The idea of Free as put forth in Chris Anderson’s article invites scrutiny, especially around assumptions and (more or less) hidden connections.
So much of the discussion seems to assume that everyone has access to the digital marketplace. While that is a goal that is represented by efforts like One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), the fact remains that the greater part of humanity has no access to a computer or other online portal. Perhaps, that being understood, discussion about the portion of humanity that does have access becomes just that.
The (more or less) hidden connections invites discovery of the social models beyond buyer and seller. Some of the examples he gives include:
- the band Banda Calypso in Brazil who give away (and encourage the copying of) their music, since they see their primary business as touring and performing.
- Wal-Mart selling a DVD hit for $15, which gets the customer into their store where they are more likely to purchase something else
- numerous online services (mail, storage) that offer a certain level of service for free, but have a “Freemium” service that adds greater service/storage; the 1% who pay for this subsidize the other 99%
Thinking through the various models and other undiscovered value connections presents one of the big business problems for established businesses who wish to remain competitive and desire to engage their community and “grow into the Long Tail”. While there is a lot of latitude for getting right, enterprises place extreme pressure on their businesses to get it right the first time.