can you innovate a commodity?

June 24, 2008 at 9:05 am | Posted in Business, Technology Trends | 4 Comments
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Yesterday I talked about Seth Godin’s comments regarding that you are only a commodity by choice.

Tony then had a nice comment, where he ended with this question:

Can you have a successful product strategy in which you don’t innovate but instead just force the commoditization of your competitor’s products? Probably, but who wants to be there?

I think the answer is that a lot of companies want to be there. In fact, I think MySQL has exactly one billion reasons to be happy about being there! 😉 Which brings me to this post.

If you talked to MySQL, they would argue that they are, in fact, an innovation company. They would say that their pluggable table engines and their MySQL cluster are just a few of the ways they have innovated the RDBMS landscape. But, I don’t agree. Would they be where they are if they charged for their database from the outset? Doubtful.

So the question is…. was the fact that they carved out a commodity niche in the ancient (by technology standards) RBDMS market, in and of itself, an “innovative” approach? Did they engineer things differently to allow that model to work? Why didn’t PostgreSQL (who was there first, and was free, and was open source, and had more features) win that battle? Did MySQL do some “innovation” of the entire process (not just the technology) that allowed them to succeed after coming a bit late to the game with less features?

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