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Making markets, not war, with open source

Open source is more than a cheap commoditzer. Or should be.

Ian Howells eBizQ

I accidentally stumbled across this article by my colleague, Ian Howells (Chief Marketing Officer, Alfresco), on marketing strategies for open-source companies. Ian is a smart guy, and this article is quite good.

Ian's background is in the marketing of proprietary software (SeeBeyond and Documentum, primarily), but he's learned a great deal in his past two years with Alfresco. I particularly like his idea on the need for open-source companies to build new markets or extend old markets, rather than cannibalize old markets:

A simplistic view of open source strategy is to target a big, greedy, lazy incumbent enterprise software vendor and offer a lower-priced alternative. This means the market is a zero-sum game and you are dependent on swapping out the large incumbent vendor. If that was the case, low-priced enterprise vendors, that the Moore system categorizes as "monkeys" vs. "Chimps" and "Gorillas," would have been successful decades ago.

To be successful you need to focus on what Kim and Maubrogne call a "Blue Ocean" or "Non-Customer." These are the users that have either tried and rejected the software in question or have never been able to afford it. That is where Alfresco has focused.

If the best open source can do is to commoditize established markets, it will have been very productive for the industry, but not especially so for itself. Open source will come into its own as it's used to plant and harvest new markets. That is the future of open source, not cheap clones of old technology.