Andre's Blog

Personal blog of Andre Perusse

Grocery Store "Per-Fork" Licensing

This is a funny story from many years ago (and what seems like many lifetimes ago for me) that I thought I would share.

Back in the late 90s, I was working for one of Canada's large grocery store chains in their IT department. I was tasked with setting up their intranet and we naturally needed some kind of database server for the web apps we were going to develop. So, we contacted the company's preferred database vendor at the time for a price quotation on a Windows version of their database server product. We got the quote and it was $5,000 and that sounded OK so the purchase order was drafted up and we just about ready to fax it in. Before we did, however, the vendor called us back. "Um, did you say this was going to be used for an Internet site, or an intranet site?" the sales droid wanted to verify. "An intranet site," I confirmed for him. "So, this will be used by your employees, right?" he continued. "Yes," I confirmed again. "Oh, well, in that case, the price is $50,000. If it was for a public Internet site it would be 5, but an Intranet site is 50." (and no, this wasn't Oracle)

So, I delivered this news to the CIO. He was quite an interesting character this CIO, and he had an intense hatred of software licensing fees. His position was, "they charge me more money, but they don't actually give me anything more for it." I can see his point. So you can just imagine how well he took this news. He ranted. He raved. He pounded his fists. And then he came up with an absolutely brilliant answer to this ruthless practice of arbitrary software licensing fees. As a grocery store, we would start charging people the same way - not just for the food they were buying, but also for how many people were going to eat the food. He called it "per-fork" licensing. Imagine arriving at the checkout. "How many people are going to be eating this turkey, sir?" the cashier would ask you. "What?" you'd respond, taken aback. "You have to pay a licensing fee for each person who is going to eat the turkey, sir," you'd be told. Now, doesn't that just sound absolutely absurd? Naturally that was the point the CIO was trying to make, and there are obvious differences between selling software and selling material goods, but still - I thought it was quite funny.

Comments (1) -

  • Darth Mac

    9/7/2006 7:27:09 PM |

    It's a classic. I'm still telling that story... And why don't you just fess up to who the database bastards were...... sy <> base