Time for the Linux geeks to move over

Sometimes it seems that Linux fanatics are the open source movement`s own worst enemy. Perhaps it is time that the "revolution" started to employ a few marketing people.
By Alastair Otter, Journalist, Tectonic
Johannesburg, 23 May 2002

Geeks and hackers are what make Linux strong. No doubt about that, but sometimes it seems that these selfsame people are as much a hindrance to the further development of the operating system as they are a benefit.

I state this with great respect for the time and effort put into the open source movement by these "geeks", but I can`t help feeling that it is time for them to move over and let a few marketing people in the door.

What the movement needs now is a little of the presentation gloss that its competitors have been employing for so long.

Alastair Otter, journalist, ITWeb

Linux has built up its current position on the back of its technology, which indeed it should have done. And what has been driving this movement for so long has been the "technology people", users and professionals that are overly technology-oriented and would often prefer the solitude of recompiling the kernel than interacting with the world.

As Linux develops, however, there is a new need emerging in the movement, particularly locally, and the "technology people" are not the ones best suited to the task at hand. What the movement needs now is a little of the presentation gloss that its competitors have been employing for so long. For better or worse, this entails employing a few marketing people and setting up lobby groups that have facts, figures and glossy brochures at hand.

I`m aware there are a few organisations that are already making a stab at it locally, and I may be unfairly characterising them as inadequate, but the effort needs to be significantly larger. If Linux hopes to make real inroads in the next couple of years, a few ad hoc processes are not going to be enough.

Perfect opportunity

One area that is of particular concern to me, and possibly the largest opportunity facing open source advocates currently, is that of State IT procurement. Government is not only the largest procurer of IT on the continent, but it is also in the throes of overhauling its systems entirely. The next five years, at least, promise to be years of large government IT spend and if the open source movement plans to miss the opportunity then it does so at its own peril.

And for those that see the movement in a more ideological manner, there is also the argument that government has the responsibility to implement open standards solutions to its IT needs, a role that Linux fits rather neatly into. Isn`t it time we had an organised lobby group to push the virtues of open source to government?

I`m not suggesting that what has been done so far is valueless. Far from it, but open source needs to start asserting itself if it hopes to take the next step towards capturing a larger slice of the pie. We need to start rolling out the marketing suits and selling the "revolution" instead of presenting ourselves as a rag-tag group of enthusiasts that explain away our inadequacies by saying "we are just techies".