Welcome, Tony’s Kansas City readers

Thanks to Tony’s Kansas City for the link this morning. Tony noted that “Security dude reminds us that Google Fiber could kill the software industry.”

That’s an interesting spin. I do think it will affect the software industry–but so long as Kansas City stays at the forefront and the rest of the country is content with being a technological backwater, the effect will be minimal. But “kill” is an awfully strong word, even if every major city in the country were to get affordable Gigabit Internet in the very near future.

I say that because of what I saw in college.

Public libraries can provide free access to software, but only as many copies as they can buy. So if the Kansas City Public Library bought a thousand copies of some piece of software, only a thousand people could use them at once. That’s not a lot of copies for a metro area of 2.1 million people to share.

So someone who starts to use the software enough to rely on it will probably end up buying it, convincing an employer to buy it for them, or both. And then Adobe has another user on the upgrade treadmill. Ultimately I think it will be a net gain for Adobe–more sales, not fewer.

I saw this in college. We had computer labs, and our student activities fee paid for them. As long as a computer was open, we could use one. The problem was that the labs with the really good software on it–like Adobe products–generally stayed pretty full. I knew a fair number of journalism students who bought their own computers and software, especially once they got into the advanced classes and were doing some work outside of the classroom.

So while I’m sure Adobe doesn’t like the idea of the Kansas City Public Library loaning out its software, in the end I expect it to be a net positive for them.

Apple knows this. That’s why Apple has always given computers to schools at a break-even price. Apple nearly went out of business in the 1980s and in the 1990s; the one thing they had for life support that no one else had was momentum from the education market. That spilled into the home market, which was profitable. In the 1980s and 90s, the standard advice to parents was to buy whatever computer their kids used at school, and more often than any other brand, that was an Apple.

So, although it’s a little counter-intuitive, I think Google Fiber is good for the software industry, not just good for Kansas City.

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