Subject: Re: Licensing Model: open downstream apps or proprietary license
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 28 Mar 2003 22:06:22 -0800

Mitchell Baker <Mitchell@osafoundation.org> writes:

> The  goals are to be a broadly adopted, high-quality PIM on all
> platforms, and to ensure that Chandler is always available on an open
> source basis to those who want it.  We also hope to generate a piece
> of the funding that will be necessary to make Chandler development
> self-sufficient.  OSAF is a non-profit organization, so there is no
> "return on investment" goal.  But we do need a way to sustain
> ourselves.
> 
> Your point that a database is much more likely to be distributed as
> part of a larger application is very well taken.  The potential
> revenue for Chandler may be much smaller since it is intended as a
> useful application in and of itself.  On the other hand, we're not
> looking for big profits, only self-sufficiency.  I am acutely
> interested in any ideas for a different focus which you might
> have. Mitchell

If you're looking for funding ideas, FSB might be a better list
(http://crynwr.com/fsb/).

I can think of some suggestions.  In general, though, the problem of
getting money from free software is, as we all know, very hard.

* Build an advertising channel into the PIM.  Sell companies the right
  to advertise on your channel.  Sell end users the right to turn off
  the advertising.

  + Since the PIM is open source, obviously somebody could distribute
    a version without advertising.  To avoid that, ask Red Hat and
    other Linux distributions to distribute the version with
    advertising; give Red Hat a cut if you have to.  On Windows and
    Mac, my guess is that people are less likely to widely distribute
    a version without advertising.

  + In general, I think computer users, particularly free software
    users, will walk ten miles to avoid paying $25.  So you can't
    expect to get much from end users on this tactic--most people will
    take the ads.  But you may be able to sell the non-advertising
    version directly to companies.

* Build in a way to distribute general notices and set appointments
  for other people.  Go to corporations and sell them the whole
  package.  Charge them per-user.  Corporations are used to paying
  per-user, and probably won't be bothered that they are paying that
  for free software.

  + But you have to compete directly with Microsoft Outlook plus
    Microsoft Exchange, which is very very tough.  Microsoft will buy
    business to keep you out.  Linux shops are less likely to pay.

* Sell support for the development kit, to add new synchronization
  targets or whatever.

  + Kind of a small market.

* Sell customized versions to corporations.  I'm not really sure how
  you would customize it, but there must be some way.  At the very
  least you could have the corporation logo up in the corner or
  something.

* Sell e-mail boxes, private calendars, and shared calendars.  Add the
  ability to talk to multiple shared calendars, and sell shared
  calendar services to organizations everywhere.  Sell them cheap, and
  have the PIM advertise your services to users.

  + Your competitor here is probably Yahoo, but the PIM can push
    people to your service.

  + Sell the fancy service to small businesses, with extra
    features (not sure what these would be, but there must be
    something).

  + I see that you have P2P file sharing, so sell a service to provide
    sharing to a group, and to provide backups, etc.  Build a server
    so people can do this themselves, and sell support for the server.

* Find a big company which really needs to share information, and
  hates MS Outlook/Exchange.  Sell your soul to them--give them
  anything they want, except that you get to keep the software free.
  Promise that you will save them big bucks.  Deliver.

* Global companies have a problem with sharing information between far
  flung operations, especially ones with low speed Internet access.
  Solve their problem.  Find a way to charge them for it--they'll
  probably be happy to pay for a solution, without worrying about
  whether the solution is free software or not.  (This what we tried
  to do at Zembu, in a different way; we found plenty of potential
  customers, but none who would take a risk on a startup with unproven
  technology.  Using free software might get past the ``unproven
  technology'' hurdle.)

* Start a fan club.  Start a mailing list.  Sell T-shirts and coffee
  mugs.  Have a club newsletter, and charge for memberships; give
  early access to new versions to members.  Sell the right to get
  particular issues addressed.  Sell personalized icons.  Sell the
  right to spend a night at Mitch Kapor's house.

OK, there's half a dozen ideas.  Give me a few days and I might come
up with half a dozen more.

I'm sure you can see the basic problem with all of these ideas, which
is that they are all kind of dumb.  They might work, but it's hard to
have much confidence in them; even if you don't want any profit, your
web site lists 15 people, so I would guess that you need at least two
and a half million dollars a year.  Also unfortunately, all these
suggestions require a fairly sincere approach--a half hearted attempt
is certain to fail to make any money.

Good luck.  Ideas are easy.  Implementation is hard.

Ian
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