Linux, politics, and other interesting things
In a comment on my Not All Opinions Are Equal  post AlphaG said “Anonymous comments = free software, no intrinsic value as you got it for nothing”.
After considering the matter I came to the conclusion that almost all software has no intrinsic value (unless you count not being sued for copyright infringement as intrinsic value). When you buy software you generally don’t get a physical item (maybe a CD or DVD), to increase profit margins manuals aren’t printed for most software (it used to be that hefty manuals were shipped to give an impression that you were buying a physical object). Software usually can’t be resold (both due to EULA provisions and sites such as EBay not wanting to accept software for sale) and recently MS has introduced technical measures that prevent even using it on a different computer (which force legitimate customers to purchase more copies of Windows when they buy new hardware but doesn’t stop pirates from using it without paying). Even when software could be legally resold there were always new versions coming out which reduced the sale price to almost zero in a small amount of time.
The difference between free software and proprietary software in terms of value is that when you pay for free software you are paying for support. This therefore compels the vendor to provide good support that is worth the money. Vendors of proprietary software have no incentive to provide good support – at least not unless they are getting paid a significant amount of money on top of the license fees. This is why Red Hat keeps winning in the CIO Vendor Value Studies from CIO Insight . Providing value is essential to the revenue of Red Hat, they need to provide enough value in RHEL support that customers will forgo the opportunity to use CentOS for free.
Thinking of software as having intrinsic value leads to the error of thinking of software purchases as investments. Software is usually outdated in a few years, as is the hardware that is used to run it. Money spent on software and hardware should be considered as being a tax on doing business. This doesn’t mean that purchases should be reduced to the absolute minimum (if systems run slowly they directly decrease productivity and also cause a loss of morale). But it does mean that hardware purchases should not be considered as investments – the hardware will at best be on sale cheap at an auction site in 3-5 years, and purchases of proprietary software are nothing but a tax.