When You’re Getting Software or Other Stuff on the ‘Net for Free, what are the Costs?

by on June 19, 2009 · 8 comments

freeCome one, come all. ACT will be hosting a lunch event next Tuesday (June 23) at noon on privacy, free software, and government procurement.

We’ll discuss “free” software (ie. no license fees, free as in beer). It’s a nuanced take on some of what Chris Anderson will surely be talking about in his upcoming book on Free—where does the $ come from in software that we all use for free on the web, or that we download to our computer?

To answer this question, we’ll attempt to update traditional Total Cost of Ownership analysis for ad-based software and services. There’s a lot of discussion about privacy, security and sustainability considerations of cloud based solutions. In addition, the event will deal with skeptics who think that “free” means no business model at all. We’ll describe how free software and services are usually just one aspect of a larger enterprise geared toward expanding market penetration and increasing revenues. Mike Masnick described this in a recent Techdirt post.

I’m going to moderate, and our speakers will be Rob Atkinson at ITIF, Tom Schatz at CAGW, and Peter Corbett of iStrategyLabs.

We’ll be releasing a paper on all this, so come join us for lunch and a lively discussion–and best of all, it’s FREE!!

Further details are here.

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  • Timon

    A little contribution from someone who won't be able to make it: What if “free” is just part of the life cycle of highly commoditized products?

    Think of how many great free products started out commercial: Open Office, Firefox, PostgreSQL, Blender, free Unix implementations like OpenSolaris or Berkeley or NEXTSTEP, Lotus (Symphony, etc., though “great” probably doesn't apply here), and on and on. “Free” is a fantastic “going out of business” model too! I say that approvingly — there is no reason why lots of software can't have a shorter commercial life span, and live on largely free of business constraints, while helping maintain price pressure on newer products and forcing continued innovation from incumbents.

    Free is a natural end-state for a lot of digital technology. What will happen when advertising also becomes free? (A co-op of advertisers that extract no rent from themselves and guarantees the best prices on everything? An open standard for price comparison that makes online shopping as commoditized as web hosting?) Maybe you should be asking how can we use the currently plausible business models before they actually, really become free, and stop being businesses.

  • Mandy

    Have you ever heard of SSuite Office?

    They have a whole range of free office suites and software applications for download. Best of all is that their software does not run on Java or .NET.


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