Big Open Source Push Is Wrong Strategy for SMBs

Ann All

The prevailing wisdom is that SMBs want technology solutions that are both inexpensive and simple. And that may be a sticking point when it comes to SMB adoption of open source software, opines blogger Matt Asay.


For every open source advocate who mentions low cost as a reason to opt for open source software, there is a naysayer who warns about the need to pay for extensive support. One of the main selling points of open source is the ability to customize applications to suit, not a key requirement for many SMBs.


Writing on CNET, Asay cites new research from The 451 Group that finds that even open source vendors seem uncertain about SMB adoption of open source. While 47.5 percent of them say SMB adoption will drive a significant increase in their future business, 34.3 percent say it won't.


Key hurdles include SMBs' "lack of expertise," mentioned by 36.1 percent of respondents, and "lack of awareness of open source options," cited by 24.6 percent. Yet somewhat inexplicably, 72.1 percent are using a direct sales approach to woo SMBs.


Big mistake, opines Asay:

If the problem is SMB expertise and awareness, a direct model is the wrong way to go, especially since no open-source vendor beyond Red Hat or Novell has the marketing resources to make enough noise for SMBs to hear. Microsoft wins in SMB, in part, because it has a killer channel.

A better approach, says Asay, is to sell to big companies, which have "the budget and the inclination" to give open source a try. Open source will ultimately move downstream to SMBs after it wins broader acceptance in the enterprise.


It's worth noting that even the largest and most experienced vendors like HP, IBM and SAP don't try to go it alone when selling to SMBs. As I've blogged before, they have been aggressively recruiting reseller partners to help them break into the highly fragmented market.

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