Open Source Business: What about Open Source Network Marketing at Sun?

After the ‘outing’ of the Sun Model Simon Phipps commented my post about Sun and the open source Funnel Marketing, mentioning Jonathan Schwartz‘s Inside Story, a tie-in with Microsoft built in around the Java Run-time downloads.

Jonathan explains that freely distributing software opens a direct relationship with end users, and the decision to go with Microsoft was based on overall value, included an agreement with Microsoft to promote MySQL. Kudos to Jonathan to have been able to close the deal, and let’s see if Sun could retain the value of retail distribution in other ways.

Network Marketing is the movement of goods or services from the manufacturer to the ultimate consumer through a network of independent distributors. Open Source Network Marketing instead, is based on the idea that IT knowledge workers proficient in the use of open source products are a valuable marketing network.

Open Source Network Marketing could help to reduce information asymmetry, bringing more end-users to become customers and save time (and money!) buying instead commercial open source services (i.e. subscriptions and everything else fits in your funnel marketing).

Since CIOs ask OS companies to behave just like any other proprietary vendor, what almost all open source vendors are missing is an appropriate distribution channel. Proficient open source personnel is the best resource for that, and products like MySQL because of the positive network effects can rely on a huge number of experienced people around the world.

The compensation scheme has to be build in a way that preserve and enhance open source values. Users should turn into customers because it makes business sense, not because network marketing has cheated them.

Open Source Network Marketing has to be applied responsibly and ethically. The free software community has to be happy to be part of this business equation, valuing hackers’ time and experience is a must. Make them happy is the only way to foster the ecosystem required to release this potential.

Certification programs maybe a source of revenues, but also a rewarding bonus for your network of independent distributors. MySQL brand recognition is really strong, and big customers are already demanding for MySQL certifications, so the business opportunity is already out there.

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