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Fairware: an interesting experiment in getting paid for Open Source

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Paul Keith:
There are no *needs* in terms of software then, by that definition.  Show me a software package that there are no alternatives for that aren't incredibly niche so that the market is very small.-wraith808
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This is not directed at me so I'm not sure superboyac agrees but to me these stand out:

Dropbox is middle on the road but in terms of it vs. it's alternatives - it's the only one that attacked it not from file storage but from file manager integration. This allowed them to ask for a higher price.

Evernote is still very early but when they shifted their design, it not only built their brand but now they have the most hardware partners for their niche + target audience and depending on how the demand evolves due to these new gadgets, they could still get away with an Evernote Suite or an Evernote branded hardware. Alternative wise, it's more of a negative. No notetaker/clipper as slow and as bad and as broken as this has gotten the model quite as right and have built a community quite as exposed as them.

Depending on where you side, MS Office Suite has never been challenged until Google did it and both cases were notable because they sidestepped the core Suite issue. Even if you side with the fact that these are major brands with their advertising, Google has had to attack the need of cloud storage rather than Office Suite to bypass this and MS had the intelligence to make things like MS Word the dominant need beyond even their own product in Wordpad/Notepad and almost everyone still see alternatives as the MS word interface and only nowadays with the Ribbon had MS attempted to eat away at Google's growing userbase. Even right now with arguably better alternatives like Zoho and Google losing somewhat in terms of focus, they have been constantly redefining and re-upgrading the spot where the want comes that it becomes close to a need.

The problem with speaking in niche though currently is that startups and this tablet transition skewers the opportunity somewhat. Instapaper for example may not be notable. It may be niche. Problem is, they have been one of the more well known niche service that killed social bookmarking and so now how do competitors compete in that space especially if the better product couldn't set forth a space because people are used to the Instapaper interface? There's a lot of these different mold-like developments right now that skewers what "need" really is and yet if you look at the direction of Apple - that's the direction they took too to get to where they are today. By platform building, they were both recreating their space and they are also giving everyone this space to compete within their space and right now it's not quite a need but long term, you're going to see a shift from software needs via hardware requirement needs, micro-payment like applications, less brand names and more brand platforms, and DLC, and it's going to redefine the need and whoever is the most strategic/ambitious  - the smaller niche pie is going to be the new big market on top of whether it's Apple or Google or if the old guard in MS releasing that next Windows platform.

Look at it this way - for the most part of the proliferation of the pseudo need space of many concepts, there was a concept that created the profits. Apple constantly got that wrong. Being more niche than you would think they are. But they also built it good enough. Unorthodox enough. Then they start releasing Ipods and then they move towards the Ipad store and suddenly just like newspapers whom became about yellow journalism, human interest, biased news reporting and sensationalism (all making news more profitable and watchable): software right now is heading more and more towards that different landscape. A landscape where need is closer to the profit way than the competitive battle to gain a better slice of the pie like what happens with the freeware/Open Source/freemium/subscription upgrades/etc model of the past/current. A landscape that, even now, is slowing making you lose out  - not because you currently have software needs but because you lack the hardware. Something that as it evolves would slowly turn into a software need much like Apple has done but this time within truer software space as opposed to the run about Apple has had because Apple originated more from a hardware setting with a more primitive history than the current scenario where everyone almost has hardware but they don't quite have the right hardware but the right hardware is gaining both popularity and closed gardens that makes it important for the need to be there.

There are no *needs* in terms of software then, by that definition.  Show me a software package that there are no alternatives for that aren't incredibly niche so that the market is very small.-wraith808
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This is not directed at me so I'm not sure superboyac agrees but to me these stand out:
-Paul Keith (September 22, 2011, 10:40 PM)
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There are free alternatives to all of the ones that you mention, and there have always been.  To single out the biggest one on your list, Microsoft Office has not become the giant it is because you need it, nor because its the best, nor because there aren't alternatives.  They have become the largest because of marketing, and the ability to convince people that they need it.

And that's my point.  In software, there are very few that are actually needed.  But there are quite a few that convinced people otherwise, either through some sort of perceived characteristic.

Paul Keith:
That only applies if you only ignore the software needs of the user.

Part of superboyac's point is that your alternatives is looking at it from categories and often tech categories.

It's not that the free alternatives are not there but the alternatives are not addressing the need.

Marketing can only answer a portion of it. Innovation, focus, usability...there's a lot there that is being missed out.

