Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thoughts on Mainstream Linux Acceptance

As my readers have seen, my posts tend to focus more on market trends and such than they do on technical topics (though I have made posts regarding the latter a few times). Working in computer repair I meet a variety of people every day, and while I am ritualisticly astounded by the daftness of many, I do try to help those people figure out how to do what it is they wish to do. Often, this means that I simply remove viruses and the like from Microsoft systems. With Macintosh machines, it sometimes means simply installing packages that will add more functionality, and occasionally installing MacPorts and "port install"ing a few packages from the FOSS world. Sometimes I may have to replace hardware, but not frequently.

The thing that gets me in a bind here is that Linux would work for most of these people. The things that these people do on a daily basis would easily be handled by an install of Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, or even Slackware (mmmm... Slackware, how I love thee). What halts me are two very simple things. First, I am forbidden by the owners of the company for which I work, to install Linux. Doing so would ensure that the customer never really needed to return. Second, people wouldn't understand something quite simple. With Linux, you cannot go to a store and buy boxed software, take it home and install it. While that doesn't seem hard to understand, most people really wouldn't get it. I am not saying that people are dumb, but most people simply do not care to learn about computers. They have other things to worry about, and that is why I have a job.

What I do see being good for Linux is the growing size of the Linux community. Eventually, a software vendor will decide to start releasing its software for the Linux platform as well as x86-64 Mac and Win32. A company such as Adobe or Microsoft would then be dictating which distribution became dominant, but you would see other vendors follow that lead, and Linux would come screaming into the mainstream rather quickly, and I would talk to my boss, and I would start recommending Linux machines. I have a feeling that others in my position would do the same. The money to be made would be in keeping these commercial applications running. As an update broke the app, I would be called upon to fix things so that the application would once again run. I can see that being very lucrative indeed. How often is that cry of distress heard by Ubuntu users?

Having machines sold with Linux pre-installed is important but it is not the key. Having applications ported to Linux, and having Linux applications on store shelves ready for customers who recently bought a Linux machine, now that is key. As Macintosh continues to become more and more popular, more and more people are beginning to understand that alternatives to Microsoft Windows platforms exist. They are also starting to understand the implications of leaving the Windows world. We can only hope that Linux begins being the default second platform instead of Macintosh.


Xyzzy said...

I came to your post through a link at and absolutely agree on all counts... I've been surprised at how often I run into attitudes that are the opposite of everything you've written, right down to claims that all non-experts are stupid or lazy (if not both).

Ford said...

I am often in disagreement with the other talking heads in the Linux community... especially at the various conventions. I find that this is often due to being rational, instead of being a zealot. It's also from being in the business world instead of just programming, and even still from having been raised on open source software.

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