Marketing in software

Apple marketing
Hey, we understand you. You want a laptop to do these five or six things, right? Here, we’ve built one for you that’s very attractive and well-made and does the things that you want really, really well.

Microsoft marketing
You don’t really know what you want from your PC, and neither do we. We’re all in the same boat! So we made this software that has a whole bunch of features. Put it in your PC and it’ll do things. By the way your friends all have it, so if you go with the flow you’ll be able to share stuff.

Open Source marketing
User! You have no idea what you need and we’re not even going to attempt to tell you. Behind this link is our latest software, which we’re very proud of. If you use it, maybe you will see…

Guess who wins…

Microsoft, of course. They identify better with the user and address their anxieties, which are mainly about unknown future needs and social connection. It’s no surprise that they continue to have the largest market share, beyond what can be explained by lock-in or inertia.

Apple’s message appeals to customers who are sufficiently self-assured and clear about their needs to go for the product, and who want to be aloof to some extent. That’s a minority, but it’s growing as product categories such as PCs, media players, etc. become more settled and universally understood.

As for Open Source, this kind of defensive marketing tells consumers quite accurately and firmly that developers don’t care for them, and they’d better stay away. It’s a product for industry professionals, who appreciate the lack of a marketing layer. A few of the Open Source projects, such as Gnome are changing their image and aiming somewhere between Microsoft and Apple for their consumer appeal. That’s an improvement, but it’s a “me too” position without any unique attractiveness or solid reassurances aside from cost and freedom assurances. The latter may be winning points in government or emerging markets.

Google comes along as the late player, with marketing like this:

Google marketing
We noticed that you were doing these things a lot, so we’ve made it possible to do them on the web. We’ve put really smart people on it so it works right, and it’s free. Just use it. Click here. We promise not to be evil.

Will this work? Hard to say. Google is certainly building a reputation for making things that actually work, for everyone, without the different elitist characteristics of Apple and the FOSS people. However the burden of proof for Google is enormous. If a traditional software vendor wanted to be evil they’d have to sell you a malicious, or more likely compromised, product. With a hosted model like Gmail, Google Calendar, or Google Docs, the vendor has all your data already and could in theory do with it what they like. The public, much as we like Google’s no-commitment services, is reluctant to commit that kind of trust just yet.

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