Friday, 25 September 2015

Big Company Products equal Safety, not 'Love'

I was reading an article by Matt Asay for TechRepublic last week (18 September 2015). Matt proposed that people want to be locked in with software suppliers, because they want the entire solution provided for them by a successful company. He said "While companies sometimes complained about being locked into their vendors, there was also safety" (Asay, 18 September 2015). So if you are a 'safety man' (to quote Stickmen: Ward, 2001) you would go with the big software companies. IBM. Microsoft. Oracle.

Needless to say, there were many comments on Matt's post. Brainout said the issue is not "LOCK-in, but TRUST-in". Good point. Big firm products are not purchased because they lock the customer in, but because the customer trusts that the firm will deliver what they say they will, without problems. Safety, again.

Klwilcoxon said that people go with what is easy. If we trust there will be no hu-hu, we buy from you. Safety.

I too disagreed with Matt's article. Particularly with his view of 'feeling the love' with proprietary, locked in software.

Why? The market fights exclusivity (Seguin et al, 2005). There may still be dominant giants out there, but the very fact those leviathans exist ensures the creation of innovative, creative minnows who then push those leviathans to new standards.

Think Linux. Bitcoin. Ubuntu. CiviCRM. Koha. Text2Speech. Drupal. Apache. Moodle. VLC. Gimp. OpenOffice. Calibre. Audacity. Gnu... to name a fraction of the busy, busy people out there donating their time and skull-sweat to writing and smoothing software for the LOVE of it.

For me, 'feeling the love' is a factor of the open-source side of the market, not of the big boys.

And yes, the industry standard is still MS Windows (95% of the market) and MS Office. And, yes, businesses still want a trouble-free life, so that is generally why they stay with the tried and true. They know what it does, and what it doesn't do: and they know it fits with everything else.

But in my experience, as soon as the open-source cost:benefit ratio starts to swing the other way, enough to notice, businesses will jump.

I am on the board of an organisation which: has binned their proprietary website and gone open-source; runs a CiviCRM database; uses Google for all their storage requirements; and Hangouts for their comms. Those changes have saved them thousands of dollars a year, and the solutions are no more buggy than the MS Windows/Office ones were. Hmm. In fact, I should suggest that we run an internal comparison of helpdesk time. I suspect that the open source options are LESS buggy.

So no: I personally don't feel the love of proprietary software. I like to see just how much cost I can strip out. Going open-source leaves me with the ability to pay a softie to then create some add-on code for my business, so I can get exactly what I want.

And return some new functionality to the shared resources.


  • Asay, Matt (18 September 2015). Lock-in is what people love, not open source. USA: TechRepublic. Retrieved 19 September 2015 from
  • Seguin, Benoit; Lyberger, Mark; O’Reilly, Norm & McCarthy, Larry (2005). Internationalising ambush marketing: A comparative study. International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, July 2005, Volume 6, issue 4 (pp. 216-230)
  • Ward, Nick (2001). Stickmen. Retrieved 23 March 2015 from

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