely downloaded version of Gimp that I love, but I would be happy to pay a one-time or annual fee for high quality support and some cool filters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ann321, 25 Nov 2008 @ 7:59pm

    Can You Sell Open Source Software As Generic Software?

    I can only hope to be as creative some day.
    -------------------------
    Ann

    SEO

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ananta, 20 Apr 2012 @ 9:05am

    it is not illegal to sell opensource.. however there might be varying opinion on how ethical it is. however even if you sell opensource to someone you can't stop buyer from reselling it or distributing it for free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.