About Mapping Open Source into Your Business Model: the Funambol case

During the Building an Effective Commercial Open Source Strategy workshop, attendees asked for specific examples on how to map open source into existing business models within the mobile field.

The mobile world is still in many ways a closed world, but is showing an interest towards open source, even if in many different and sometimes overlapping directions. Funambol, representing an important milestone in the mobile open source space, seems an interesting example to analyze.

Learning to walk on the tight-rope
Learning to walk on the tight-rope, by Pickersgill Reef

Let’s have a look at how Funambol cope with some of the items I mentioned earlier talking of how to map open source into existing business models:

Collaborative open source development is highly welcomed by Funambol, as appears clearly from the way they manage their open source sponsored community at their new forge. Few things worth to mention here, ranging from the nature of the contributions and how they foster their community. The legendary Funambol’s broad device compatibility is enabled also by external micro-contributions finalized at testing phones with Funambol. Economic incentives distributed by the Phone Sniper program help to bring more contributors on board. Last but not least Funambol setting up their own forge created a clean and working space better than the OW2 forge, often unavailable and looking much just like a display case.

Funambol’s architecture of participation welcomes also third parties’ contributions in code, like connectors and clients, and has a specific program to collect Code Sniper bounties. In Geoffrey Moore lexicon, their core competencies – i.e. what enables them to maintain their competitive advantage – are mainly related to their sustainable differentiation in driving a collaborative process to keep their product always up-to-date.

Funambol, just like SugarCRM and others, retains full control of decision making and IP ownership, but there is little or no tension between control and openness. Funambol modular architecture provide the basis for external contributions, and as a matter of fact subproject creation is trasparent and well documented. Extrinsic motivations to contribute may vary a lot, like in the Blackberry case.

Talking about delivering a “whole product solution”, Funambol complements its offer with third parties’ consulting services, as with the SpikeSource partnership, enabling SpikeSource and their partners to fulfill a different customer segment. As seen with my first interview to Fabrizio, Funambol favorite customer segment is the “top of the pyramid” (carriers, large ISP, etc), but partnering with firms like SpikeSource they can manage to serve a broader audience. I suspect that certification programs might be evaluated now that Funambol is planning to expand its presence, either as a source of revenue and an effective medium to foster their ecosystem.

Reading the Funambol Carrier edition brochure is clear what carriers pay for. The core value proposition it is about making carriers life easy to provision users’ phones, manage devices (creation, modification, etc) as well as send OTA commands. As a matter of fact enterprises do not need all these features and richness of configurations, and Funambol doesn’t need to upsell its community.

Time is also really important. From few months Funambol was available only in two editions, the lowest level subscription level delivering some basic technical support and software update notices is not available anymore.
Funambol keeps refining its business model, as Fabrizio recently explained at the World Computer Congress Forum, talking of the SaaS future.

From a customer perspective Funambol being well financially backed seems a good bet. Multiple providers are available, starting from the above mentioned SpikeSource, and not only. The commercial support is definitely enterprise level, being aimed at serving large or very large Carriers and ISPs. Funambol owning all its intellectual property assets can make its customers free of IP concerns.

From a its vendor perspective Funambol is fully implementing international standards, spending time and effort to follow SyncML within the Open Mobile Alliance. Funambol foster its community welcoming both commensalistic and symbiotic approaches and tracking contributions. Last but not least Funambol is definitely working hard on making its brand stronger and stronger.

I wish Fabrizio and his team best of luck!

Technorati Tags: OSIM,   OSIM Berlin,   Open Source Workshop, Business models,   Open Source Marketing,   Commercial Open Source, Funambol, FabrizioCapobianco