Re: Several points
You know Khaptain, I've thought about what you've said here long and hard. Went and nommed a pile of carrot sticks and enjoyed a Zen like moment of contemplation. In the end, sir, I believe you are probably wrong...though I must admit that my first instinct was to agree with your position.
The cynic in me would say "why yes, that's obviously Truth spoken to Power." The reality - admittedly in my n=1 anecdotal experience - is that, on balance, I have been treated better by freeware/open source companies than I have by Big Tech.
Some of this is to be expected; I'm a Great Big Nobody in the tech journalism (or sysadmin purchasing power) world. Why would Big Tech give two shakes of a bent damn about courting my interest? Freeware/Open Source on the other hand…they need all the exposure they can get!
I have been on exactly two junkets: one for VMware, the other for Spiceworks. One is Big Tech, the other is Freeware. I have gotten demo gear from small outfits: Unitrends, MobilePCMonitor, Ninite and so forth. I have gotten demo gear from Big Tech: Supermicro, Dell, VMware, Intel and so forth.
There are junkets and freebies to be had on either side of that corporate line. What changes is how they treat you during the process. Are you a highly institutionalised cog in a massive, scripted, heavily regulated and proscribed machine? Or are you someone that they want to legitimately engage with, get your feedback, help evolve their product to meet your needs and earn your loyalty as a long term customer and evangelist?
In large part, I find the smaller organisations leave me feeling excited. Like I have a voice in product development. Features I need and want will probably appear and the ages old bargain of "the more licences you buy, the quicker your features are dealt with" still applies here.
The larger organisations leave me feeling – for lack of a better word - processed. There is some secret, hidden social contract that I am just not privy to, but probably should be. They do these tickbox items I buy X number of widgets, or go forth and evangelise their thing. There is little to no feedback taking place: with big tech I am not a customer, or a journalist or so forth. I am an on message instrument of the hierarchy. Thoughts about product improvement be damned.
It's the smaller orgs that give me the warm fuzzies; I feel that I can bet the business on them because I feel my needs will be responded to.
Amongst the bigger orgs, I feel I can trust Intel; not because they'll listen to me, but because they Just Make Good Shit and I don't really have a reason to complain. VMware has engaged well with me and I feel I can trust them in a way that I can't trust any other big software companies. Supermicro have been mostly okay, a lot of the issues they had in the early aughties seem to have evaporated. Dell is a completely mixed bag, and you'll get awesomeness from one group and completely screwed over by the other.
So…are these junkets and back-patting going to drive corporate purchasing forever? I don't think so. Regardless of how nice the junket is, nobody wants to lose their job over a steak dinner and some mediocre wine. If vendors keep up with processing CxOs, they are going to start to clue in here…especially when they take the opportunity to get wined and dined by smaller orgs.
Dealing with startups who actually try to meet your needs seems like a far better deal – short, medium and long term – for your political existence within your company than selling out for the cost of a simple junket.
We have laws now that require accountability. Shareholder lawsuits are becoming more and more common. CxOs are actually being held accountable for their actions; some even have to prove they did things like due diligence.
So while at first blush it seems that the cynical view on this would stay correct forever…the truth is that the quality of the schmoozing on offer by the Tech Titans has declined as they have become more and more sure of the inevitability of their supremacy. Corporate hubris has led to Tech Titans that don't even bother to pretend that your input matters, or that your requirements will ever be met.
You are believed to be addicted to their software/hardware/services. They can treat you however they like, and you'll be back on the front steps the next morning, begging for another hit. For some use cases, they are probably still right.
I argue however that this simply isn't the case for the majority of use cases, anymore. The pendulum of power is shifting back into the hands of "people who buy widgets." Big Tech is going to have to start pretending they care, or they are going to start bleeding market share; eventually, they may even bleed the high-margin market share that actually matters.
Meanwhile, a whole new generation of tech startups are coming onto the scene with corporate cultures that say "listen to the clients, do what they need, and you'll get all sorts of customers, money, etc." The balance of power will shift and the dance will begin anew…