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Who Should Be Behind a Linux "Get the Facts" Campaign

Is an OSDL marketing working group in order?

If you do business around Microsoft products, it's obvious where you go for answers on the benefits of their products - Microsoft. However, if you're looking for this kind of information about Linux, where do you go? IBM, Red Hat, Novell, Sun, or all of the above? I believe there's a need for a collective resource for the Linux business case.

If you go to www.microsoft.com, and select Windows Server System from the options on the left and then on the right select Business Benefits, you'll see the following categories:

  • Building efficiency
  • Building connected systems
  • Building interoperability
And these are just the main headings - in each of these categories is more detail. For example, under Building Efficiency there are multiple detailed pages on how Windows Server System builds efficiency through manageability, network storage, etc.

You can say, think, or believe what you will about Microsoft, but purely from a marketing perspective, this is a great page. What it does is build on Microsoft's perceived competitive advantages and then leverages them to answer all the key questions a business/technical executive would have about why this is a great system for his business. Microsoft makes the task of justifying and explaining the decision to use their products easy.

To gather the same material about Linux, an executive researching the Linux value proposition has to go to multiple vendor sites, probably visiting Red Hat, IBM, Novell, HP, and maybe Penguin Computing and PogoLinux. And, at the end, the information he's gathered isn't organized and lacks a clear view of what exactly the value proposition of open source is - leaving the exec or one of his lackeys to do the scrubbing and organizing.

For an IT decision maker trying to come to grips with Open Source, this is horribly inefficient, and for Microsoft, the relative ease of finding its value-proposition material is an ace in the hole. This is why the "Get the Facts "campaign (www.microsoft.com/getthefacts) makes a strong statement with little rebuttal from a competitor. It's the difference between a clear voice and the roar of the crowd.

Furthermore, for the IT decision maker, the current Linux education process is a waste of time. Making a decision on Open source shouldn't require the time it now takes to get educated on the business benefits of Linux and Open Source software. It would benefit a great many people and organizations if there was more efficiency in collecting and presenting a proper view of the pitfalls, and total cost of ownership of Linux. Maybe this lack of a centralized, well researched, and well presented Linux business case accounts for why only 27% of the small and medium-sized businesses surveyed by Info-Tech Research Group said they use Linux. This is exactly the market segment for which well-organized, easy-to-find marketing material is most important - the Fortune 1000 have their pick of dedicated sales executives who'll educate them on the value of Linux. Not so the mid-market.

Linux and Open Source need a comprehensive, well-organized, vendor-agnostic, or at least vendor-neutral, location where business/technical executives can find the answers to why Linux and Open Source are the best solutions for their business. Ideally this information would be reinforced with quantifiable research as well as anecdotes from the field that help show the tangible benefits of Open Source migration and, lastly, a directory of services or vendors that support these positions.

The OSDL, in my opinion, is the proper place for a Linux and Open Source Business Benefits repository. Filling the pages with excellent material, and keeping the material fresh, seems to require an OSDL Marketing Working Group. The task of this Working Group would be to find, and if it doesn't exist, create, the best Linux/Open Source case studies, application briefs, business cases. and ROI studies, and polish and categorize them according to the competitive advantages of Linux and Open Source. At that point, any business/IT exec could, in a matter of 10 minutes, collect all the documentation he would need to make an informed decision about Open Source implementations. So my question to Stuart Cohen, the head of the OSDL, is what do you think? Is this in your charter? If not, should it be?

More Stories By Greg Wallace

Greg Wallace is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Emu Software, Inc. Greg received his MBA and Masters of International Affairs degrees from Columbia University in New York City. He also spent a year as a Rotary Foundation Scholar at the University of Barcelona, Spain. He can be reached at [email protected]

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