Thursday, October 23, 2008

Carpet-Bombing Marketing

Unless you spent the last 6 months deep in a cave, you must have heard buzz about the Microsoft Solver Foundation. It is much less likely however that you've heard about OptimJ. That's a major difference between being Microsoft or being Ateji.

In the pure Microsoft tradition, this vaporware has already generated far more downloads and excitation than OptimJ, an existing and proven product acclaimed by our users. Everybody in the OR community is pretending that they're not concerned or worried by the MSF announcement, but have anyway downloaded a large .msi archive "just in case". And the blogosphere is buzzing with wild guesses about what's really inside (do you know how to open an .msi archive ? most of them don't know either, but who cares).

Effects of carpet-bombing marketing are also visible in everything related to the forthcoming ICS'09 conference. I have yet to see any conference-related announcement without the "M" word. And almost all sponsorship opportunities are already bought and reserved by this single company. Maybe the Ateji team will end up on the side-walk distributing flyers from a makeshift cardboard tent (it may be cold in January, we'll exchange marketing material for warm soup).

So what's Ateji to do in this context ? We cannot afford a carpet-bombing marketing strategy, and vaporware announcements are not an option. Clients expect us to deliver first.

What we can do, however, is to leverage all this buzz-making to spread the word about what we've been promoting for long. The vaporware strategy is typically an attempt at delaying competitor's sales. Hairy-pointed bosses will prefer to wait until Microsoft actually delivers anything usable, and we'll lose those sales. But many others will have a chance to look at our product and download right now a fully functional version, so all in all we expect a big boost for Ateji. Time will tell.

But the best bit is about self-satisfaction. The fact that Microsoft is following a similar embedded-language approach applied to optimization reassures me that we choose the right approach when we founded Ateji three years ago.