“Eating your own caviar”. So goes the saying at many companies (not just high technology ones) about the internal use of the company’s own products. If you work for Ford – drive a Ford. If you work for Coke – drink Coke. If you work for Sun – use open office. And so it goes. Or does it?
Real life, it appears, is not always so clean. It seems individuals want the choice to use the products that work for them. Loyalty is one thing, Using a product based on my wants and needs is another.
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article on the use by certain Microsoft employees of Apple’s iPhone highlights just how sensitive and awkward for some this dilemma has become. And while it’s fun for some to point out that Microsoft’s own employees prefer a competitive product – this use of competitive products is by no means unique to Microsoft in the IT industry. In fact, there are countless examples of open source companies and employees using proprietary platforms and products…Apple products primary among them. Indeed, popular CNET blogger, open source evangelist and recently appointed COO of Canonical, Matt Asay, has been a long time user of Apple products. Have Matt and the countless other open source developers, users, and proponents some how betrayed their companies and movement? No more so than the dedicated Microsoft employee who happens to use an iPhone. In fact, I’d submit it’s impossible and impractical in our industry to use only one company’s products or use products developed under only one business model or platform.
As was pointed out in the WSJ article, sometimes we use competitive products to gain a better understanding of the competition. Seems reasonable. For me the argument is even more fundamental. Sometimes you want choice. Sometimes you have no choice. Users use a mix of IT products and platforms because they prefer the user experience of those products and/or the task or application they want to run only works on certain platforms. The call to action for IT vendors isn’t therefore to complain about uneven playing fields but to develop and market products people want to use.
Freedom of choice is the ultimate free market mechanism. What’s your guilty pleasure?