I believe we have overestimated the need and importance that people put on open source software over the need for free software (free as in price in this context, gratis).
he goes on to expound on how a free-as-in-beer proprietary product that does the job goes a long way to stunting, if not outright killing, open source efforts. when it comes to mass-market, user-level software this does sum up the status quo pretty well.
however, he states it as if this were a natural law and something that is immovable. personally i believe the reason it remains the unquestioned status quo is because of us, the free and open source software communities. we each have our bit to play in this so-far-failure to get people to appreciate free-as-in-freedom software.
the free software foundation (fsf) presents it in terms of ethics and academic argumentation. while i agree with much of what they say and wholeheartedly support what they are doing, it's also undeniable that their message influences a small percentage of the populace. why? probably because to truly appreciate stallman's philosophies requires reading them and then really thinking about them. most people don't do much of that anymore. you also need a fairly broad understanding of the state of various aspects of "intellectual property" law and how industry interacts with it. it's a complex issue that they tackle with a complex analysis. no wonder most people don't "get it". it's like trying to explain traffic safety using calculus. you can, but most people won't "get it".
those of us who are pragmatists and aren't out to kill proprietary software (i'd be one of those people, btw) often don't stand up and say much about the value of freedom software. why? probably because few outside the fsf have constructed messages that resonate and are easily repeatable. the open source initiative did and look how successful it was ... except they avoided talking much about benefits that flow directly from the freedom aspects of open source software or show the cause-effect of freedom-benefit. they just avoid it.
and nobody else has really stepped up. want to know something that the proprietary companies can't compete with us on by definition? freedom. so they avoid it and for some bizarre reason so do we. well, it's not a bizarre reason i suppose: the fsf has scared many (most?) people away from standing up on that topic ("oh god. i'm going to come off sounding / looking /smelling like rms. *shudder*") and the pragmatists have been busy working on pragmatically making the software better. in any case we simply don't tout the biggest factor that has real-world and easily-understood benefit for individuals, business, government and dolphins (ok, i'm no so sure about dolphins) that we win hands-down on.
so it's no surprise that people will pragmatically pick free-as-in-beer when available and not bother to work on free-as-in-freedom in those cases: we haven't shown the value proposition and therefore given people motivation to do it.
i think we can. we need to start talking about the immediate and personally meaningful results of free software in simple, practical terms. community, sovereignty and mitigating business risk are three categories that probably resonate with a lot of people if myspace, that whole national democracy fad that's been going on for the last few centuries ;) and the amount spent on legalese every year are any signs.
so i'd suggest to us all, including miguel, that instead of cowering beneath the shadow of the free-as-in-beer threat that we actually remind people how they want things that only are available when they use free-as-in-freedom software.
(oddly related tangent: i only buy bowls, plates, cups, etc that are microwave safe. why? because i like to use the microwave to heat things up. why? it's fast and effective. so my dish purchasing decisions are influenced because i want to quickly heat things. only after noting that a thing will survive the microwave do i bother making an aesthetic decision. i bet i'm not alone.)