Dell should become an open source rabbi

By expanding its commitment to open source communities and software, by becoming knowledgeable and offering that knowledge, by sponsoring its customers to the open source world, Dell could win a lot of customers at very low cost.

Dell is making nice-nice with open source as it seeks a way to compete with a headless HP.

It seems a wise choice. (How did Rabbi Moshe Feinstein get from Wikipedia to here? All will be explained.)

The media focus is currently on 3Par, for which HP has bid $30/share. Dell, which had an offer accepted at $27/share, says it is considering its next move. ($31, anyone, asks our Larry Dignan.)

Analysts say the bidding has reached Crazytown, that it's now all about corporate ego. (Can a headless company have an ego? Apparently so.) My advice would be to let HP overpay. There is more than one way to skin a server farm.

The issue with 3Par is that both Dell and HP long ago hit upon similar strategies, high-end hardware tied to services. They have been on a collision course ever since Dell overpaid for Perot Systems to match HP's EDS buy.

But Dell has a second strategy, maybe a better one. Dell is chasing HP out the back end of the "s" curve, looking to offer bargain prices with narrow margins, which pricing theory says is the way to go in a mature market.

Thus Dell is looking for the lowest-cost manufacturing environment it can find, whether in western China or even in India. The idea is if it's about raw cost Dell is determined to win. (Cheap money is another element in the strategy.) It's a long way from its old strategy of build-to-order, but it's a different world.

The Dell Streak fits well into this world. It's an Android tablet, run under the GPL, which apparently Dell has run afoul of. Rather than argue the point, Dell promises to comply with the license.

Critics are dumping on the Android strategy, but a better play might be to double-down.

Small and medium sized businesses would love to save with open source, but many remain suspicious about support. What they need is not a big bill, but an arm around the shoulder, what we New Yorkers call a rabbi.

A rabbi in this case doesn't have to be a Jewish teacher. He doesn't have to be Jewish. He doesn't even have to be a he. A rabbi in this case means a friend, a trusted adviser, someone who will guide you and sponsor you.

That's what a lot of medium-sized businesses need if they are to make a true commitment to open source, a rabbi, a friend, an adviser. Someone who knows and will tell them the truth.

By expanding its commitment to open source communities and software, by becoming knowledgeable and offering that knowledge, by sponsoring its customers to the open source world, answering questions, Dell could win a lot of customers at very low cost.

Rabbi Michael?

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