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There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

This week’s announcement from Microsoft that they will be giving away developer software free to students and the BLOG posts on the topic, left me with two very different opinions I wanted to share.   

First thing I want to point out was an omission by those folks, like CMS Watch “Microsoft’s new game plan: Target the dorm room.“, that says this is new.  Hello?  Ever hear of Microsoft Office?  For those of you who didn’t believe in computers back in the early 90’s, Microsoft gave away copies of Word and Excel to students free in their college text books.  Back in those days most companies were using products like WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.  But adoption in organizations was slow because the computer was a scary thing back then.  So Microsoft went after the next generation and as more and more computer savvy graduates entered the workforce we started to see WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 disappear.  The real lesson here to Microsoft, it’s too little too late.  With most of the JAVA tools already free for several years all they are really doing is bringing their products to parity.  It’s still a mindshare battle and one that Microsoft’s loosing. 

The second opinion came after reading John Komintez’s BLOG post “When Free Equal Profit.”  If his comments stayed around students, I would agreed whole heartedly.  I could see offering a Documentum developers platform to schools for free.  But when you’re talking about the professional world where you’re making money off the product, well isn’t that a tools of the trade.  When I was growing up my father was a house painter.  The only thing his clients paid for was the paint he put on the walls and the sweat it took to put it there.  He bought buckets, paintbrushes, ladders, drop cloths, the truck to lug it all around in, and the gas every week to fill the tank.  This came from the money in his own pockets, the money he got paid by the clients.  EMC does have a partner program and once you join you get access to their software and the price to join is no where near the costs to buy the software yourself.  That’s why companies join the partner program and I think it’s a fair pay-to-play model.  Yes it’s costs money every year, just like the Developer Network on Microsoft.  And yes you have to pay for it, just like your copy of Microsoft Office on your computer.  But in the end, there is intellectual and dollar value in software.  How many of us would let our clients share solutions we’ve developed for them with others and not pay us?  No one would. 

Am I saying how EMC/ Documentum treats the development community perfect?  No.  But this is the way of the content management space today.  They are no different and no better then anyone else in this space.  But that opinion is for another time.

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