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How can an open source company compete with big, proprietary companies?

Can you offer some advice about how a company should position itself in the marketplace with its open source technologies? We're up against the big boys like Microsoft and Apple, of course.

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I interpret your question to mean that you have a software product which has commercial counterparts with analogous functionality offered by commercial (and, from your example, large) competitors.

As it happens, I work a lot with companies pursuing open source strategies. I'll share with you what I always tell them -- open source is not magic; you need to create a useful product and build a vibrant community. To do that requires a lot of blocking and tackling -- distributing the product, participating in user forums, lots of evangelism at the local level, and so on.

It seems like the big competitors have all the advantages, but it's not really true. Open source lets a small company achieve distribution without massive marketing spend. Just look at SugarCRM as an example.

As a mild self-plug, Chapter 2 of my book, Succeeding with Open Source, discusses open source business models. You might find it helpful in focusing your efforts. Good luck.

This was first published in June 2005

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