I had an interesting discussion with an editor yesterday. It had to do with the fact that mid-sized companies were suffered when vendors added every feature under the sun into a product – especially when it comes to enterprise application. In the past, there were plenty of point products out there that did just one thing and did it well. Over the past few years, these types of products have increasingly been acquired by large vendors and disappeared – only to reappear as features in other larger products.
Now that might be all well and good; but if you’re a small or mid-sized company that needed that functionality, you may find yourself SOL. Maybe you don’t have plans to purchase or upgrade the product that function is now a part of, maybe you can’t justify the expense or maybe you don’t have the resources needed to manage the behemoth-ware in question. How many companies have found themselves essentially “featured” out as a result?
James Fallow captured the problem perfectly in his June story, “Homo Conexus”
“For years, software makers, notably Microsoft, have struggled with the bloatware dilemma. A small fraction of their users want specialized, elaborate new functions; moreover, the software makers themselves need to keep adding features to justify upgrades. But the more niche features they add, the more complex, buggy, and expensive their programs become, and the more off-putting they can seem to most users.”
The bright side to all of this is that many of those point solutions are reemerging – often as open source products. These, aside from meeting an immediate need, are going a long way to proving the viability, value and vision of the open source community.