Originally Published: Wednesday, 19 July 2000 Author: Wesley Parish
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Linux and the Supermarket of Ideas

A few days ago I was doing something of no great interest to anyone else, even me, and the thought struck me -- quite unexpectedly -- that I knew the base business plan of all Linux companies.

A few days ago I was doing something of no great interest to anyone else, even me, and the thought struck me -- quite unexpectedly -- that I knew the base business plan of all Linux companies.

I was shopping in a local supermarket. What are the common features of all supermarkets, or all produce markets for that matter?

Would it surprise you if I said it was the fact that most of their stock-in-trade is common to all supermarkets? For example, you can buy potatoes anywhere and they are still potatoes. You might prefer a particular type of potato for your particular style of cooking, but those potatoes can be bought at your local supermarket, or another supermarket if your particular type isn't stocked.

As a result, most of their stock-in-trade is low cost. There are no monopoly profits for supermarkets. Monopolies are very hard to set up for supermarkets, and in the only place where I know they set up a monopoly in supermarkets, those supermarkets -- in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union -- were renowned for not having anything on their shelves.

In spite of this lack of monopoly, people still do make a living from selling fresh produce. Not from the produce itself, but from all the additional services they provide.

When I did a short course on setting up my own business, they used a video with two supermarkets in the East Coast and the Midwest of America as examples of how to keep customers coming back for more. Because you don't have a monopoly hold on your customer, you have to keep the customer satisfied. Supermarkets make money on repeat customers, not the one-off customer.

It was interesting to see how these two supermarkets tackled that problem. They provided services such as: an extremely short customer-to-manager suggestions and complaints line, an attempt to satisfy the differences in customer requirements, and so on. In short, the policy was honesty and openness to the customer.

So that is the base business plan for all Linux companies. Or all Open Source companies, for that matter. To all worried about funding research and development, all I can say is that it will be handled through the traditional "scratching your own itch" motivation. It worked for the Wright Brothers, so it can't be all that bad.

Wesley Parish may be contacted at this e-mail address for further discussion of this topic if you wish.

This article is provided under the OpenContent License, and was first shown at osOpinion.