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Crossing the Open Source Chasm

Crossing the Open Source Chasm

Recently I have had a number of conversations with people who make their living in open source, and every one of them talked to some degree about the idea that they were starting to address a market that has, in the parlance of Geoffrey Moore, crossed the chasm.

In Mr. Moore's infamous and perhaps over-analyzed book, Crossing the Chasm, about high-tech marketing, he talks about the early adopters and technology enthusiasts who identify the market but aren't able to cross the chasm to the early mainstream market.

All of the executives whom I spoke with were excited because they have seen their customers change from an eclectic group of technical enthusiasts to the beginnings of a much larger and less technology-savvy consumer market - the early market. Early adopters of open source have contributed to the development of these technologies and run Linux on the desktop and the data center with nary a complaint. They probably have the ability and desire to hack their kernel and tweak computing environments and servers to the nth degree. They are also not representative of the users or customers of the future who will adopt and, more specifically, buy Linux and other open source technologies and services.

These new users in the early mainstream market are driven by such factors as solving problems regardless of the technology and reducing IT costs. They make their decisions based on how they can save money and/or provide better solutions than they have provided in the past. This group also has a level of expectation that software will be distributed, documented, and supported by a company in the same way they have received similar products in the past. The prices of these products and services may be equivalent but, over time, they should yield a better cost of ownership or additional functionality or there is no point in adopting them and retraining. This happens because collaboration on the core technologies keeps research and development costs low, and a more competitive market place keeps prices low.

I believe that our editorial staff at LWM will serve as a tremendous resource, based on their own experiences, to those adopting open source technologies. For example, our new commercialization editor, Paul Sterne, CEO of Sterne and Co. (www.sterneco.com), is an expert in this space as a corporate development specialist who was instrumental in presenting SuSE to Novell, which helped to facilitate Novell's full-force move into Linux. Our new desktop technologies editor, Tim Griffin of Userful, has been successfully providing Linux desktop products to libraries and educational institutions for the past three years. Our reviews editor, Matt Frye, is also no stranger to the values of Linux, not as a vendor or developer but rather as a practitioner who can provide the benefit of his real-world experience as a systems administrator in a hospital. Matt uses open source technology to solve problems and provide solutions that are used in a place where mission-critical can truthfully mean life or death. Our most recent addition to the editorial team, Philip Peake, is a professional services consultant who has worked for Perot Systems, Netscape, AOL, Sun, and, most recently, Open Source Development Labs. His depth of knowledge of enterprise software has been developed over the past 25 years. We also will continue to benefit from the experience of Jon Walker and Greg Wallace, both senior executives who are addressing the needs for open source migration and management in the enterprise.

Our concentration in future months will be more and more on the success of Linux as an enterprise and mainstream solution. To be clear, Linux and open source isn't the end-all solution for every problem. Our goal will be to provide guidance on where you could benefit most from these technologies, whether you're an IT manager in a large enterprise or educational institution, a small business, or even as a single desktop user. We also appreciate your comments and suggestions and welcome your feedback. This is going to be an exciting year for those of us who are interested in open source and we want to share not only our knowledge but also your experiences both good and bad, so drop us an e-mail with your Linux story; we are anxious to hear from you.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Vice President of Community at Cloud.com. the maker of the open source cloud computing management software, CloudStack He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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