[TriLUG] Novell & Microsoft - sleeping with the enemy
sholton at mindspring.com
sholton at mindspring.com
Thu Mar 15 14:21:35 EDT 2007
Shawn William Taylor <STaylor at torexretailna.com> writes:
>I have been working in technology for 10+ years and have never received a
>cold call from a company that is trying to generate its revenue by
>marketing or selling Open Source technologies.
And yet I'll bet if you tried to eliminate all Linux and open source
from your life, you'd miss upwards of half of it.
Nobody says "Please buy our Linux. It's also a DVR, too" but rather
the marketing would be "Buy a TiVo. BTW it runs Linux." A good portion
of the phone system is running on Linux, but you wouldn't associate
FLOSS (Free / Libre / Open Source Software) with that old 2600 set
on your desk.
>I don't think the failure is with the technology piece, I think it's in
>the sales and marketing piece. Most people (From what I can gather by
>being a pretty green linux user and observer) on this list are either
>using open source or contributing to open source (or both). However, I
>don't see a lot of people marketing those solutions or actively selling
People don't buy open source solutions; they buy solutions. Smart people
(or people with a memory for the last time they were burned) buy solutions
which keep their options open, and thats what FLOSS does best.
>...the same reason we all make our everyday buying decisions.
>1> We have used the product and continue to buy it.
>2> We trust someone enough to value their opinion about the product as a
>3> We have a relationship with an existing brand that adds the product to
I'd disagree strongly here. Most of the time, the choice a person
makes is almost completely determined by the set of choices a person
has to choose from.
Marketing can raise the convenience of adding a choice to that set.
People who are dumb or lazy may not even realize there is a choice
at all, but those who are clued or motivated have more choices, and
can make better ones.
Network effects and proprietary lock-in can affect the cost of making
one choice over another, as can complimentary technology choices.
Marketing to a buyer already locked-in to a competing product is
virtually pointless. And I'll agress that, in terms of the Operating
Systems market, Microsoft seems to have the dumb money locked up.
Once the OS decision is made, the set of software choices becomes
more limited. Most of the people using software for anything are
already locked in. Or locked out, depending on your POV.
>Companies selling Open Source technology need to be more aggressive about
>getting that piece of their operation functioning and it's not an easy
>task. Especially for a small company that doesn't have large marketing
Might I suggest an alternate way of looking at this situation?
*Technology* is not the stuff that comes in the box; that's just the
*artifact*. You don't get technology unless you combine the *artifact*
with the *knowledge* of how to make it, fix it, change it, and/or
adapt it. For people who just want the artifact, closed/open source
doesn't make a bit of difference. Ergo, the (relative) success of
TiVo, Linspire, etc. For people who want the technology, anything
which says "proprietary" becomes, to that extent, less desirable.
So don't look for companies marketing their Open Source solution
to you; once it's in your hands it becomes *your* Open Source
solution, and they know that. If you're buying something to do
what it already does, you want an artifact solution, not a
A company selling a "box of Open Source technology" is at a real
disadvantage; they're either:
a) trying to sell an artifact to the artifact market, but without
the benefit of locking their customers into a proprietary
solution (no way to extract monopoly rents, for example), or
b) trying to sell an artifact to a technology market, and
somebody else is going to get the profit from the
"knowledge' portion of the sale, as well as all repeat sales
So selling open source artifacts doesn't give a company much of a
market to work with. So they move to the next layer, and either sell
open source *artifacts* to people who are going to build on top of it
(the embedded market model) or sell open source *technology* to
people who are going to use it as a tool to build their own unique,
proprietary artifacts to sell (the R&D labs, internet-based service
providers, and college kids planning to become tomorrows entrepreneurs.)
So the FLOSS game plan would involve:
- give away the artifacts (cheap to manufacture), sell the knowledge
(while it's scarce), continually improve the technology (to generate
repeat sales and maintain growth)
- encourage infinite implementations (increases the choice for
consumers, as well as the need for specialized knowledge) while
rigidly maintaining interface standards (to maintain applicability
to the target market, and the abaility to build on complimentary
- Target the technology market, rather than the artifact market. For
software, that means people who are doing new things with software
rather than people who are just trying to do the same old things
the same old way.
- Continue to point out the cost of getting locked into a proprietary
solution when the *next time* comes around.
 Why yes, I did just advocate rabid project forking. So sue me.
sholton at mindspring.com
"Convenience causes blindness. Think about it."
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