Friday, April 27, 2007

Launching of IT - why a few succeed and many fail?


I think I will start blogging in no particular order... So let us talk about launching of IT products and services now...

Have you ever thought how Firefox became quite successful, but Thunderbird didn't, quite as much? Both are open source products, both are free to use and free to enhance. If so, why is the disparity in their successes?

There are so many distributions of Linux - some that guarantee intellectual freedom and some that guarantee financial freedom as well (simplifying the legal fine print). Why are some distros more popular than others? Linux, the archetypal open source product, should have grown a lot more popular than it is. So, why is it still lagging behind the MS operating systems?

When we peel the layers of this mystique onion, we find more than one reason to explain.

Let us take the Firefox-Thunderbird case first. As a thumb rule, common users are more likely to use browser than a mail client. Users are now used to many free HTTP IMAP e-mail and network access is increasing. Hence they may not find a need to store their mails locally (POP). So is Mozilla trying to address a need of the users that is now no longer a need?

For Linux, the number of distros has been both a boon and a bane. The variety offers choice, but also clutter and disagreement in creation. This disagreement translates in the users' minds as confusion such as which distro should I choose for my server and which for my desktop (my favourite desktop distro is SimplyMEPIS). Also, the open source vendors such as Redhat and Novell are probably half-hearted in promoting open source. They have commercialized the Linux in a sense. So in a way their distros have gone into the proprietary realm. The other reason is the unavailability of applications on Linux. This is being addressed by many distros. SimplyMEPIS comes with Skype, Flash and many other applications installed; OpenOffice is present by default in most complete distros. Yet another reason for limited success is the installation experience. This is addressed by distro vendors giving away no-risk-try live CDs. This is an example of a great technology being put to a great use. The open source vendors do not have pockets as deep as MS or any big proprietary vendors. Big proprietary vendors can muscle their way into OEM deals for pushing their products, while that is yet to happen on the same scale in open source world. In a sense, it is probably good for open source vendors to consolidate and show a single face / fewer faces to the customer.

K Venkatesh

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