SOFTWARE RIP-OFFS!

Nigel Eastmond nce at rri.sari.ac.uk
Mon Aug 1 09:14:42 EST 1994


Christoph Gartmann (GARTMANN at DE.MPG.IMMUNBIO) wrote:
: In <318i3o$dpv at netnews.upenn.edu> smoore at mail.sas.upenn.edu writes:

: > 	Why does it cost so damn much to get software for the PC (or MAC)
: > to do DNA sequence analysis? --
: ....
: > - now i realize we're dealing with a small market...
: > and it does cost quite a bit to have some group of programmers write
: > software for a topic they have no interest in...

: Exactly! Imagine how many people on the world could need a text-processing
: program compared to the number of biologists. And then how many of the
: biologists need a program for DNA sequence analysis? Not every biologist
: is doing molecular biology.

: And then I realized the mentality of people in science not to pay for software
: but to use illegal copies. A recent study in Austria & Germany reveals the
: percentage of illegal copies on personal computers: in industry around 15%, in
: acdemia around 40%. Even if both markets were equal in size you would have
: to pay a fee that is around 25% higher than an "industrial program".

: > I think that the software industry is taking advantage of the
: > grant-writewr's money...sucking up to places such as the NIH for large
: > contracts...telling them that there is nothing better available....
: > I SAY PHOOEY!

: Try to write a cheap program and sell it or hire a programmer and tell him
: to write the program. You will be rich afterwards if you are right ...
:  
: Regards
:   Christoph Gartmann

: +----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
: | Max-Planck-Institut fuer      Phone   : +49-761-5108-465   Fax: -221       |
: | Immunbiologie                 PSI     : PSI%(0262)45050160374::GARTMANN    |
: | Postfach 1169                 Internet: gartmann at immunbio.mpg.de           |
: | D-79011  Freiburg, FRG                                                     |
: +----------- Do you know MENUE, the user environment for OpenVMS? -----------+

: +----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
: | Max-Planck-Institut fuer      Phone   : +49-761-5108-465   Fax: -221       |
: | Immunbiologie                 PSI     : PSI%(0262)45050160374::GARTMANN    |
: | Postfach 1169                 Internet: gartmann at immunbio.mpg.de           |
: | D-79011  Freiburg, FRG                                                     |
: +----------- Do you know MENUE, the user environment for OpenVMS? -----------+

Let's face it.  Unless you are in defence-related work or are incredibly
lucky there is no money in science.  There is hardly a spare dollar for
research and even less to pay the staff with.  The result is a sector of
industry (which is what it really is) held together with chewing-gum and
string.  How many bit of equipment in your lab have you scrounged or had
to build yourself?  

When it comes to computers, the purchase of a machine may well be the 
largest single consideration for a lab in 5 year period.  A company
like BP Exploration could go out an buy twenty PC's without blinking
an eye.  When it comes to software, the lab which had just blown a
quarter of it's yearly budget on a nice fast Power Macintosh has no cash
left for fancy software.  So it buys a cheap word processor, a graphing
package and leaves the rest to public domain.  Then what happens?  Someone
gives them a trial of something nice and expensive.  Something they really
need.  But ho!  This software costs four times as much as the Mac.  What
do they do?  

Look, what I'm trying to say is that research the world over is being comp-
romised by one thing - money.  It stretches to all parts of a research
program but what single item makes the most difference?  What single item
saves the most time?  What single item do you need for analysis of data,
presentation, slide making and thesis writing?  A computer.  They don't
cost much but hell, the software does.  I wonder what percentage of copies
of specialist Mol.  biol. software is illegal?  I shudder to think.

NCE.







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