Back from CeBIT, marketing and placement

If there is a message received in visiting CeBIT, is the fact that open source is everywhere and nowhere. Everywhere because inside most products on show it can be seen an underlying OSS component (be it linux, asterisk, Eclipse…) and nowhere because this was written nowhere (with some notable exceptions). The fact that a product has inside some open source parts is so common that nowadays is not differentiating anymore; and this brings the second thing that I observed: the Linux part of CeBIT was sad and gave little value to the companies (and OSS communities) exposing there. For example, the OpenBravo stand was nice and filled with knowledgeable people, but would probably gained much more attention in the ERP pavillion; the same applies to Zimbra and the other (few) companies that were using the “free software” card ahead of that of what their product was for.
I believe that this self-segregation is counterproductive, as the main objective of a company looking for a solution to an IT problem is (not surprisingly) to find a solution, and then later prioritizing requirements and features (including ethical and economic ones) to decide if the adoption process can continue. In fact, I had the opportunity to see two companies presenting more or less the same service (based on OSS), one in the IT infrastructure pavilion and one in the Linux stand, and the difference in terms of people stopping by was quite noticeable, with the Linux one getting 2/3 times less people than the other. It may make sense to have a separate “community” part of CeBIT for those project that still have no significant commercial backings, or that prefer to show themselves in a “pure” way (in this sense, I appreciated the enthusiasm of the people at KDE, Scribus, Gnome, and Amarok), but not for companies: OSS is a differentiator in the long term, but cannot be the only thing you promote at your stand.