Subject: Re: LispWorks Pricing Information from Xanalys
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 09 Dec 2000 14:05:14 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Dr Nick Levine <>
| The interesting difference between LispWorks and Allegro pricing
| remains the issue of charging - or not - for runtimes. Without wishing
| to forestall the debate, it is my opinion what whatever commercial
| difficulties Harlequin as-was had with its lisp products in the past,
| free runtimes was not the cause.

  I have tried, but I can't make sense of this last statement.   Did the
  Lisp product bring in "enough" money that you did not have any need
  for royalties?  It seems odd that a license to print money would not
  be useful to someone, especially someone in commercial difficulties.
  Would it not have mattered if they got any money from royalties?
  (That means no relevant user base, which contradicts other information
  I have.)  I also find it strange that one can have opinions about
  accounting issues, so I guess you mean that it is your opinion that if
  they did charge for runtimes, they would have lost an equal amount of
  sales, which I suppose is a valid opinion.  However, I think it is
  hard to pin anything down on a single cause, so for any contributory
  cause, you could easily say "it was not the cause" unless it was so
  major a contributory cause that it would at least have equalled the
  rest combined.  Since that is unlikely, unless the whole business were
  focused around royalties, which we know was not Harlequin's model, I
  can't make heads or tails of what you're trying to say about Harlequin.

  If we apply an interpreter of British understatements and general
  vagueness in preference to precision, however, I get the impression
  you're trying very hard to have an opinion about another company,
  which _does_ have royalties as part of their business model and that
  you are trying to invalidate that model by implication.

  Personally, I think the whole business model of the software industry
  is rotten to the core.  Microsoft is not even a contributory cause --
  Bill Gates isn't smart enough to invent or create something like this.
  It used to be the norm that software was essentially free (gratis) and
  just vehicles to move hardware, which was tangible enough to make it
  easy for the anal-retentive beancounters to count and weigh and such,
  especially those in the government offices in charge of squeezing the
  juice of out the produce of society.  I think the software crisis has
  been created by the tax laws and government officials who were unable
  to understand the value of the computer industry products.  Since the
  Western business world is operating very closely in a trigger-response
  pattern relative to changes to the tax laws, the regulators are fully
  to blame for the inability of societies to value software properly,
  and hence the "protection" the software industry got in the Y2K scare,
  the ability to skirt warranty and every other consumer protection law,
  the non-constitutionality of the War on Software Piracy (which is much
  worse than the absolutely insane War on Drugs measured in results and
  costs and accepted loss of personal freedom), and numerous additional
  deep-rooted and pandemic consequences of bad (working to destroy) and
  sometimes evil (intended to destroy) policy and ignorant idiots with
  too much power.  One of the consequences is that software development
  is paid for over the marketing budgets, like cheap plastic pens with
  logo imprints that work no longer than you remember where you got it
  and T-shirts of so low quality that they couldn't have been sold as
  clothes -- when you give some trinket away as a marketing gimmick, of
  course you don't want to warrant, support, or maintain it, and of
  course nobody would even dream of paying royalties for it, they can
  just get another cheap pen or T-shirt or shirnk-wrapped software
  package of the shelf somewhere else.  Microsoft, the ruling king of
  mass marketed trinketware, are just surfing on the same tsunami that
  lifted Taiwan and Hong Kong from poverty into an inflated economy that
  just _had_ to crash down and wash out _enormous_ values some day.  We
  see the same situation in the so-called Internet business and lots of
  people have written articles and books about why it cannot succeed in
  the long term the way it operates today.  In the meantime, producers
  of fine pens and quality clothes and excellent software suffer because
  they cannot brand their products with their own logos in large print
  and give them away while waiting for the wash-out.  While the users
  are waiting for quality software, lobbyists have even succeeded in
  exempting Internet companies from sales tax, rewarding incompetence
  and waste, computers and software have remarkably short lifetimes in
  the generally accepted accounting principles and tax laws, often with
  depreciation to near zero before Moore's law could possibly apply,
  rewarding "investment" in new hardware as a very good way to reduce
  your taxable profits for the entire business market.  Like an economy
  where the inflation is so high you'd better spend your money while it
  is still hot off the printing presses or it'll be worthless, you have
  to be inordinately smart and probably rich in real values to recognize
  what the _real_ values will be a few years down the line.  But like
  all inflation, the inflation in the software industry is caused by the
  government policies of _devaluation_ of the reference valuables, which
  when push really comes to shove is the ability of the average citizen
  to secure a reasonable living after his ability to work hard enough to
  produce more than he consumes has been depleted by the passage of time
  -- or, in other words: Our trust in a stable future.  That is the real
  victim of the ongoing novelty craze and the give-away culture that has
  resulted from massively retarded policy decisions shortly after WWII,
  when the government goal was to rebuild and instill hope in the future
  near term.  The government role has since been reversed because the
  near term future of its past policies are now _our_ past.  Instead of
  being a guarantor of stability and long-term safety that each of us
  cannot build or even maintain on our own, policies in the information
  technology industries have turned into guarantors of instability and
  short-term profiteering, effectively betting the future on the fun we
  can have today, a massive lottery where everybody loses, especially
  the guy who wins $25 million and discovers that everybody else has to
  _continue_ to play (read: lose money to) the lottery for him to get
  monthly installments.   The software industry has turned into a
  pyramid game because the government valuation strategies for software
  have penalized longevity.  It has absolutely _nothing_ to do with the
  so-called "rapid pace" of the technological development.  It isn't
  rapid and I'll dispute a claim of general development, too.  It's all
  about marketing old ideas in new and ever more shiny wrappings, and
  nobody does that better than Microsoft today.  Their "innovation" is
  _purely_ restricted to more shiny wrappings, because that is where the
  money is in today's market.  Here's how to destroy their power: Force
  software and hardware acquisition costs to be depreciated over no less
  than five years, and treat support, royalties, and other lifetime
  costs as financial costs, effectively loans to the vendor.  There will
  be lots of excruciating pain lining up for the stupid people who bet
  their future on the short-term fun and the quick buck, but that's just
  life: Quick bucks sometimes vanish with no notice whatsoever and if
  you reap enormous profits in the short term, you're supposed to take
  care of the long-term saving yourself, anyway.  Government was set up
  to protect society as a whole and all individuals, not only some of
  them, and it currently protects only some individuals at the expense
  of our future and the long-term stability of society as a whole.
  Worse, it's the government that is playing the lottery with its
  citizens and random fate will determine which us have to pay the big
  prize the government decides to collect if it isn't stopped from
  betting our future on low-quality software by rewarding incompetence
  and short-term profiteering in the information technology industry.

