[thelist] pricing blobs-o-bits (was: cheap software spam - how do they do it?)

Max Schwanekamp lists at neptunewebworks.com
Wed Mar 15 01:05:56 CST 2006

Ken Schaefer wrote:
> : You are approaching what I say with entirely the wrong mindset to
> : understand what I'm actually saying.
> : 
> : For the moment, forget the support hotline, shrinkwrap, fancy box, 60
> : second commercial on 100 different cable TV and broadcast channels
> : <snip />  Take all that out,
> : and the cost to develop a given program into something usable drops
> : significantly (and we begin to see just where that $1200 for this Adobe
> : Suite thing actually goes).

To say that the marketing efforts are superfluous to the production of 
commercial software is IMHO naive.  Without the marketing efforts, net 
sales would be a small fraction of what they would otherwise be, and the 
company would be able to pay far fewer people to produce *and support* 
that software.  That software would have a smaller userbase, with fewer 
maintainers, and inferior support services compared to the competition's 
products. In short, the company would die.

> : Besides, it doesn't hold water, as
> : people do make money selling copies of free software: the people that
> : really do need the disc, shrinkwrap, and fancy box get it, and those
> : that don't, don't.

RedHat, Mandriva, et al certainly isn't just providing fancy copies of 
their software for a profit.  They're also providing support, updates, 
communication, and so on.  Sure there are some folks charging a few 
bucks for burned copies of open source software, but you cannot compare 
them to software development companies like Adobe.  *That* would be 

> That's a completely different business model. A business can choose which
> model they wish to use. For those that choose to charge upfront for
> development, then I don't see why paying a fair price for it is such an
> outrageous suggestion. People on this list charge hundreds to thousands of
> dollars for their time/effort. Doesn't seem any different to me.

Ken has a good point here: paying upfront costs vs. costs distributed 
over time; i.e. assessing total cost of ownership.  If you pay $1200 to 
Adobe, you get a suite of pro-level programs, reaonably-complete 
documentation, support services and free updates for a period of time (a 
year, I imagine).  If you choose to instead use alternative free or 
low-cost tools, you are likely to spend more time hunting for 
documentation (if it exists), may have to pay someone $50/hr anyway to 
help you when you have a problem (or spend hours hunting through support 
forums), etc.  Whether dollars or hours, the shrinkwrap-free 
alternatives also have significant costs.  My point here is not to 
compare the relative merits of differing business/development practices. 
Rather I'm saying your implication, that people are foolish for paying 
$1200 for a blob-o-bits from Adobe because all they're paying for is a 
lot of marketing noise and a fancy shrinkwrapped package, is inaccurate.

Max Schwanekamp

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