Re: Robotopia is Our Future;Everything is free and nobody

James Wm. Lewis (
Sun, 26 Apr 1998 12:21:58 -0400

I have been aware of the Robotopian Law of Economics for over ten years.

“With modern technology, it will soon be possible, in fact impossible to

avoid, to spew out all the goods and services humanity can dream of. .
.and everything will be free and no one will have to work. “

A few days ago, Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape described how
competition and the Internet are falling in line with the Robtopian Law
of Economics exactly as I have been predicting all these years.

‘"We've got thousands of developers focusing their energy on this,"
Andreessen said. "It's going to prove to be almost impossible to fight

How do you fight it? It's free."’

This Story appeared on April 24, 1998 in Techweb News at

Andreessen Predicts Freeware Push
(04/24/98; 4:42 p.m. ET)
By Lee Pender, Computer Reseller News

Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen predicted a breakthrough year for
freeware today at a meeting of the Massachusetts Software Council.
Netscape released the source code for its Navigator browser at the site in late March.

Since then, Netscape has recorded hundreds of thousands of downloads,
Andresseen said. He predicted freeware, such as the Mozilla project and
the Linux operating system, will experience rapid
commercial adoption beginning this year.

"These projects are resulting in software that is more stable and
supports a faster rate of innovation than any software company,"
Andreessen said.

"It's capturing the hearts and minds of the technology industry like
nothing since the Web.

We're going to see broad-based use of Linux for commercial

Andreessen pointed to the rapid rate of innovation and development that
results from the collective work of worldwide developers, as one
advantage freeware has over slower-moving products from software

He also said freeware faces no competition because software companies
cannot create an incentive as attractive as the complete lack of a price


"We've got thousands of developers focusing their energy on this,"
Andreessen said. "It's going to prove to be almost impossible to fight

How do you fight it? It's free."

As a result, software companies are going to have to create new
incentives in order to attract customers to their products, Andreessen
said. Many software companies will turn to service offerings in order to

make their applications attractive to potential users, he said.

"Software companies are going to have to figure out how to give
something away to start with, in order to get something later," he said.

"The opportunity exists for many software companies to become service

Andreessen also said the rise of freeware has begun to even the playing
field between his company and rival Microsoft. Microsoft has been
rapidly gaining market share recently with its Internet Explorer
browser, which is currently at the heart of an investigation by the U.S.

Department of Justice.

"It's become much more of a Coke versus Pepsi thing than a Windows
versus Mac thing," he said.

Andreessen took a shot at Microsoft when discussing the future of the PC

industry. He predicted the PC will eventually become a giveaway product
tied to a service contract, usinga plan similar to those that cellular
phone companies now use.

That will happen, Andreessen said, because software development,
specifically by Microsoft, is not keeping up with hardware advancements.

Consumers and organizations will not need to buy new, high-end
PCs,because they can run almost every known softwareapplication on
standard PCs, for which prices are constantlyfalling, he said.

"There's an old saying in the computer industry that Andy giveth but
Bill taketh away," Andreessen said, referring to former Intel Chairman
Andy Grove. "And Microsoft comes out with software that runs much
slower. A modern $800 PC is capable of running everything we know

As a result, the PC itself will eventually experience price drops down
to negligible fees or no price at all, he said. "PC prices are going to

go straight to zero and below zero,"

Andreessen said. "You start to envision a world in
which you have companies trying to get you to use their PCs."

The result, he said, would harm chip maker Intel but would be a benefit
for Microsoft, which could continue to sell its operating system. The
result could be a split in the partnership of the two companies that are

commonly referred to as the Wintel monopoly, he said.

"Microsoft would love to see PC price points go to zero,"

Andreessen said. "Intel would hate to see it happen."

Andreessen took one final shot at Microsoft when he mentioned a new
initiative that would incorporate Windows technology into heart monitors

at hospitals.

"It's the kind of product that creates its own market," he said.
"You have heart problems just thinking about it."

James Wm. Lewis
Cambridge, MA