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Date: 2008-01-30 (15:19)
From: Jon Harrop <jon@f...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Re: The OCaml Community (aka back from the Developer Days)
On Wednesday 30 January 2008 14:17:13 Kuba Ober wrote:
> It would make sense as a business venture when you'd throw in some economy
> of scale. MS can sell visual studio for peanuts, and keep that business
> unit out of the red, of course because they sell so many.

Visual Studio should be making a lot of profit. Microsoft have many commercial 
developers and it is illegal for them to sell products built using many of 
Microsoft's freely available tools. To buy decent tools for commercial 
development, you're looking at 3,000 euros. Either you're very rich, or that 
isn't "peanuts". :-)

> For relatively small projects like OCaml, any "pay for a feature" scheme
> would necessarily be out of reach of many customers. Maybe Jane Street
> could afford to pay $100/hr consulting rate to a seasoned OCaml hacker, but
> for most of us that makes little financial sense.

If I wanted to pay you to "complete" the String module, how much would you 
charge? Many suitably qualified people would be happy to earn $100 for doing 
that and, I believe, many people/companies would be willing to pay that. I'd 
much rather give people a one-off small contract paid on-line by credit card 
to solve a niggling problem that I didn't have time to fix myself than employ 
someone with tax, insurance and liability concerns. If they're good, I'll use 
them again.

Moreover, the developer could set an earnings threshold for a given task and 
many users could independently contribute to the payment. They don't pay 
until the threshold is met.

When I'm selling books like hot cakes and have more outstanding consultancy 
contracts than I can shake a stick at, I'll be more than happy to throw money 
at you to improve things. When I'm going hungry and struggling to keep my 
head above water, I'll be more than happy to solve your problems for a small 
fee. :-)

> I guess it's a big stride to break that small-to-mid-scale barrier.
> Trolltech had done that, and they are IMHO good technical innvoators too.
> If there was a way for some OCaml-centric business to do what Trolltech had
> done, it could probably take off and make very feature-rich OCaml
> environment available for a good price I wouldn't mind paying $1500/year
> for an OCaml environment that could run natively (as in no .net and no
> Cygwin dependencies) on Windows and Linux, and just "do the job". Qt is
> really nice in that regard: you only need the C++ compiler, and everything
> else is included and ready to go. It even builds its own build tools
> (qmake, moc, uic).

OCaml is not as big as TrollTech and has some annoying problems that make it 
unviable as a commercial platform in many ways but I think our company has 
shown that OCaml's commercial market is now sufficient that you can earn a 
living from it.

To be honest, I would love to be able to buy more books on OCaml (e.g. on 
LablGTK2), more software written in OCaml and libraries for OCaml and so on. 
I believe there are now tens of thousands of prospective customers out there 
for such OCaml products.

Dr Jon D Harrop, Flying Frog Consultancy Ltd.