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Information Age Is Coming, but 'Freeware,' 'Shareware' Won't Be There Making Money

November 22, 1987

As a writer for various computer publications, I noticed a glaring error in Stewart Brand's otherwise fine Nov. 8 column, "Finding a Balance in the Slippery Economics of an Information Age."

Very few in the software industry would call the distribution of freeware and shareware a "major marketing innovation" or agree that "good money was made."

The late Andrew Fluegelman did fairly well with PC-Talk, an early communications program, and there are a few other examples. But for the most part, the concept has been a major failure from an economic standpoint, with few programmers making money from it.

Would Lotus 1-2-3 or WordPerfect have been successful if they had been distributed for free? Of course not. By the way, Red Ryder, which once was shareware, is no longer free and is now a commercial program.

Having attended the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas recently, I know that Brand was on the mark regarding the merging of all kinds of information. One of the hottest new trends is the blending of computers with fax, graphics and video to create a new and dynamic synthesis.

Hold on to your hats, because "you ain't seen nothing yet." And the race to see who profits most from the information explosion is heating up, with the Japanese moving like a bullet train.


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