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Zimbra…good product…bad model

Dear Reader,

I’m going to break ranks with the Web 2.0 Evangelists and decry Zimbra for their business model. I have no problem with people making money with open source projects but with Zimbra, I have 3 problems.

1) It’s overly expensive. Guys, you cobbled together your core with Open Source projects. At least 1/2 of the code that your program runs on was not written by you. Recognize this, price your product accordingly. By having a minimum buy-in of $1,450 for your commercial product you are pricing yourself out of 1/2 of the the small business market. Sell a $100 edition that includes 5 mailboxes and let people buy additional mailboxes as needed. Not 5 at a time, not 50 at a time, as they need them. (c’mon guys, it takes no more or less work for you to sell 1 box of 100 boxes. This is a marketing drive decision and a dumb one at that.) Let me pay for support as I need it. Don’t assume I’m going to need it and sell me support I won’t use.

2) You do not reward your community supporters. Look, I’ve got some ideas for plug-ins both generalized and specialized that I’d consider developing. But I’m not contributing my code to your product so that you can make more money and I get nothing. If your entire product was Open Source and you made your money on support, I’d share. But if you want my help, share the wealth. If nothing else, people who contribute something as significant as a lug-in should at least get a fee license.

3) Do not price your product on a yearly pricing basis. I may buy your product and decide to use it for 6 months. I may buy it and decide to use it for 3 years. The point is I bought the license and I don’t want to keep paying you year after year. If next year you release something significant enough for me to want to upgrade I will. But why should i pay you year after year for the same code or for at best for fixing bugs that you should have never released with. Give me 1 price and I’ll pay it, give me an annual license and I’ll keep moving.

Overall I like Zimbra. I’d like to install it for a client who I desperately want to move off of Exchange. But there’s no way they will replace their 4 year old Exchange license with a yearly fee. So even though it lacks a lot of the cool bells and whistles that Zimbra has (and that I’m willing to pay once for) I will continue to install Exim, Courier, Squirrelmail, webmail and SpamAssassin.

Instead of building a category killer, you’ve built an opportunity for another company to come in with a great product and a better business model.

Until next time. It’s good to be home.