Time Expired Software!

Andrew Dalke dalke at ks.uiuc.edu
Tue Jan 28 11:07:18 EST 1997


> PC-GENE [...] can charge such a ludicrous
> price?  I can at least see putting a nice graphical interface on it, but
> I guess it's a free market.

  No idea.  That's not my field.  But yes, it is a free market.  If you
think it is cheaper (or you feel like making others happen) learn Tcl/Tk
or Java/AWT or Visual Basic of any of several other scripting languages
with a strong GUI component and make your own interface, then give it out
free.

> Nice breakdown, but it doesn't explain much in terms of the fact (as
> stated above) that most of the programming comes from freeware or
> shareware.

  Umm...  I think I nearly did.  Specifically, quoting myself:
> I've also talked to other academic software institutions that do
> market their product.  The cost is usually around $350 or so, and that
> pretty much covers the overhead needed to market software. 

You also said:
> most of the programming comes from freeware or shareware

  In my field, structural biology, there are very few free programs.
All of the most commonly used simulation code (Amber, Gromos, XPlor and
CHARMm) sell for about $350.  A lot of the visualization code is
in the same range.  I know of only one free structure building program.
  There is some freeware, but usually they provide only a specialized
but highly functionality (DSSP, Babel, etc.) I could go on, or you could
take my word for it, as I've been scoping out the case for keeping our
codes free.


  But again, if only to gratify me, figure and show the cost break down of
PC-GENE or a similar program.  Show the cost of adding each freeware
package, and making the overall infrastructure, and documentation, and
support, and QA, and sys admin, and admin support (secretaries and
custodial work) and overhead (hardware and building) and so on.  Oh
yeah, and the licensing fees/cut some universities want for commercializing
an academic program.  How much do you think it costs even when just
calling them up to ask their prices?

As a bare minimum, you might want to see the "Molecular Biologist's
Workbench" at http://biology.ncsa.uiuc.edu/ .  They do some of the same
things.  So far it has been under development for nearly a year, with
3 people involved, so that puts a minimum cost at $200,000 to write it.
Even with 500 users (which there aren't, have you used it?) that would 
still be $400/person.

> [description of software piracy] If it's a free market, then let the
> buyer beware (especially in this field)!!!!

  My apology, it is not a true free market.  There are regulatory
feedback methods, in this case called the courts.  And I forgot to
add the price of an attorney in all of my cost estimates.  That raises
the price even higher.

						Andrew
						dalke at ks.uiuc.edu




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