This is why in the Office Suite, I specifically aimed it at Word. Why is it that marketing couldn't do the same for notepad or wordpad? Not only that, why is it that a relatively marketing ignored OneNote was considered among the most innovative notetakers when it was released. Not only that, when it was released, there were no free or paid alternatives that were exactly like it. Even today I'm still not sure if there is one though the hype has died down in favor of Android/Iphone apps.

This doesn't mean the above are extremely good examples but the point is, your point does not conflict with superboyac's points. It only does so if we quibble on what "needs" truly mean. Not when it has actually entered the consciousness of the consumer. It also belies the fact that marketing can't solve anything. Google Wave had the marketing. Had the initial hype. It was killed off eventually.

It would be both an insult to marketing and to users to say that they are only being convinced. Part of it is perception but the key to perception is always to recover that perception and to recover that perception, especially for software, you have to engage both outside the software (the hype, buzz, etc.) then once it dies down you still have to have a feature that the user wants (the initial ui, the obvious feature) and then finally you have to have not only the long lasting combination of both that slowly turns the wanting user into a needy user but then you have to do so every update or find a way where people are just getting used to their ownership/perceived ownership of a product being updated and then continue to churn their interest.

Only when that circle of cult-like effect has been begun can you get to the proverbial "convince people that they need it" effect. (Key word in begin, as Apple is a good example of a brand that continues weaving it as opposed to just settling on the surface + beating the marketing through pure quantity of marketing/ad style exposure and linear upgrades.)

...and to get to that stage especially in competitive arenas, the actual software need has to be focused elsewhere while on the tech surface seeming like it's merely a "category" when in actually it's a different "intended" category. Sort of like movies. The difference between big budgeted well marketed movies that succeeds is often times those that failed simply tried to believe they are convincing people that the movie is a movie of this kind. The ones who often succeeded so much though were actually ones that can be argued as mainly aiming at a different actual need/want.


I'm not claiming he intended this but when you actually look at the effect of the Nolan Batman movies versus that of movies trying to be superhero movies, his movies fit that bill but what Nolan was actually offering at the time of Batman Begins was a decent departure from the perceived comedic Batman movies. Basically instead of focusing on the want/pseudoneed for a superhero movie, he focused on the pseudoneed for a decent Batman film and instead of adding the want on the feature, he added it to the casts and thus he didn't need to create the want after it's released. The need he focused on combined with the want of the consumer mixed to become a fulfilled want that seemingly wasn't there that further helped the marketing blow up the movie beyond what it is which further increased interest and not only profit hence producing a different type of convinced want that was so in demand that it became close to a celebration within it's circles. A celebration that in turn can be rationalized as a justified need for getting back superhero films into being profitable.

The Dark Knight was another example that had the Joker failed, it was just Batman in a bad voice in a generic summer film. Had the Dark Knight tried to fill the want/pseudoneed for a sequel to BB, it would have been the same disappointment. Because it didn't and focused on the want of a BB sequel but worked on the need for a next generation villain that caught everyone off guard - the Dark Knight became somewhat of a controversial classic and broke new grounds for a superhero film.

You could say, well Batman is unclonable but what about Iron Man? Many people felt like Jon Favreau was handed a movie that couldn't fail but it was just as much that Iron Man succeeded along with Batman despite being an entirely different film because Iron Man tried to be a technological masterpiece rather than a superhero movie. How did it do this? By not focusing on the actual quality of the movie or the storytelling but on focusing on a supposed need for making fans proud of the great casting and great special effects. You could argue that this was the obvious route to take but still, considering how lacking the Iron Man is and yet comparing it to how much it was praised? It's still somewhat of a trend setter in that it's still considered one of the better superhero movies. Most importantly is though is how it answered Why it did this like this. Had it been a more traditional superhero origins film, it would have associated itself with BB and because it was competing with the Dark Knight - being associated as BB Iron Man would have made the actual post-feel of the movie seemed inferior, dated or somewhat off in a bad way. Instead it was somewhat lacking yet garnered more praises even from those who criticize it.

All these are controversial of course but the superhero films are one of the most head scratching movie genres to get correctly. The ones who truly succeed at the box office often are stereotyped as ones who went away from the plotlines or feel of the comics when at the same time, the genres who try to be more of a comic also often get accused of ruining the characters it tried to represent where as these movies are seen doing justice to it's movie interpretation of the heroes - even though that's what comic book fans often are critical about before a well done film trailer hypes them out of it. It almost like no one truly gets it until they get it. Even for the recent blockbuster movies nowadays, read the critical reviews and watch the actual film, they are very lacking but in their lacking they become more highly praised. The ones with more traditional content and movie pacing are often the ones that are seen as very bad.

