It was often said at Microsoft and highlighted in the industry trade rags that one of the great strengths Microsoft had been its legion of developers. To be successful in technology it has always been paramount to court the developers, help developers make money and continue to innovate so they stay loyal to you. To be stagnant is to die. I was thinking about this as I read about Google’s new technology SPDY (pronounced speedy). It is a technology designed to help load web pages faster, thus improving web site performance. If web site performance is better customers, users etc..are likely to stay on the page longer. It is a win-win for everyone involved. What I found most interesting is that once it has matured enough Google plans to give it to the open-source community. It is a strategy that has worked before for Google so I see the appeal. Where is the largest community of developers on the planet? They are on the web. So what does the future hold for the developer and how technology goes from inception to reality?
As I have written before the Open Source developer community at its core is that heavenly place on virtual earth that they can come closest to their god…one’s and zero’s ( for assembly developers that one is for you..for the rest just read on). It is the wild west where everything is available for free, so they can download and get to the actual code of whatever they are working on. Could be writing and compiling code. Getting access to the kernel code of the latest Linux OS. Asking questions to the community about scripting tools like Ruby or Java Script. Developers love a challenge and the open source community is great for asking questions, getting answers and learning about the next great challenge. I equate Open Source with “the Borg” from Star Trek – The Next Generation (ok I have crossed over into “über” geekdom, but it was the best analogy I could think of – next blog: “The life of Giorgio Armani”, how’s that for recovery?). But open source does provide for a network of a broad and collective minds and tapping into those minds and getting them excited is a way to tap into a huge potential financial windfall. The support of the developer community is the quickest way to start generating “buzz” and once that starts others quickly come on board to try to get on the wave early before it crests,
Sales and Marketing is one of those things the open source community equated with the ills of a capitalist society and was and sometimes still is frowned upon. I can see the appeal of the net to bypass this need for sales and marketing but even the internet has evolved. Despite the appeals by some to minimize this skill set it will always be necessary to some degree as they are the ones that develop and deliver the message you are trying to convey. Open source started as a grass-roots movement but as it has matured corporations have started to be more willing to embrace. There a multitude of services behind it, could be ad driven models or service driven all requiring the S&M (oddly appropriate) folks to get involved. In terms of generating “buzz” they were core in getting Google’s Android off of the ground and into the minds of developers.
Moving forward it is also important to developers that whatever platform they are writing software for, that the company they stand behind is perceived as a leader towards the future. Developers have responsibilities to and want to make sure they see bright employment horizons beyond the current year. Apple, which is anything but open source has been able to get developers revved up for its platform by being perceived as a market leader and innovator with a strong grasp of what the future will hold in terms of opportunity. They also do a great job of sales and marketing with the Apple logo and tens of thousands of websites, TV personalities saying ” go to www… and download your iPad app”, not to mention the many websites I visit with the download your Apple app, “click here”. The flip side is Google’s Android, which shows the velocity one can generate through the web. Apple had jumped out to a considerable lead. Had Google opted for a apple’s to Apple’s approach, I don’t think they ever would have caught Apple. It is already projected that Google will catch Apple and exceed Apple in market share and applications. By engaging and embracing the open source community, Google was very quickly able to generate excitement and mass in its platform. It engaged the open source community and the “buzz” generated spread like wild-fire. If they had tried to build their own more closed community it would have taken years to be successful.
It has become apparent that to generate mass quickly that you have to consider trying to harness the power of the web communities to gain access to your ultimate customer – the consumers who use the web. In an ever increasing competitive environment to reach existing and new audiences the internet is the fastest way to success. That of course does not just mean put it in the web and you will be successful. It does take some skill and experience. However if you can excite the army it is a very large army you will have at your disposal. Everyone wants an army of support. It’s in intimidating and historically successful and right now, and for the foreseeable future, the largest army is on the web.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann June 29th, 2011