[IAEP] Sugar Labs Business Model.

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Mon Jun 2 10:10:11 CEST 2008

On Sun, Jun 1, 2008 at 6:30 PM, Greg Dekoenigsberg <gdk at redhat.com> wrote:
> On Sun, 1 Jun 2008, David Farning wrote:
>> I have been watching the videos(1) for this years Linux Collaboration
>> Summit.  There are several good discussions on how to build a successful
>> business model around Linux and the open source model in general.

>> It seems that ISVs working in the educational field would be interested
>> in collaborating with Sugar Labs to build a platform on which to run
>> their educational applications.

> Educational ISVs seem like a tough sell to me.  That's some long legwork for
> some short dollar -- and it makes much more sense for those folks to sell
> software into the already dominant platform -- Windows.  (And increasingly,
> Mac OS.)  You're got to prove the viability of your platform first, before
> ISVs will be ready to play.

I used to write about the ISV markets regularly. It isn't at all too
soon to talk with ISVs. They need to know that we are coming into
their space, and we need to get their input. ISVs tend to be a little
more independent about platforms than other resellers, because their
customers usually don't have to worry about compatibility in
single-purpose systems.

We already have proof of viability. More than 600,000 units ordered,
and a number of published studies on the merits of computers in
education. Studies of XOs will come out in the next few years, but
there is already a substantial literature on Logo and Smalltalk.

We have to be able to point to hardware that ISVs can order on normal
commercial terms. GiveMany is right out.

> Hardware vendors may be more interesting -- but the trouble is, the biggest
> hardware vendors in the "edutainment" category tend to be fairly successful
> and fairly heavily invested, and are not likely to embrace an idea that
> threatens their own franchise.  Why would Leapfrog or VTech embrace a new
> platform, when they've got so much invested in the success of their current
> platforms?

Because the new paradigm will kill them if they don't change
directions. The Innovator's Dilemma.

Take a look at the Liliputing.com article referenced on the
Competition page in the Wiki. There are more Linux than Windows
offerings in this segment. Sugar should soon run on any Linux with
minor tweaks, now that we have Red Hat, Debian, and Ubuntu packages,
and our kernel mods have been moving upstream. We must talk to these
vendors about porting Sugar to the various versions of Linux that they
offer, and about adding hardware support for mesh networking and other
XO features. Pixel Qi should be supplying them all with screens in a
year or so.

> It looks like the "Linux desktop" and variants are most effective for
> businesses as loss leaders for other products.  If you can leverage the
> value of open source to erode a competitor's advantage, while at the same
> time preserving or enhancing your own advantage, you do it.  Which is
> precisely why the Asus EEE is successful, and is spawning competitors; their
> business success is primarily the success of low-cost hardware plus cheap,
> viable "alternative" software.
> Now, Sugar is not just a Linux desktop.  It is laser-focused on a
> kid-friendly UI, and building an ecosystem of educational activities built
> especially for that UI.  (At least, that's my hope.)  Which means that the
> companies interested in investing in Sugar will be companies looking to kick
> incumbents out of the educational gadget business.

Oh, yes.

> So.  Is there a hardware company that is looking to eat into / expand this
> billion-dollar market, that could use open source as a lever to enter this
> marketplace, and would be willing to help fund the development of Sugar as
> their primary platform?  Someone with deep pockets, a substantial R&D
> budget, a taste for risk, and a reason to attack weak players in the market
> with an innovative product?

Apple would love to regain dominance in education. Steve Jobs offered
OS X for the XO at no charge some time back. We should have no trouble
interesting him in porting Sugar to the Mac and to its BSD

> Maybe we should be talking to the Hasbros of the world.

They tend not to understand software very well, and certainly not Open
Source. But we should talk to them.

> Some interesting reading about Leapfrog and their recent woes:
> http://www.playthings.com/article/CA6441222.html
> http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2005/11/01/8362840/index.htm
> --g
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Edward Cherlin
End Poverty at a Profit by teaching children business
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."--Alan Kay

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