This is a textbook case for a business school
Posted Apr 6, 2005 17:16 UTC (Wed) by JoeBuck
In reply to: Linus on the BK withdrawal
Parent article: Linus on the BK withdrawal
Larry's been executing a brilliant marketing strategy all along. Marketing people at startups everywhere should be taking notes.
Larry saw a business opportunity: the version control systems in common use all sucked to one degree or another. But developing a good one would require lots of resources, and open source work wasn't putting bread on his table. And he clearly had the entrepreneurial itch and wanted to start a company. But how to get into a business where the competition is of the size of IBM (ClearCase)? How would anyone ever even hear of his company? And how would he manage to get the product to the rock-solid level required if anyone is going to trust their precious source code to it?
The answer, of course, was working with Linus and the kernel developers. Give them a free-beer license in exchange for serving as dedicated beta testers, and get huge amounts of publicity, so that techs the world over would soon know what BitKeeper is. Get none other than Linus Torvalds to give you publishable quotes. You can't buy that kind of publicity. Once you get to the level you want to get to, drop the free-as-in-beer version, and give people a read-only client so they don't lose access to their own data. Voila, you've bootstrapped a successful company from nothing. I admire Larry for pulling it off. The only thing I don't care for is the notion that there was ever any kind of charity involved; this was always strictly a business proposition.
I don't believe that Larry was ever so naive as to think that the people who cloned Unix and the Windows GUI wouldn't try to clone BitKeeper, so I don't take the claims that the withdrawal of the free BitKeeper has something to do with cloning efforts seriously. After all, withdrawing the free version would only speed up, not slow down, the cloners (unless they lose interest because Linus stops using BitKeeper at the same time, perhaps?). The imperatives of business required that the free version be withdrawn sometime, the only question was the timing.
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