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[board-discuss] Proposed rebranding in global perspective


Hello all,

A lot has already been said about the proposed rebranding, so let me first say briefly that I'm not in favour of the "Personal Edition" branding and I don't find the reasoning given for the word "personal" particularly convincing. Especially the suggestions that people would associate the word "community" with a support group for recovering addicts strike me as very odd, and completely contrary to my understanding of the nuances of English. I'm not sure what to make of "LibreOffice is developed by a friendly community", as it says on the website, if that were the case :) So if there needs to be an "edition", let it be "Community Edition", which sends a message more in line with LO's licence and TDF's statutes, yet suggests that this edition is not something you want to rely on in an "enterprise" setting.

I'd like to thank Michael Meeks for his thought-provoking analysis, though, which makes the motivations behing the branding change more understandable. While I'm not necessarily sold on the idea of TDF's version of LO being an "edition", I agree that staying with the status quo would be risky for the overall health of the LO ecosystem as well. "Community Edition" could certainly be worth trying. At the very least, I don't think anyone so far has objected to adding the statement about TDF's version of LO being supported by volunteers. (I think it would be a welcome addition to help manage users' expectations.) Likewise, links and menu items that say "Get support" should IMO be rephrased to something closer to the actual state of affairs, that is, "ask nicely for support from volunteers who are under no obligation to fix your problems for you" (however you want to phrase that) and "buy support from our certified ecosystem partners".

The big issue I'd like to bring up is that the assumptions behind the marketing plan and Michael's analysis seem to be somewhat anglo/eurocentric, or perhaps more accurately "global north / major language centric". I live in Finland (very much in the global north, but not a player in the major language league), and I'm quite astonished to hear that in some countries lots of big companies are using LO and finding it as good as to need neither paid support nor MS Office. In Finland, MSO is ubiquitous in government and business, and the only "enterprise-scale" deployments of LO I'm aware of are in schools and universities. Even there, MS Office is generally the primary, recommended office suite, with LO offered as an alternative. The assumption that you could just "nudge" these institutions into buying support for LO in addition to, or instead of, paying for MSO licences is quite a bold one. I'm not saying it couldn't happen eventually (and I hope it does), but right now, a "LO personal edition, for individuals only" might very well just nudge the IT departments into uninstalling LO. (Maybe they'll install AOO instead, giving uninformed users and bosses the impression that FOSS office suites are basically abandonware.)

Countries like Finland where LO struggles to be taken seriously in business and government, whether due to political priorities or interoperability issues or insufficient localisation (I'm working on that...) or insufficient lobbying or lack of training materials or lack of a volunteer support community are in a completely different situation than countries like the UK where ODF is adopted in the goverment and all the world's English-language tutorials, templates and volunteer support are just one internet search away. Focusing marketing efforts on nudging non-paying users into buying support is premised on the idea that there are lots of happy non-paying users in enterprise settings, which I doubt is true at all in many parts of the world.

The interesting question is whether most of the world is more like Finland or more like the UK in this respect. I'd be interested if someone has actually done research on this, but my wild guess would be more like Finland. But another question arises: can you make more money by serving countries like Finland or countries like the UK? Most likely the latter. So I can understand very well that the ecosystem companies want to go after untapped potential in these large markets first. That's certainly their right, but TDF's mission is not to serve only the major languages and the global north.

If the "Personal Edition for individuals only" branding is adopted, we would have a situation where schools and businesses everywhere in the world are discouraged from using TDF's LO, yet in most countries you can't actually buy an enterprise edition with support in your own language, because none of the ecosystem companies are offering one. Companies based in the global north probably can't offer paid support at rates low enough to be feasible for much of the global south, anyway, regardless of their intentions. (This could be, BTW, an argument for why an all-megafauna ecosystem might not be the best idea.)

The code that the ecosystem companies commit into LO benefits everyone regardless of country or language, of course. But TDF should still be careful not to alienate the volunteer community. I'd say in most cases, without volunteer localisers drawn from an existing userbase, there would be no business opportunity for the ecosystem companies. The market for professional support outside of the major languages is unlikely to bootstrap itself without help from volunteers, governments or NGOs.

In any case, I'd be interested in hearing about the situation in other parts of the world and would recommend TDF to consider the global perspectives.

All the best,
Tuomas Hietala

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