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Re: [seul-edu] Revisiting: Asking Commercial Companies for ports from MAC/WIN to linux

Steelhead wrote:

> Two questions came up very quickly.  Would we License it from them.
> What kind of revenue would they be able to expect.

Quick answers:  No, "we" (meaning anyone interested in coding a work-alike)
wouldn't license their software.  Porting the look'n'feel independently
would seem to have already answered that question.  Since it would be an
independent application, they wouldn't be able to expect _any_ revenue from

> The notion of "giving away" the product was a terrible fear, how would
> they produce revenue if we gave away a competing product.  As I recall
> from the CUE conference last fall, there were thoughts by several
> companies to port to Linux, but there was no commitment.  A problem is
> seen in the business model they follow: they see Linux as destroying all
> potential profits.

Well, if somebody developed a work-alike, they wouldn't be giving anything
away, they'd be competing.  How do you compete with a free product?  This is
a currently unresolved question in the software world in general.  My
feeling is that many small companies in the educational arena that make
"sell-and-forget" software (software that doesn't require subsequent service
and support) have no incentive whatsoever to provide Linux ports as free or
open source software.  There's nothing inherently wrong with that, either.
The cost of such software can be thought of as incentive to continue
development and creation of new applications.  In the free and open source
world, such incentive comes primarily from personal intellectual curiosity
among the coders.  This means that if don't find an app interesting and/or
cool to write, it never appears.  That's probably why we find few if any OSS
equivalents to Reader Rabbit or Math Blaster.

What this means to me is that once we start to see large numbers of Linux
systems in schools as desktop machines there will be markets for the kind of
software that OSS coders aren't interested in writing.  More specifically,
there will be markets for software systems where the underlying "engines"
may be free software but where the "datasets" are proprietary and
commercial.  Think about a generic free engine for a series of educational
games like Oregon Trail/Amazon Trail, for which companies write additional
scenarios (Yukon Trail, Zambesi Trail, etc.).  Anyone could write these
scenarios and sell them under whatever copyright terms they like (including
GPL).  An additional revenue stream could come from ancillary materials like
workbooks, filmstrips, etc. created to supplement the software.

> What should we say?  Should we ask cool companies to port, should we
> "borrow" the look and feel, should we just ignore what the teachers
> using the product like?

I think we should ask them to join us here if they're seriously interested
in the possibility of porting to Linux.  They can ask their questions and we
can discuss them in depth, giving them whatever benefit they can derive from
our insight.

Doug Loss                 God is a comedian playing
Data Network Coordinator  to an audience too afraid
Bloomsburg University     to laugh.
dloss@bloomu.edu                Voltaire