Does Open Source have in it to be Numero-Uno?
I remember writing an article about 2 months ago, on Open Source's revenue flow and the actual source of the payments that Open Source gets. I stated that the question of Where does Open Source get its Payment from? is one that could have multiple answers. This question of whether Open Source has it all to be Number 1 also has a similar confusion. It should seem like Open Source does have it all, but there are several instances wherein Open Source has lost out to the Big private players like Oracle, IBM, SAP, etc. who easily trade their products in the market for big bucks too. So if you were to ask me what Open Source really lacks, I would say that it falls short in advertising, marketing and selling its products.
Mainstream acceptance of Open Source is still far away from seeing reality and the reason for this is simply the inability in marketing and selling the products as aggressively as the proprietary players do. A few points can be inferred from the existing Open Source scenario
Free, but not Appealing
The fact that Open Source software codes are available for free is considered an advertisement in itself by many. Though the 'free' part is quite an attractive proposition, it does not do much to satisfy the value proposition that Open Source originally delivers. This must be made clearer. Open Source's strength lies in development, meaning that there are several thousand developers who contribute code to a greater good. Free Open Source cannot sell by itself just because it is free, though there are many early adopters who will definitely use Open Source. But in certain cases like the Open Source Enterprise applications the 'free' proposition has not made much of a buzz.
Developers only Influence, Don't Buy
It is also essential to take note that in most businesses the developers do not have the final say in buying software products and solutions. They can only influence the decisions of the Line-of-Business managers of an organization like the IT managers, Chief Information Managers and the like. So, whilst Open Source is considered a fantastic buy for developers who love Open Source, it is not so for the LoBs. The Line-of-Business managers get the feeling that developers get too cozy with Open Source, hence are not very innovative in their production. The truth is, developers are very comfortable with Open Source and are very aware of its capabilities.
Absence of Technical Investors
The current investors in the technology world involve mostly capitalists, whose major interests lay in driving their respective firms' growth and profits. For Open Source, these kind of investors will not work. What OOS needs is the financial support of technical investors who understand technology and feel that Open Source is one such stream which will drive the future of technology.
In totality, there are certain areas that need to be worked on as far as Open Source's selling and marketing is concerned, for which here are a few suggestions
- It is not always good to rely on the proposition of being available for ‘free’. While this is important, Open Source also needs to pitch itself as a complete and a comprehensive solution for all the technology needs that exist.
- Developers though are the final users of the product the LoBs must also be kept in mind while marketing the Open Source solutions. The style of pitching Open Source to LoBs definitely is different from selling to a developer.
- Focus must be on getting financial support from investors who hold good knowledge of technology, and who look at better technological development and improvement than profit-making.
- All the above mentioned points must be fragmented and streamlined according to the various Open Source product solutions that exist. This will ensure proper alignment of a set marketing strategy for a particular Open Source product and relative to other products.
There is no question that Open Source has been a revelation in the technology world, but ensuring that it is being marketed and sold well would definitely make Open Source the most sought after product portfolio. Hope so, it happens quick.