On The Art of Ware by Bruce Webster

This is an adaptation of Sun Tzu's famous work, The Art of War, to the field of software marketing. It's pretty cute. The main point is that marketing is indeed war, and one should use similar techniques: deception and bluff as appropriate to force enemies into weak positions whenever possible, so as to win battles without even needing to fight; and focusing of ones strength to win key parts of the battle, leaving a potentially larger force helpless.

Netscape's recent announcement of Moving Worlds support from 56 companies was such a use. Merely by making the announcement, they scared many possible competitors into retreat. If Netscape had waited a few more months, many of those competitors would have been unable to retreat and would have had to slug away, reducing Netscape's market share. But as it is, they've preempted much of the battle. Note that Netscape doesn't have the be-all product in this area either; it's just the threat of their future capabilities that scared everyone off.

Now, a truly classic Sun Tzu move would be for Netscape to change direction entirely, now that it has misdirected the VRML community into the MW direction, by building up their own private Live 3d standard instead of MW. All the competitors concentrate their forces in the wrong direction, as Live 3d's non-MW APIs proceed to take over the market. What a coupe. This is the sort of move Microsoft is often accused of pulling with OS/2 and Windows, it sure worked for them!

This book brought home for me the point that one must keep one's true corporate direction secret, and in fact should publish misleading info about direction. That way the competition moves the wrong way, commits resources to the feint, and gets clobbered when the real direction becomes apparent. This becomes more important as one becomes a real force instead of just one of the little guys, I doubt we have to worry much about it right now.

Substantive changes:
    March 25, 1996: created.
Copyright © 1996, Steve Colwell, All Rights Reserved
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