Monday, January 18, 2010

What is a Software Ecosystem?

I'm putting together a slide deck, and I wanted to find some ideas for software ecosystem images.  The software industry uses "ecosystem" all the time to refer to all the companies that are participants, purchasers or providers of software related to your company.  For example, with QNX and our Neutrino RTOS, it means companies that are providing software on top of Neutrino, software tools that work with it, libraries that are ported to it, etc.  Naturally, we have a huge QNX ecosystem (which I was trying to brag about in my slides), and I thought it might be cute to have a nice little image to accompany the slide.

So I found it exceptionally amusing that the first whole page of Google Image results on "ecosystem" were all the circle of life like this:

Why I find this funny is that (unfortunately for most everyone in the diagram) all the members of this ecosystem are trying to eat each other.  This is not what we normally are trying to imply by the use of "ecosystem" in software.  In fact, we're trying to more imply something far more cooperative, like a indigenous village.  But "come join our software indigenous village" just doesn't roll off the tongue.

I posted this blog entry because on even further reflection, the food chain metaphor is actually quite appropriate. All the software companies are:
  • Trying to eat each other (corporate aquisition)
  • Trying to eat someone else's lunch (competitors)
  • Eating someone's waste products (startups filling niches left by the big guys)
  • Creating basic food at the bottom of the food chain (open source development)
  • In a symbiotic relationship (services organizations)
  • In a parasitic relationship (consulting)
Of course, this isn't such a flattering image of the software ecosystem.  But it is an accurate (and hilarious) view of just what we mean when we say "ecosystem".  Just hope that you're a carnivore (too bad I'm a vegetarian!)


  1. Interesting blog, i usally be aware all about all different kind of sofware. i am online all the time, and this action allow me to see a site costa rica homes for sale and i like it too much. beyond all doubt without my computer i never would have seen this site too.

  2. It's quite an interesting thought - viewing the software world as the jungle. It's true the big ones eat the little ones (or buy them, at least). About this point, though: Eating someone's waste products (startups filling niches left by the big guys) - we also need to remember that without them we wouldn't have an healthy, complete eco system. Glad to read you are a vegetarian, in any case. I was also, till I became a vegan. :)