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Re: Player Pro and Packages

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  • Subject: [mg88057] Re: Player Pro and Packages
  • From: AES <siegman at>
  • Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2008 04:08:10 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: Stanford University

In article <fukeq9$s3s$1 at>,
 "Ingolf Dahl" <ingolf.dahl at> wrote:

> What I meant was that it is very difficult to protect and claim ownership
> for clear text file formats, like the Mathematica notebook format or the PDF
> format. 

      This raises an interesting intellectual property (IP) question 
      which I'm not qualified to answer, namely can one obtain some 
      form of legally enforceable IP protection on a _format_? 
      --- especially one which is expressed in such a simple and 
      clear text form that it's easy to reverse engineer?

      If so, this format may not be "protected by obscurity", 
      but may still be protect-able against unlicensed use 
      by taking legal action against unauthorized users.

      [My understanding is that Adobe retains some rights over
      modifications, extensions, variations on PDF, while allowing
      anyone to use it without a license (?); and Don Knuth certainly
      did this with TeX.  Maybe it's only the _name_ of the format
      that is legally protected?  ---  If you modify the format itself
      in any way, you can't call or refer to the result as "PDF" or
      as "TeX"???]

> Hopefully Wolfram finds some new business concept to make the money roll in.

I would fully share this hope -- provided that it means that

*  The primary or core part of Mathematica itself remains primarily a 
very powerful _computational_ tool, and secondarily an adequately 
powerful _display_ tool for outputting or displaying the results of 
those computations.

*  And that this primary or core part is not further encumbered by 
adding separable additional tasks -- e.g., typesetting, more complex 
formatting capabilities, attempting to make it also a primary 
_publication_ tool -- and trying to embed them directly in the core.

*  With the reason for this being that the core, and its documentation, 
should remain as lean as possible, within the already large requirements 
of those two tasks --- which are, in reality, going to make this core, 
and its documentation, very large _just_ with those two primary tasks.

*  And with the further proviso that this Mathematica core uses, or 
requires, for its generalized file and data input and output functions 
_only_ open, widely used, widely available, preferably even ISO 
standardized formats.

So, my 'Silicon-Valley-style' entrepreneurial vision for Mathematica 
would be that: 

*  IF Wolfram can provide and maintain this kind of core tool --- 
repeat, a _core tool_ --- that is readily usable by ordinary users, and 
has good but simplified documentation for those users, but also has lots 
of much more sophisticated aspects for more sophisticated users and 
experts --- about what v6 provides today, or a bit trimmed back -- for a 
'street price' of, let's say, not more than $300 (in current dollars) to 
all purchasers; and

*  IF they can build around this core various profitable product lines 
of specialized packages (or "plug-ins"?) for many specialized fields, 
and specialized data services at various levels and in various fields, 
and various types of "Player" products of varying cost and degree of 
sophistication (from free upward); and

*  IF they can maintain a little better backward capability and avoid 
the really destructive disruption of the v5 to v6 transition in the 
future; and

*  IF they can _greatly_ improve their 'ordinary user' documentation for 
their core product; 

then I think they'd have a quite good chance to build the kind of very 
widespread, world-wide, innumerable-fields-of-study-wide  "Mathematica 
ecosystem" that someone referred to in another post --- and, hopefully, 
make a lot of money, and beat down their major competitors, in the 

But if they just continue making their base (core) product ever more 
complex, ever more confusing, ever more obese --- the v5 to v6 
trajectory extrapolated --- well, I suspect that I, and a lot of other 
users, will sooner or later be gone --- even if I don't know where to.

Over and out . .  .    AES

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