From: gerald_a_levy (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Sep 05 2002 - 08:12:20 EDT
Re Paul C's [760l]: > Something analogous to rent is clearly involved. But it generally > does not take the form of rent directly - i.e., a payment per annum > for use of the software. Instead there is a one off cost of purchase > which exceeds the cost of producing that copy of the software. > What differentiates this from classic rent though, is that unlike land, > software is a product of labour. It is possible, and indeed is conventional > to cost a software development project in terms of person years. > One must therefore differentiate between the value of the information - > in terms of the effort required to write the software, and the > price that each individual copy commands. I think that the rent received by software companies is more like other forms of technological rent than land rent. The rent received by those companies is not so dissimilar to that received by oligopolies for their differentiated products. What seems somewhat different from most oligopolies is the rate of change in new products and thereby the rate of technological obsolescence of the older commodity (software) product. Here again we see the topic of moral depreciation -- but in this case for means of consumption (to the extent that software can also be a consumer good) as well as means of production (since software can be both means of consumption and means of production.) To some extent, this rate of change involving the forced obsolescence of older software is planned by the software companies themselves (especially Microsoft as the leading oligopoly), to another extent it is uncertain and can't be accurately forecast. It is interesting to note the relationship between hardware and software development in this regard since changes in one often lead to changes in the other and thereby the forced obsolescence of older related complementary technologies. Another unconventional issue is the 'competition' of free software with software produced as commodities. E.g. GNU vs. UNIX. See: http://www.gnu.org It is also important to note that changes in software can lead to changes in skill requirements for workers operating the software and, thereby, deskilling. Indeed, one might say that the 'user friendly' trend of the last 20 years (especially since the popularity of GUIs such as Macintosh and Windows) has led to deskilling for many skilled workers but raising of skill requirements for other workers. In solidarity, Jerry PS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OPE-L. Today marks our seventh birthday.
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