Jon Peddie Blogs

My life on free; why Gutenberg and a bunch of monks are rolling in their graves

Posted by Jon Peddie on May 24th 2009 | Discuss
Categories: Blogs, The Market,

Let me tell what I did for a few hours today.

I opened up a short story I wrote seven years ago. I used Open Office Writer, a free and very powerful, fully compatible, word-processor to do do my edits. Then I went to Wordpress and registered for a blog page. Then I installed in my free Firefox web browser (I have three actually, Firefox, Opera, and Safari) a tool for converting from “word” files to HTML for blog entries, called ScribeFire. I took my word-processor file, which I had saved in Word 2007 format and and dropped it in Scribefire. Told Scribefire where my blog was and click, done, my blog was posted and it was time to open a nice Cabernet.

Not counting word-processing (i.e., “creative”) time the total operation (installing, registering, cutting and pasting, etc., took less than two hours. Cost - $0.00 unless you count my lost opportunity time, except that I would have done this even if I had to pay for the software.

Is this Web 2.0? Is free the new business model?

I don't know how these sites can afford to do what they are doing. OK, the software development or licensing is not that expensive, but it needs maintenance and bug fixes. And then there are the servers, and sure, hardware costs are dropping, but still there's electricity to be paid for and probably cooling (and that's definitely not dropping.) And some schlub has to keep those blades and cheapo servers running, OS up to date, routers and switchers maintained, etc. That's ops cost and money to pay for it has to come from somewhere.

But they do it, and have done it. Google will give you a fine office suite for free and store all your docs. Why? just so you'll have to look at their customer's ads when you log in to get your free stuff? Have you ever refinanced your house, got a college degree, bought insurance, a new car, or sex enhancement products because you saw an ad while logging in to get your free stuff? So it's a mystery to me how this stuff is paid for. But you know what my grandmother used to tell me? The best way to ruin a miracle is to try and explain it. The corollary to that may be this: any new technology looks like magic to the ignorant.

Everything I've done tonight while writing this has been free except the hardware I've done it on. And let's look at that. An HP mininote netbook - $400 retail. So let's start at the beginning - I invest $400 (which includes a Microsoft OS) and write this, and post it to my blog. That makes me a publisher, and with my free email program I can blast my posting to the world and get more distribution than the largest book chain, newspaper, or magazine - larger than even the TV networks - and I only used about 30 watts of power and it's at night when kw hr are cheap. And it's all free. At least to me.

How in the world are companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, and Corel going to survive? Why would anyone buy their stuff? OK, HP bought Microsoft's OS or I wouldn't be writing this. But... open Office, Linux, hmmm.


Discuss this entry

Yup, you definitely need to check in with us at the Neophilia Project.

By Ed Ward on 2009 08 25

The cost of becoming published certainly is plummeting, but the value of knowledge is as high as ever. As with every other phase of the information revolution, the process is one of hollowing out the middle and moving the embedded value to the ends. Oh, and I take exception to your headline. I think Gute and the monks would be key contributors to Open Office and Wikipedia.

By Randall Newton on 2009 08 25

Nice post John!

Don’t want to disappoint you, but there’s no mystery really; for example both Open Office and Firefox get a lot of corporate and professional support for development. It’s the “shared interest” model. Having free access to software tools is for many companies more important than owning or reselling it. Especially if those tools are not part their business model anyway.

You probably know how few companies actually make profits on licensing software tools alone… costs for testing, marketing, sales and distribution eat up substantial revenues. The real profits come from support, special versions, bug fixing, training… which is (not surprisingly) the open source business model as well!
You don’t think Autodesk bought Maya and XSI to save money on development?

Anyhow, the cool thing is that free/open software becomes a generic and accepted method of efficiently achieving corporate targets as well. I’ll rub your back, you rub mine… because we’re not selling back scratchers, right?

By Ton Roosendaal on 2009 08 25

Free is nice but nearly free seems to be even more compelling.

Check out If is free, sort of. That is if you don’t mind the ads. For $25/month the ads go away.

For us, setting up a new community including setting up the site, inviting users, and generating and publishing the content is very time consuming. We tried out Ning a couple of weeks ago for our Grasshopper Project (Generative Modeling for Rhino).

The interesting bit is how little time it took to set up less than 5 minutes. But more importantly how little time it took to generate and publish content. Most of the content came from other members and most of it is much better than anything we could produce.

As an author it is not just the publishing tools that are free but also the content. Scary!

By Bob McNeel on 2009 08 25

Thomas Edison (phonograph,. movies, etc.) is no doubt rock and rollin’ in his grave right next to Gutenberg.

By Martin Maloney on 2009 08 25