  Programming never was just about making some trinket please a user or
  a programmer, but building infrastructure and long-term solutions and
  improvements to the human condition.  The global interdependency on
  software makes low-quality software even in the home and small office
  a serious threat to our ability to maintain safe and secure living
  conditions.  E.g., viruses, which threaten both financial stability
  and vital information, are caused by Microsoft, not malicious hackers
  like that self-serving jerk Bill Gates constantly whines, as we all
  _know_ that bad people exist and will always exist and form a threat
  to our safety unless we take precautions against them.  Responsibility
  for the failure to take such precautions cannot be placed anywhere but
  on the creator of the vehicle of the malice -- ironically recognized
  by the U.S. court system for everything _but_ software.  The unique
  perspective of longevity and stability of a programming language like
  Common Lisp is what _may_ save us all through the impending crash, and
  the ability to save up enough cash to survive the wash-out is crucial
  to carrying us through.

  To bring this back to the concrete level: The commercial difficulties
  that Harlequin had, no matter what their causes, is a strong indicator
  that they some if not all factors of their operations were not smart
  enough.  I'm loathe to exonerate free runtimes and no royalties just
  because someone waves his hand and opines indirectly that something
  else was "the cause".  Instead, I think software _should_ be subject
  to continued payments as if they were services actually produced by
  the people who produced the software.  The legalistic reasoning behind
  this is that software is not static like hardware, and that it takes
  effort and incredible levels of foresight and intelligence to ensure
  that software continues to work under changing conditions, which means
  that royalty implies warranty and vice versa, and that this warranty
  cannot be paid for through purchase of a product alone because of the
  varying cost of the warranty according to the risks involved in the
  different uses it sees.   The only time you should accept _not_ to pay
  royalties is when you have accepted to assume all costs and all risks
  of ownership yourself, and if you do that, you're a goddamn fool, in
  _any_ business relationship, meaning that whoever got away with
  selling you shrink-wrapped software without normal product warranty is
  a con artist and a fraud and should hae been prosecuted and shut down
  by the government.  Instead, we have the government perpetrating the
  worst possible fraudulence towards its own citizens by allowing the
  continued operation of software companies that threaten the very
  fabric of society through an open-ended license to engage in what
  would have been criminal neglect in any other industry.

  Then again, people have their daily routines to go through, not enough
  cash to think long-term, and generally lead lives they do not control,
  so they don't hae time to concern themselves with what they fear might
  be huge policy issues well outside their graspability, but which
  really comes down to this: If the U.S. Government continues to protect
  the essentially fraudulent operation of the software industry and
  continue to support corporations which deny and ridicule the concept
  of product warranty, it bets the future of its citizens on a whimsical
  idea that safety and stability are _unnecessary_ in the software world
  and therefore that there _are_ no risks worth defending and preparing
  against, meaning: The government doesn't care what happens to any of
  its citizens 10-20-40 years down the line, but it is impossible for
  any one of us to prepare ourselves for more than a few years ahead,
  and the more complex the infrastructure we rely on, the fewer years,
  and that affects the entire globe.  The U.S. Government is gambling
  with the lives of billions of people when it protects the software
  industry from having to conform to quality measures and allows the
  industry to run pyramid games and using future funds to pay for past
  mistakes.  This is criminal recklessness on a global scale, and no
  significant number of voters will notice until their pension funds and
  social security evaporate due to the impending crash in the protected

  Paying royalties to one company when you have the option of not paying
  royalties to another company is not going to change the big picture,
  but a company with commercial difficulties _not_ demanding royalties
  is tantamount to _encouraging_ further recklessness.  Being a parasite
  off of the marking budgets of large corporations who try to get paid
  for something entirely different is not my idea of supporting longevity
  of anything, so using marketing-funded tools is very far from what I
  consider rational use of my time and money, not the least because the
  marketing-funded tools will have to continue to amaze and thrill the
  statistical fraction of the mass market in marketing terms, not in any
  quality terms that a product that has to pay for itself from every one
  of its customers would have to do.

  Sorry for the gravity of the message.  My cat's back from the hospital
  with about 7 lives to go, and longevity issues tend to crop up with me
  when the threat of its absence is most clear and present.  Have a nice
  weekend, though -- I know I will.

  "When you are having a bad day and it seems like everybody is trying
   to piss you off, remember that it takes 42 muscles to produce a
   frown, but only 4 muscles to work the trigger of a good sniper rifle."
								-- Unknown