It's one of the most weird categories to nail down for movie makers and it's a genre whose alternatives can be considered aplenty but despite better technologies, it's also a genre that seems to keep falling on it's head especially for ambitious projects. Yet why is that? The answer is controversial but for me, like software design, one strong hint is this focus on actual needs. (Using superboyac's terms, not mine.) An actual need that is a mix of wants turned needs turned wants turned pseudo need turned brand success turned brand need turned brand convincing turned effective brand convincing because at the point it took place it had a loyal fanbase already and was trending turned brand again turned credit being given to charisma, marketing, intangible "personality" of the actual dev/maker/company/etc. post success turned the mythology for it's success. (I'm not trying to say your words should have been more specific though - just that it's a different kind of procedurial "need" - at least to my observation. One that can be credited to x company having intangible mojo, timing, un-duplicable something and yet something that has also been shown to be duplicable in small spurts that follows a certain focus on a specific direction not unseen even for the most ignorant consumers as often they are the ones who pick it up, and one that when it succeeds often seems to mess up the clones who try to follow it's categories that range from features to specs to usability but never seeming to capture that moment. I still don't want to just call it working on the users' needs [too simple; too many failed/middle range business fulfilling that but never getting past a certain exposure; too implicative of the idea that the customer knows what they want] but that's the term superboyac used.)

My gut response is to ask, "Why can't it be duplicated?!"
-superboyac (September 22, 2011, 08:26 PM)
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Three reasons.

Apple has enjoyed the benefits of:

* Public tolerance and forbearance for most of its excesses
* Unusual luck
* An easily abused legal system

(1) Steve Jobs (and Apple by extension) is divine.

Divinities are usually held to be exempt from the rules that govern the lives of the non-gods. And as a general rule, society only tolerates one divinity at a time.

One of the reasons why Madonna got away with what she did for as long as she did was because she was the designated "bad girl." When Madonna misbehaved, society bent over backwards to justify it in the name of "art" and "creativity." Anybody else who attempted to copy her shtick too closely, or horn in on her bad girl act, was denounced. Because Madonna was Madonna. She had permission to carry on that way. Anybody else who did was considered a common "slut."

Steve Jobs is very much like Madonna in that regard.

Unfortunately, we eventually tire of our gods - and offer them up for sacrifice once we do.

Madonna went from being a 'sensation' to being generally scorned. And it happened virtually overnight.

Steve Jobs is not like Madonna in that respect.

At least not yet.  ;)

2) Being in the right place at a unique time.

Apple caught the leading edge of a radical and unpredicted technological change (i.e. the microprocessor) and rode it for all it was worth.

Full props to them for doing so. But that's not the sort of thing you can plan on happening.

And with the maturation of the industry and market, many of the profit niches have now been occupied. And most of the low hanging fruit has also been harvested. Which is not to say there still aren't fortunes to be made. But those newly entering the fray will quickly discover they'll have to climb higher - and shinny out onto much thinner branches - to do so.

3) Barriers to entry.

There are many.

But in this context, the single biggest barrier to entry is the advent of litigation as a key element in corporate competitive strategy. Patent and tort law are being widely abused in order to stifle innovation and prevent competition.

Apple may have gotten where it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. But they (like most of the other big players) are hell bent on making sure nobody else can follow their example.

And because it's become a mature industry, size and capital offer major advantages when dealing with the competition. Especially on the legal front.


If you truly do have an innovative technology you've developed, expect to either be bought out by one of the big companies - or sued out of existence.

This issue has been discussed so often that it's not necessary to say much more about it than that.


And it's for those reasons that I say Apple's game can't be duplicated. 8)

Why is it that marketing couldn't do the same for notepad or wordpad?
-Paul Keith (September 23, 2011, 12:46 AM)
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They're free and MS includes them as a courtesy as part of the FS so they don't care about it?

This doesn't mean the above are extremely good examples but the point is, your point does not conflict with superboyac's points. It only does so if we quibble on what "needs" truly mean. Not when it has actually entered the consciousness of the consumer. It also belies the fact that marketing can't solve anything. Google Wave had the marketing. Had the initial hype. It was killed off eventually.
-Paul Keith (September 23, 2011, 12:46 AM)
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I wasn't quibbling on the word need.  My point was that need doesn't drive consumption necessarily.  In the other situations that you refer to (dropbox, evernote) it was marketing, also.  People discount marketing, then talk about the church of Jobs/Apple.  Truthfully, on an innovation level, they aren't doing anything differently than they have been for years.  It's all about the marketing.  Look at their history, and IMO its pretty clear to see.


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