Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Power of Brand Names

This is more a small rant followed by a plea for help than a posting.

I was having a chat with a relative last week, just after he opened his own small business. Brave fellow, he quit a job he didn't like and in middle age is giving his dream a try.

The conversation focussed on the limited budget he has to work with, the limited time he has to make the business work and the need to contain costs and spend what he money he does have on inventory rather than overhead.

The conversation (naturally) turned to software. We compared notes on Open Office versus Microsoft Office. He had a few words to say about the interface not being what he is used to (his former employer was a Microsoft customer), but it was also clear the whole open source idea was unfamilar and made him a bit uncomfortable.

Should he, could he, trust it to work and work predictably? If something goes wrong is there reliable tech support available? Can he afford to chance it?

Nope, he's paying it safe and spending some of his very limited capital on MS Office.

I am making a pitch for Open Office, Firefox etc. in the latest Webwork column in Our Times so I've been thinking about how to break the geek barrier. And talking to the family's first small biz owner brought some of the issues around open source adoption into sharper focus.

When I posted a request on UnionBook for anecdotes about Open Office and comparisons between the two suites, all I got back was a string of pro-Open Office stories. It does this better, it does that faster, it does things Microsoft hasn't implemented yet...on and on.

How to convince the 'average user' though? The 'nibble at the corporations' line works with a very small minority. And not at all where you might expect it: with unions and other progressive organizations. I'm not aware of a single one of any size that hasn't gone for the MS suite.

I could use some ideas on this. Help.


Ian Clysdale said...

The CLC is using OpenOffice - Andrew did a talk about their experience migrating to it at LabourTech.

Derek Blackadder said...

Good news indeed. Thanks.

And their experience has been...good?

Derek Blackadder said...

I found a way to convince at least the person who inspired this post: I showed it to him, he thought about it, and, hey! presto! he's using Open Office.