Smart Non-Money

Spending money to compete toe-to-toe is dumb. But this hasn’t stopped start-ups from doing just that. Most start-ups are about as broke as college kids (and from the looks of their management team photos, may well be staffed with the same). They do need to spend money on marketing, but competing is foolish. For every face-off, someone loses face. Slugging it out with gorillas is fast suicide and shin-kicking many small competitors is the slow form. In every market, you can outmaneuver competitors, even gorillas. By understanding the position of each competitor or how they approach buyers, you can compete without competing, which is more cost effective and more effective in general. SuSE Linux remains my worn-out example because it worked against the sitting gorilla. Back when Linux was only starting to be seriously considered for mission-critical IT infrastructure, the U.S. market was owned by Red Hat and littered with … Continue reading

Televised Apocalypse

Google is proving an old joke right, and in the right way. The joke was that UNIX is the original computer virus, spreading like an epidemic to every conceivable computing platform.  Geeks used to laugh at this line … until Linux was first spotted running side-by-side on both a surplus x86 desktop and an IBM mainframe.  It then leapt onto cell phones, into routers, and I think there is a Linux application for my toaster. It may in your next television. Samsung — whose cell phone division likes Android in the same way sumo wrestlers like cheeseburgers — let slip that they are considering baking Android into televisions.  This is no meager moment because Samsung makes more idiot boxes than the public school system makes viewers.  In fact, Samsung make more boob tubes than any other enterprise, and is single handedly responsible for most of the traffic on Best Buy’s … Continue reading

Lowly Highs

“Bottoms up” is not just something you say during cocktail hour or at a strip club. It is a market strategy as well, and Google will implement it with a fist full of dollar bills. News of a Google netbook operating system – Chrome OS by name – has emerged. Targeted for netbooks running ARM and x86 chips, COS centers Google’s Chrome browser as the interface to the world and to Google applications. This latest Linux distro is designed to address the bottom of the commercial computing market (we’ll ignore the One Laptop per Child gizmos that would otherwise win the Barrel Bottom Scraper Award for underpowered PCs). Scott McNealy understood half the equation when in an over-caffeinated frenzy said “The network is the computer.” Naturally McNealy saw the hardware side of the system, being that he was in the hardware business. But as any technology marketing maven will maintain, … Continue reading

Desktop Drift

Seems everyone is aiming for the desktop. Some are drifting slowly, trying to grind away Microsoft’s dominance. Others are planning a full frontal assault. Yes, Larry Ellison is in the latter category. The slow motion mob is of course Linux. Nearly a decade ago I was helping SuSE peddle the first competent Linux desktop distro. The Microsoft hurdle was steeper then than now, and we knew advising CIOs to conduct forced march migrations was folly. But CIOs were interested in researching alternatives, clearly disgruntled at being held captive by Bill Gates and his nerdy desperados. We advised a piece meal approach. Since our study of CIO attitudes concerning Linux showed that they wanted their IT staffs to be Linux literate, we suggested migrating just IT to Linux desktops (sans Microsoft support teams who both needed Windows on their PCs, but would also attempt CIO assassinations if they were forced to … Continue reading

Segmenting Inside

Once in a great while you see a company doing what would be sane in other markets, but might be a Herculean improbability in their own. Yes, this has to do with the Linux market. Specifically this has to do with the embedded Linux market, a realm so fragmented that ‘chaos’ is too polite a description. It is also one of Linux’s silent success stories. Odds are that you are within five feet of one or more devices that have embedded Linux inside. Glancing about my office I count three (a printer, a router, and a cell phone, though I suspect the hub and print server at Linux-based as well). The embedded Linux market is fragmented along several vectors. The primary vector of discord is the application. Router makers and printer makers and cell phone makers have different interest and needs with embedded Linux. A while back my neighbors at … Continue reading

The Once and Never King

We are about eight years behind schedule. Around the millennial epoch I helped SuSE whelp the SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED), a product that is till on the Novell price list. Growing frustration with Microsoft viruses, continued vendor lock-in and the inherent lower cost of an Open Source desktop were hailed as the beginning of the end of Microsoft’s dominance. Yeah. I didn’t believe it either. SuSE arguably had and still has the best alternative to a Microsoft desktop, and considering that it is not Vista, perhaps the best desktop available. But like many good technology solutions it never took the market by storm despite continued frustration with Vista, continued vendor lock-in and the inherent lower cost of an Open Source. Market dynamics and realities stopped SLED’s march. “The reality is that (the Linux desktop) is a slow, gradual, unstoppable growth,” said my buddy Jeremy White at CodeWeavers, a crew … Continue reading

Openly Mobile

The mobile handset market tipping point has arrived, and it is a wonderful thing to watch. In very short order (relatively speaking) the mobile market has seen: Google/Android advance a Linux mobile operating system Symbian convert to Open Source Motorola release Eclipse-based mobile development tools Verizon open its network to certifiable devices not sold by Verizon Wi-Fi handsets are now commonly sold by network carriers, eliminating some data network revenues In short, the mobile market has opened up and this trend will accelerate (which is seemingly impossible, but I never bet against an avalanche). Two dominate forces are causing this to happen: competition and customer resentment. In a rare moment of governmental lucidity, regulatory agencies in charge of frequency allocations made sure that no company could monopolize the cellular industry. This came as a huge surprise to AT&T who is unaccustomed to real competition, and it showed in their perpetual … Continue reading