It is a rare free software development project which feels the need - or
has the resources - to develop a 50-page strategic marketing plan. OpenOffice.org
is anything but an
ordinary project however. Its Strategic Marketing Plan
is available in a glossy, printer-stressing PDF format; those
wishing to support the project can also buy the plan in book format for
$7.95. In many ways, the OpenOffice.org plan resembles many other, similar
documents which have been putting meeting attendees to sleep for years. It
is very much worth a read, however; it offers a view into the project's
ambitions and worries for the coming years.
OpenOffice.org cannot be faulted for lacking ambition: the marketing plan
calls for a 50% penetration rate by 2010. There is a little table which
reads a bit like a Bush administration budget forecast - usage is supposed
to jump from 35% to 50% between 2009 and 2010. By the end of 2004, the
project will be satisfied with 2% penetration.
Getting that many users will be a challenge, so much of the plan concerns
itself with how OpenOffice.org will find them.
There is a big emphasis on establishing OpenOffice.org as a global
brand. The project has also singled out seven target markets which, it
thinks, are especially ready for a jump to OpenOffice.org:
- Governments - with an emphasis on developing countries. Reading
between the lines, it appears that OpenOffice.org does not wish to
compete with Sun's StarOffice sales in richer countries.
- Education. As a way of competing with Microsoft's education programs,
which target teenagers, OpenOffice.org's plan suggests trying to hook
kids when they are seven or eight years old.
- Public libraries - especially smaller ones without lots of extra
- Non-profit organizations.
- Small and medium-sized businesses.
- Original equipment manufactures, who should be encouraged to bundle
OpenOffice.org with their systems.
- Linux distributors; OpenOffice.org would like to have its software
shipped with every general-purpose distribution.
To push OpenOffice.org into these markets, the project has a whole set of
"marketing contacts," is working on promotional materials, and has a set of
development goals, such as the creation of "OEM kits." Feeding the demand
side of the equation is very much at the core of the OpenOffice.org plan.
There are some interesting things which are missing. In its introduction,
the plan states:
As of today (2004), both OpenOffice.org and the Community are
heavily dependent on the support of Sun for their continued
survival. The Community has set itself a challenge to become
completely self-sufficient, and rely on volunteer effort and/or
funds generated by the Community.
This would clearly be a good thing for OpenOffice.org to do. The marketing
plan does not really address this goal again, however. Raising funds
appears to not be a part of this plan at all. There also appears to be
little concern about marketing OpenOffice.org to developers. By most
accounts, the bulk of OpenOffice development is still done by Sun
engineers, and the project remains difficult for new developers to
approach. Forks like ooo-build have appeared in
response to developer frustrations, and Sun's ties to Microsoft have
recently led to Bruce Perens calling for developers to not
donate their code to the project. If OpenOffice.org cannot get past this
marketing problem, it will have a hard time achieving self-sufficiency and
its usage goals.
The project's relationship with Sun is a recurring issue in this document.
Clearly, as long as OpenOffice.org is dependent on Sun for funding and
developers, one of its priorities must not be marketing to users, but
marketing itself to Sun. Thus, the plan worries:
Sun Microsystems may lose the ability or desire to fund non-revenue
generating activities such as the Community.
and recommends that:
The Community should put significant effort into understanding
Sun's goals for StarOffice and OpenOffice.org and selling the
benefits to Sun of their continuing support of the Community.
OpenOffice.org has to step carefully around its patron. So there are no
plans to try to "sell" OpenOffice.org into large businesses and other
places where Sun is trying to do deals involving StarOffice. A fair amount
of new OpenOffice.org functionality is being written in Java, which creates
problems for some Linux distributors - there is no free, certified Java
runtime which can be shipped to run that new code. So OpenOffice.org's
plan contemplates the creation of a "Java-free" configuration (something
the distributors have been doing for a while), but there is no thought
given to making it all work with a free, non-certified runtime engine.
The plan spends some time contemplating the threats faced by the project.
These include confusion with StarOffice, the fact that others can fork the
project, missing functionality (email, web browsing, group calendars,
etc.), and software patents. The biggest threat seen by the project,
however, is clearly Microsoft; somehow the planners have gotten the idea
that Microsoft might not just stand by and watch while OpenOffice.org grabs
the 50% of the market it covets. The project intends to respond by making
migration from Microsoft products even easier, stressing the "full
functionality for free" nature of the software, and targeting users who are
facing forced upgrades or who fear license compliance audits.
