Competing Against a Community?

From Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz

As will become more obvious by the day, you can compete against a product, but it's close to impossible to compete against a community.

It's no coincidence that as we enter our most aggressive product cycle ever, an understanding of ecology, ecosystems and community development will once again be at the core of our strategy.

Comments (3)
  1. James Hancock says:

    Communities are made up of individuals. Communities when placed first over the individuals in it, kill themselves because the individuals stop working hard.

    You’re competing against individuals just like always. They may be working in a team, but you’re still competing against the individuals in that team.

    Community development = burocracy and politics = Slow = easy to beat with one good individual working to a clear vision.

    So if Sun is doing "group work", they’re really toast. (but then we knew that already)

  2. MSDNArchive says:

    I don’t think collaborative development was the entirety of what Jonathan was talking about. I think the post refers to the entire community ecosystem as a compelling reason to purchase a product.

  3. Duff says:

    Community doesn’t automatically translate into "a bunch of people sharing for the sake of sharing".

    If you look at the "communities" that spring up around software, you’ll find a few types:

    – Communities that share knowledge, data or resources like Napster, Messageboards or Bittorrent

    – Communities that develop products together out of mutual self-interest (Apache, Linux, PHP)

    – Communities that exist to promote, support or evangelize products like the Sunmangers Listserv, MSDN Blogs, OReilly network.

    Schwartz’s point is that convincing an entire "community" that your product (which is not a member of the community) is better or faster or cheaper is a lost cause — the community has emotional attachment, skills and a comfort level with its chosen product set.

    Think about it this way… Solaris went head to head against HP Unix, Digital Unix, Apollo Unix, and IBM Unix and won. The larger "Unix Community" accepted the various Unix variants as peers and was willing to consider all of them.

    Sun’s current woes are directly caused by the fact that they won the Unix wars, and don’t really belong to a community at all. Linux isn’t Unix, and Windows grew up to be a real operating system.

    They keep building the ultimate commercial Unix, and nobody cares.

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