How Linux comes home

Summary:At ZDNet, we often ask how Linux will ever crack the home market.It might come in through your next mobile phone, but most users won't know it, nor will they use it, as Linux.

Linux FirewallAt ZDNet, we often ask how Linux will ever crack the home market.

It might come in through your next mobile phone, but most users won't know it, nor will they use it, as Linux.

If you have a wireless router, you may have Linux, or as I've written it may be easy for you to get Linux. But most users won't crack open their routers, and unless the applications on them have a command line interface they may never know it's there.

But we're getting close. I personally think Linux is coming into most homes through home networks. (The picture comes from a German site covering Linux firewalling tables.)

Consider Microsoft's pricing, and the pricing of Windows applications. Then apply this to the home user. Windows XP Home costs about $100 per machine, although most users won't know this because it's bundled. If you want XP Pro, it's $150, and the charge is more explicit.

Then there is the cost of security. It's $50 for each PC on your network, yours, the spouse's, and that of each kid. This is a recurring charge. You have to renew it each year, on each machine. Sometimes you'll get a price break on this, but I have often faced a forced upgrade to a new version.

Once you're identified as a network buyer by Microsoft, business prices apply on everything. Right now there's no volume discount, and there's no simple technical solution.

With Linux there is. You can place a firewall, with anti-virus protection, between your network and every PC. Many home users find they now have obsolete PCs that could be deployed in this manner. The only problem is that PC LAN connections are one-way in -- only the router goes in multiple directions.

What I'm calling for, then, is a router card for an obsolete PC (defined as one that only runs Windows 95 now), and a Linux installation that includes an updated security application. If you charge $150 for the card, and $50/year for for the updates (on a par with what's now charged for individual PCs) I think there's a market opportunity. A big one.

Now I know you can do this yourself, and that Linux includes firewall capabilities out of the box. But the mass market wants something simple they can buy at a mass merchant and install today.

And if this solution is already available let me know.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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