by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
competing with free, free, leopard, operating systems


Leopard Illustrates Another Way To Compete With Free

from the reliability-is-valuable dept

You often hear people in copyright debates claim that you "can't compete with free." We've tried to explain why that's wrong: In fact companies find ways to compete with free all the time. The latest example comes via Wired's David Kravets, who points out that Apple's latest OS is all over BitTorrent. People who want to avoid giving Apple its $129 can visit their favorite BitTorrent search engine and download the new operating system free of charge. Yet apparently, some of the same people who were downloading bootleg copies of the OS earlier this week will head to their local Apple Store tonight to pick up a legitimate copy. "If you're going to use a system to run your life, you're less likely to take chances with an illegitimate copy," says BigChampagne's Eric Garland. Being sure your computer isn't running a defective or compromised version of Mac OS X is worth $129 to a lot of people. Of course, that's not a new insight. One of Red Hat's most lucrative products is its software subscription service, which allows companies to pay money in order to guarantee the software they get will be stable, secure, and will work well together. Red Hat's customers could download the software themselves and roll their own version of Red Hat, but for many companies it's just not the risk that they'd miss a critical bugfix or security patch.

The story also contains an important insight that's relevant to other copyright industries, such as music: sometimes the users of peer-to-peer networks are your biggest fans, who are so eager to get their hands on your product that they're willing to break the law to get their hands on it a few days early. In many cases, they're the people who are most likely to buy your hardware, go to your concert, see your movie in the theater, etc. Some illicit downloads doubtless represent a lost sale, but others -- especially before the product has been widely released -- may be paying customers who are just really anxious to get their hands on your product.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 2:43pm

    That last paragraph completely describes me. I download the beta, bootleg, unauthorized copies and I download the POS screener off piratebay then head off and buy the genuine article when it hits the store shelves if I liked it. It is not about the money I save, it is about being the first to try it, watch it, own it. If I dont like it then I delete it. I do wish there were a shareware version of movies or big ticket software titles....that would probably satisfy both parties.

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

  2. identicon
    DittoBox, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 3:29pm

    Not the majority

    I understand this is conjecture —and although I agree with Tim's assertion that some will "try before they buy" and then purchase the full version for stability's sake— I doubt very much that they are indeed the majority or even a large minority.

    I'm not arguing against "competing with free" but the majority of users that download and burn their copy rather than purchasing aren't likely to purchase the real deal. Most are just people who either don't realize the difference, don't realize its illegal, or don't give a crap.

    The technically literate group of downloaders are the only ones that will download to try it.

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

  3. identicon
    Nismoto, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 3:53pm


    Ditto! I know what you mean.

    When I see a new car that I like I just steal it. I'll drive it around for a few days just to test it out. You know, see how well the car handles corners at 90 MPH, check if the backseat is actually comfortable enough for sex, etc.

    When I'm done with it I ALWAYS return it. If I think the car is a sound investment and well worth my money, I march right down to the dealership and hand over my hard-earned cash.

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

  4. identicon
    zcat, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 4:06pm

    "When I see a new car that I like I just steal it."

    Funny analogy.

    When I was shopping for a car all the places I went to were quite happy to let me take it for a drive first.

    Now imagine if the car market were controlled by three or four big dealerships, and none of them would let you take any of the cars for a test drive. Imagine if lending your friend your own car was considered 'stealing', or letting friends take a ride, or picking up hitchhikers.. Imagine if they even tried really hard to cut out the second-hand car market, so the only way you could buy a car was brand-new, you don't even open the doors until it's been paid for.

    That would suck.

    That's about how most of us here view the Music and/or Movie Industries. And Microsoft too.

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

  5. identicon
    The Last Angry Man, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 4:31pm


    I think its great to be able to try full (stable) release software with limited (or disabled) features, and if you like it, then you can purchase the real deal.

    Ultimately, I believe it comes down to price and honor. Those with honor will try the software and go purchase it (if it suits their needs). Those with less honor (or lacking altogether) will probably just pirate the software (always).

    Then there are those in between, that try it and like it and pay for it (dependent on price) if they can afford it.

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

  6. identicon
    drjones, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 11:06pm

    Re: Re:

    Ugh... When can we be done, once and for all, with the stealing analogies when it comes to copyright infringement of digital works?

    Making a bit for bit copy of a file on another computer does not deprive the owner of the file of any property. It is not the same as stealing.

    Given the fact that copying is so quick, painless (usually) and accessible, its not even fair to assume that the infinging person would have paid for the content in the first place. You cannot consider it a lost sale, and hope to have any kind of accurate account of the "money lost".

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2007 @ 4:01am

    Leopard doesn't compete with free. The majority of the OS is free and Apple basically add a roprietary GUI then charge as if they've produced the whole OS.

    On the other hand Windows which is genuinely a complete original OS for about the same price.

    Apple is taking a free product from others and selling relative to a pricepoint set by M$ for a genuine product, then keeping the money themselves.
    That's quite clever in greedy corporate kind of way but it's not good for consumers.

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

  8. identicon
    C, Oct 28th, 2007 @ 6:02am

    i guess i'm just a regular criminal...

    ...because i've never gone out and purchased a 'legitimate' copy of something i've gotten 'illegally'. no one i know does either. no one i've heard of, other than the shills that post stuff like this article, has either.

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

  9. identicon
    Robert, Oct 28th, 2007 @ 9:54am

    Re: i guess i'm just a regular criminal...

    I have, you fruit.

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

  10. identicon
    Christopher Freihofer, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 7:58am


    Windows isn't a completely orignal OS. Bill Gates stole the idea from Steve Jobs and tweaked it. Do some research before you make queer statements.

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

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