This is a great post from my friend Joe Morrison assessing the state of the open source software movement in GIS against the biggest corporate competitive friction point, Esri.
Even as QGIS and comparable open source projects have invested in better branding, that doesn’t mitigate the ultimate killer in the quest to replace Esri at most large organizations: misaligned incentives. The typical IT department at a large company or government agency is defensive by nature due to the asymmetrical risk of adopting new technology; you can get fired for championing a new software that winds up becoming a costly failure, but it’s tough to get fired for preserving the status quo.
He nails just about every point I’d make when you realistically compare what challenges are there for not only open source projects, but even just thinking about competitors when you’re a new entrant coming into an already-mature space.
I think inertia and incentives are such massive forces, bigger than most of us technologists realize at first, that have to be overcome before you’ll get any traction in a wide marketplace. Even if you’re coming at a problem in a largely new way (creating a new category of software), users will still prefer to find the closest comparable analog to stack you up against, even if unfairly. To reach beyond the “early adopters” and tinkerers, you have to somehow overcome these challenges — get good at telling your story, be 10X better (3X or 5X usually isn’t enough), and have the persistence and patience to chew away at the problem for a long time. The chasm is real, and taking the wheel away from the incumbents is an enormous undertaking.