New ABI Analysis Upgrade?

James Candlin james at apldbio.com
Tue Apr 12 19:35:16 EST 1994


In article ddp at mserv1.dl.ac.uk, ptaylor at crc.ac.uk (Dr. P.L. Taylor) writes:
>
>Dan Weinreich (dmw at mcz.harvard.edu) wrote :
>
>>Phil:
>>
>>Would it be an immense time-sink for you to develop and post a public
>>domain New-ABI-format-to-Old-ABI-format converter?  From what you say, ABI
>>would give you the technical details for free, so long as you don't also
>>incorporate them into your (very fine) for-profit product.
>>
>>I agree that it's shortsighted of ABI not to support development of
>>products which add value to theirs without cutting into their market.

Not really.  Applied Biosystems has several products which compete directly with
some of the commercial software products mentioned here.  Without wishing to make
an authoritative statement on this policy (which is outside my remit), it's true that 
we do want to recuperate some of the support costs of maintaining the file formats and
associated access software from other commercial suppliers.  On the other hand,
we do support in-house, non-commercial developers free of charge, and we absorb the 
consequent costs, because we do want to encourage innovative software development 
that adds value to the instruments without cutting into our market for software 
products.

I'd like to point out that we consistently adopt the same policy even when we're on
receiving end.  For instance, we recently integrated some FASTA code into our
sequence analysis software.  Although this code is easily obtainable through FTP
and other means, we approached Bill Pearson and the University of Virginia to
officially licence the software at a substantial cost to us, recognizing that FASTA
wasn't free to develop and maintain, and that it does add value to our product.

>The problem here is that ABI don't give out details of their file formats;
>what they supply is a c library to which you can link your code.  This is
>free, but you have to sign an agreement not to distribute any software which
>uses it beyond your immediate site.  Thus I can solve my own immediate problem
>but not supply the solution to others.  I suspect it will just have to be
>done the hard way as usual :-)

We don't do this because we regard the file format as fluid.  The purpose of the 
libraries is to isolate application software from improvements elsewhere in the 
system.  This design is simply good software engineering practice.  We use these
libraries internally in our own application software, and they are no different from
what anyone else gets.  It'd be hard to support direct use of the file format within
our own development efforts, and it'd be a nightmare in the larger community.

This is an development perspective rather than a product marketing one, but I hope
it helps to provide some of the missing context in this discussion.

---

James Candlin

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