There is one threat which is not even mentioned by the plan, however: other
free software projects. Names like AbiWord, Gnumeric, Scribus, KOffice,
etc. simply do not appear at all. Some of these are, perhaps, shrugged off
by proclaiming that OpenOffice.org is the only free integrated
office suite - though the KOffice developers might disagree. It can also
only be true that the OpenOffice.org developers do not wish to upset parts
of the free software community by overtly tagging them as competitors and
making plans on how to beat them. The fact remains, however, that a number
of free "productivity" tools exist, and many of them are held, by some
users at least, to be superior to the corresponding parts of
OpenOffice.org. These tools will not go away; a "strategic marketing plan"
that aims for 50% penetration while ignoring the other free alternatives
runs a real risk of an unpleasant collision with reality as things play
It is worth noting that the plan is not in its final form; this is, in
fact, the first public release, which was intended to encourage discussion
and debate at OOoCon last week.
There will be, without doubt, changes to the plan as a result of that
discussion, but LWN was unable to attend the conference and reports have
been relatively scarce so far. Even so, the plan gives valuable insights
into an important free software project which is at a sort of turning
point. It indicates that the project intends to concentrate on "selling"
OpenOffice.org to vast numbers of users rather than on engagement with the
free software community. More OpenOffice.org users can only be a good
thing; one can only wish the project luck in achieving its goals.
Comments (15 posted)
A consortium of five companies, including MandrakeSoft, has
been awarded a contract from the French Ministry of Defense to deliver
a Linux-based OS certified at Common
Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 5 (CC-EAL5). The three-year
contract is worth €7 million, with MandrakeSoft's share totaling
€1 million. Participating in the contract with MandrakeSoft are Bertin
Technologies, Surlog, Jaluna, and Oppida.
We contacted MandrakeSoft co-founder Gaël Duval about the contract and
to get a little more information about the process. The EAL5 certification may
seem a bit ambitious, particularly since no other Linux vendor has achieved
that level of certification for a Linux OS. In fact, none of the competing
OSes have reached that level of certification either.
At the moment, the Linux distribution with the highest level of EAL
certification is Novell's SUSE
Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 8 (PDF), which achieved EAL3+ with IBM's help.
There are seven levels of CC-EAL certification. In a nutshell, a EAL5
certification designates that a system's features and security level are
certified, and that development follows "formalized or
We asked Duval if MandrakeSoft had any prior experience with this type of
Not exactly but we introduced advanced security features in Mandrakelinux
products early (Mandrakelinux 7.0 which was released on early 2000). We
also sponsored projects several Open Source security projects. And we have
a line of security products (Single Network Firewall & Multi Network
Firewall). So security is a long-time tradition at Mandrakesoft.
Of course, MandrakeSoft is not the only vendor working on this project. Oppida is an officially
authorized Common Criteria Information Technologies Security Evaluation Facility
(ITSEF), making it an ideal partner for a project of this kind. Surlog's expertise is in
providing tools to evaluate software and system dependability. Jaluna provides real-time and
high-availability solutions, including solutions based on Linux.
We also asked Duval how MandrakeSoft became involved with this effort, and
how the consortium came into being. Duval didn't provide a great deal of
We know these companies and they know us, so it's a natural arrangement
because every actor has some technology and expertise to bring.
Unfortunately, it will be some time before the work that the consortium is
doing shows up for use by the community. According to Duval, the plan is to
keep development separate from Mandrake Linux development:
It will be totally outside of the Mandrakelinux product roadmap. Several
actors take part in this project, which will be released in Open Source
Duval did allow that some of the work might show up "later" in
the development process. We also asked what license would be used for any
work created for this project. Duval said that he doesn't have any
information about licensing details, just that it would be an open source
Three years is quite a long time, so it will be interesting to see whether
MandrakeSoft is the first Linux vendor to reach EAL5, or if Novell or Red
Hat beat them to the punch. Novell has already said
that it hopes to gain EAL4 certification in the near future. No doubt,
Novell will be setting its sights on EAL5 shortly thereafter.
For the larger picture, of course, it won't matter whether Novell or
MandrakeSoft reach the finish line first. Achieving EAL5 will be yet
another feather in Linux's cap, another milestone reached that will allow
governments and organizations to move to Linux instead of proprietary
Comments (6 posted)
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