LinuxPlanet: Lou's Views: Zend Philosophy: Finding Another Way

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jan 23, 2001


"As Jagielski explained it, the Zend people did not just sit in a room and conjure up their best guesses about what the market needed or wanted, or which itch they wanted to scratch, to use one of the less appealing cliches from open source. Instead they took the radical step of going out and talking to companies that might be customers for PHP-based products and asked them not just what they liked about PHP or wanted in a new release, but what was keeping them from using PHP. I can tell you from experience that the distinction between these two questions is far more than semantic hair splitting. Understanding exactly why an individual or company isn't using a product, whether it's software, underwear, or Tupperware, is easily the best possible start to knocking down those barriers to entry and turning that interested tire-kicker into a happy, paying customer. As addiction counselors like to say, acknowledging you have a problem is the first step in overcoming it." When Zend Technologies was looking for a way to monetize the open source PHP technology, it didn't look to scratch an itch or impose its own beliefs upon potential customers. Instead, Zend officials took the radical step of going out and talking to companies that might be customers for PHP-based products and asked them not just what they liked about PHP or wanted in a new release, but what was keeping them from using PHP. What they found was a blueprint for a new kind of open source business. Lou Grinzo interviews Jim Jagielski, U.S. CTO and PHP Evangelist of Zend.

"When Zend asked this question, they found that potential customer concerns focused on three areas: performance, security, and support. And that's what they, in turn, addressed with their products: Improving the performance of a PHP server by caching the compiled PHP scripts (Zend Cache), a way to allow companies to distribute binary-only versions of PHP scripts (Zend Encoder Unlimited), and more comprehensive support and pre-packaged PHP options (Zend SOS)."

"OK, you can argue that there's nothing remarkable here, and it's just another case of a company that's smart enough to do good market research and use it properly before it committing to a product line. Not all companies are that adept at such things, obviously (New Coke, anyone?), but it's not exactly earth shattering, either. And I won't even speculate about how many open source developers actually talk to their intended users before they develop a product. Still, given all the companies I speak with that do think they've figured out the perfect product plan without talking to anyone outside their company, it was refreshing to hear what Zend did."

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