Business & Finance
Commentary
8/6/2004
09:33 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
Commentary
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Editor's Note: Reinventing A Business Model

It was just a matter of time, I guess. Raising preschool girls means having princess, Barbie, or Disney stuff in just about every corner of our house and in between. And now, on the desk. Disney last week unveiled its first personal computer (complete with a flat-panel monitor shaped with Mickey Mouse ears. Very cute.) Until now, we've managed to keep our children entertained on our family PC, but when they see this thing ... I may be able to hold off a little bit by telling them we'll wait until they have a screen in the shape of a princess crown or something pink, yellow, or sparkly (hey, Disney, not a bad idea, huh?).

Disney already sells some consumer electronics, so the leap to PCs isn't a big one, I suppose, but the overall level of diversification for the company is incredible. It got me thinking about some of our favorite questions to ask businesses: "What business are you in today?" "What business will you be in tomorrow?" "What business will your customers push you to enter?" Some management gurus say it's best for a company to concentrate on a core business, while others say it's good to reinvent yourself and diversify.

It's probably something that the software industry is thinking a lot about these days as more and more jump on the open-source bandwagon. On the one hand, open-source software presents a great opportunity for a company to create new applications and expand its customer base. On the other hand, companies must question whether they can build a profitable and sustainable business model to support it, whether they can create a big enough community of developers, and whether they can weather the intellectual-property battles. More important, though, they have to question whether they can afford NOT to support open source.

Stephanie Stahl, Editor-in-chief sstahl@cmp.com


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