Marketing Open Source to Consumers

First off, Happy 2009!

Like many of you, I picked up a new TV over the holidays. Imagine my surprise when I was flipping through the instruction manual and found the GPL V2.0 and GPL V2.1 licenses in the appendix. Samsung seems to be using one or more pieces of GPL'd code inside of its Series 5 LCD TVs.

I would have liked to know that the TV I was buying was using Free/open source software. All things equal, I would have purchased the TV using "FOSS Inside" vs. a similar TV not using "FOSS Inside". But I'm not representative of the consumer population. Would my wife, friends or parents make the same choice based on an "FOSS Inside" logo on a consumer electronic device? Likely not; well, not initially at least.

But if Samsung is willing to put a "Java Powered" logo on its Blu-ray player packaging, then why not an "FOSS Inside" logo? Why does a consumer care that the device is Java Powered? I would argue that consumers don't care. I'd further argue that an "FOSS Inside" logo could denote more value to the consumer than a "Java Powered" logo. First off, the use of "FOSS Inside" would denote a degree of consumer rights around the software within the consumer device being purchased. Second, consumers would be made aware of the reliability of FOSS, otherwise why would a company like Sony or Samsung use the software inside their product. Also, to those that know about FOSS, they could feel more comfortable about the quality of software being utilized in their consumer devices. Third, as I've argued before, when a vendor uses open source inside of their product, the vendor is able to direct resources to value added features vs. commodity function. As such, a "FOSS Inside" logo could denote that the consumer is getting a more feature rich product for a lower cost than a similar product not utilizing FOSS.

Clearly there will be some consumer education required to help consumers realize the benefits of a product with "FOSS Inside". However, the greater awareness around FOSS would surely outweigh the work required.

What do you think?

PS: I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions."

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