[CentOS] [OT] FOSS marketing problems (WAS Re: Celebrating Centos 6.0 Day World-wide)

夜神 岩男 supergiantpotato at yahoo.co.jp
Sun Jul 10 02:34:41 UTC 2011

On Sat, 2011-07-09 at 16:21 -0500, John R. Dennison wrote:
> On Sat, Jul 09, 2011 at 10:14:28PM +0100, Always Learning wrote:
> > 
> > Its time for the world to drift away from the M$ Windoze expensive
> > nightmare. Centos is a very good alternative.
> While that might be true, the reality of the situation is different.
> Until you can provide a seamless drop-in replacement for Windows that
> does not require a change in work-flow habits learned over the course
> of, for some, many years such a switchover will _never_ happen en masse.

[Iwao clears his throat, arranges his large stack of soap-boxes...]

Microsoft has decided to give alternatives a chance recently, by forcing
customers into expensive upgrade cycles which provide no new real
features but do require a series of awkward changes in workflow.
Consider that OOo got a big boost when MS Office introduced the ribbon
menu bar. Also consider the headway Apple is making -- and a transition
to OS X workflows is a lot more traumatic to the lay user than
transitioning to Gnome 2x, KDE or XFCE-ish environments. But it doesn't

There is more to the market than chasing drop-in replacements (once
again, look at Apple).

The real biggest problem is that very few on this side of the fence are
any good at marketing -- and part of that is due to the fact that we
tend to chase absolute truth and argue it at length, whereas the real
heart of marketing is selling dreams in spite of reality (which is a
little different than just flat out lying -- but FOSSy folks have
difficulty with that concept). This is assisted by the technical nature
of our arguments which provides some level of anambiguous reference for
discussion. The problem with talking to real customers, however, is that
they don't really care about the underlying tech, they care about the
end result. So we talk one language to them and they think in another. 

Consider that whenever we say "we have developed a superior video codec
and container mechanism -- and its free for the world! Technical
progress! Freedom!" the guy sitting across the table is usually quiety
thinking something along the lines of "...<buzzzzz> does that mean it
will put naked ladies on my screen or let me play
UltraAwesome3DKnockoffSpaceFight III?" This scenario plays out in
various ways depending on the market you're pitching to, of course, but
this is roughly what happens. Microsoft, on the other hand, just says
"Cool pixels! Look, now the menu bar FADES IN! Did you SEE that?!? And
bikini girls at the presentation announcements! And Steve Ballmer
walking out from BEHIND FOG! Wow! What a great new OS we have! Yep,
email, web browser! Stuff! Cloud! Chat with your grandmother! Movies!
Games! We have it all! And... security! Interoperation with all the
security vendors you want!" Compare that glitz and marketing sex with,
say, the frank and practical expert discussions you can have at the Red
Hat booth at a trade show -- we lose unless we are marketing to fellow
engineers, which is why Red Hat has cornered that specific market and
chases nothing else.

The color of their discussions is entirely different from the way FOSS
developers think about things. We have a customer culture problem, not a
problem with achieving identical workflows to Windows. Once again, OS X
is a good example of just how much if a difference people are willing to
accept if the product is superior *and* it is conveyed to them in their

Microsoft's genius is that they just tell people what they want to hear,
not what is accurate or even true in most cases. Microsoft hypes, FOSS
whines. Look at how far they have come with absolutely inferior
technology -- to this day! Its amazing and the brilliance underlying
that is completely missed by the majority of the FOSS community --
probably because the open source movement is all about truth, and that
makes FOSS hype far less titilating than MS hype. MS's discovery was not
better technology -- it was that technology that is merely good enough
can destroy the market position of superior products if conveyed in a
manner that consumers can digest as opposed to the way the creators
understand their engineering product.


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