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RE: FreeBSD & GNU (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2001 03:45:46 -0800
From: Ted Mittelstaedt <tedm@toybox.placo.com>
To: lists <lists@vivdev.com>
Cc: freebsd-newbies@FreeBSD.ORG
Subject: RE: FreeBSD & GNU

>-----Original Message-----
>From: lists [mailto:lists@vivdev.com]
>OK, but how would anyone take control of the source in the case of FreeBSD?
>In the case if FreeBSD, the source is a bunch of volunteers?

You just answered your own question - "as long as the source is a bunch of

Who just announced recently they were synchronizing their _commercial_
system code to FreeBSD?  Well, it's BSDi, who also owns Walnut Creek, the
FreeBSD distributor.  In a few years, the source won't all be volunteers.

Now, so far there's been no incidents of BSDi going to the FreeBSD project
saying "Don't make that change in the kernel there because if you do and we
make it then it will break all our commercial users"  Hopefully that day
will never come, and BSDi will be wise enough to stay out of the Project in
these instances.  But,
there's a lot of crossover of employees at BSDi and contributors to the
There are certainly going to be instances where this will create conflicts
interest on some technical decisions.  While, at the current time I don't
feel that
any of the core FreeBSD Project members would be influenced by such
nobody knows what the future will bring, and it's always a risk to set up
these types of environments where there's a lot of corporate influence.

>>In the history of marketing, there's never been a single source supplier
>>that has lasted for more than a blink of an eye, just due to this issue.
>Maybe.  How about Ma Bell?  Didn't die due to lack of standardization.
>Died when the monopoly, which was underpinned by protected proprietary
>technology, was dismantled.

Ma Bell was selling a product, dialtone, that for nearly 80 years was
very much like electricity in that it was pretty much unchanging.  As such,
the market could tolerate the lack of innovation, since really there wasn't
anything to innovate.

What set the seeds for Bell's destruction, ironically, was the invention of
the transistor by Bell Labs.  With modern electronics, it became possible to
cheaply and rapidly make all sorts of new consumer telephone devices.  The
first cracks appeared when people attempted to plug in these new devices and
were told by Bell that they wern't allowed to do it.  The market revolted
and forced Ma Bell out of home ownership of the telephone.  (that was a
concession of their market, if you think about it)  The transistor also
permitted modern, reliable and cheap phone switches which allowed the
competitive long distance carriers to take hold and once again the market
revolted when Ma Bell attempted
to block them, the result was the lawsuit.

>What you are describing is a situation where one proprietary product has
>reached it's market potential and then is outmoded by a newer, more
>competitive product.  I don't see how this supports your argument.

The catch-22 is that the newer more competitive product is only competitive
precisely because it's NOT the institutionalized standard.  The process of
becoming the standard makes it non-competitive.  Your getting hung up in
the idea that it's the proprietaryness that makes a product non-competitive,
and this simply isn't true.  It's the institutionalizing that makes it

For example, take Sendmail.  For years Sendmail was the only game in town
in terms of MTA's  But, it became institutionalized, and as such they
didn't drop the obscuficated sendmail.cf config file syntax even when the
original reasons for having such syntax (speed of loading, etc) no longer
were true.  In fast, instead of dumping sendmail.cf, they just applied
even more layering to harden the dependence on sendmail.cf

As a result, people started putting effort into qmail, and other MTA's, and
now those MTA's are taking more and more market share from Sendmail.
more significantly, products like qmail now have mySQL support, Sendmail
doesen't, better and more integrated spam filtering, and a number of other
features.  All they lack is the track record to be truly proven out like
Sendmail is.  But, they are ahead in the technical aspect, and are
in share within the UNIX market.

>Also, in the space you are describing, shouldn't there be sun and hp
>machines?  How do these offerings mix?  The other thing is that the UNIX
>they are turning to now includes Linux and BSD, doesn't it?  Btw, what is
>the status of vanilla UNIX?

Keep in mind that I'm only outlining a projection of what MIGHT happen,
there's no guarentee that it WILL happen.  It's perfectly possible that
Open Source is such a fundamentally different means of software creation
and distribution that none of the older marketing rules apply, and as such
history can't repeat, because this hasn't been done in history before.  In
I even make that argument in my book.

I'm lumping all UNIX together, both commercial and Open Source, because I'm
talking about general trends.  I feel in my bones that the wind is changing
again and that corporate interests are much more open now to considering
instead of blindly swallowing Windows.  But, many will never be open to
Open Source, and will wish to continue to get those "commercial" systems,
even UNIX, and so Sun and HP and Compaq will have lots to do making products
for those folks.

As far as Vanilla UNIX goes, today there's only 2 kinds of UNIXes - those
by The Open Group (since they own the trademark to UNIX) as being Real UNIX,
and to get that you have to pay a big fee and implement a bunch of standards
nobody uses in your UNIX.  The other are the non-UNIX UNIXes, like FreeBSD
Linux, which can't legally be branded UNIX yet implement 80% of what TOG
says a "Real UNIX" is supposed to have.

>Is NT a dominant player in that market?  Seemed late to the party, not
>better, and frequently to disappoint it's customers.

NT/2K is _the_ dominent player in mid-level servers today with Linux a close

>Returning to software, aren't the variant forms of commercial linux supply
>examples of a business model that uses the standardized software and
>hardware to it's advantage in pursuing a very different business model?

The penetration statistics of the various "brands" of Linux today are
one of the more hotly debated arguments.  I don't have an answer because
I don't know if todays Linux market is that of one single monopolistic
dominant player (ie: Red Hat) with a lot of smaller ones, or all of the
brands have equal penetration.

>And couldn't you argue that yahoo, for example, has created a massive OS
>and suite of apps that are recognizable yet unique based on FreeBSD?

Yes, I don't know if it's relevant, though.  I'm not talking apps, I'm
OS here.

>what _does_ amazon run on?
>Microsoft's two main sources of revenue to this day are windows and office.
>Without the ability to make products that are un-knockoffable due to
>proprietary information that is not shared with third party (competitive)
>developers, they would have _no means_ of enforcing their agreements with
>Dell and others.

Part of this argument is the "DR-DOS" argument and it's been proven to be
DR.DOS was a clone of MS-DOS as you should know.  The idea behind it was to
a competitive DOS to MS-DOS and price it cheaper and split the DOS market.
never worked because DR-DOS didn't offer any increased functionality over
regular MS-DOS that was significant enough to induce people to switch.
Because it was a clone it retained all of the bad parts of MS-DOS.  Users
all decided that for the slight
benefit of a cheaper OS, that wasn't offset by the potential incomatability.
In short, if your a user who has bought-off on the idea of running all your
apps on DOS, then going the last 10 feet and purchasing the actual Real
McCoy instead of the fake was the smart thing to do.

Extrapolate this to be 2 competitve versions of Windows - the runner-up
probably fail for the same reasons.

You are right about one thing - the competitive edge to the Office suite,
Clearly, withholding details that would help Office's competitors certainly
does indicate that Microsoft is actually treating both the OS and the
Application as a
single product.  This means that out of the desktop PC software market, the
actual coverage of the single windows/Office product is far larger.  That
weakens their argument that they are not a monopoly.

Ted Mittelstaedt                      tedm@toybox.placo.com
Author of:          The FreeBSD Corporate Networker's Guide
Book website:         http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com

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