Ubuntu a minor player? Not outside the States

Ubuntu a minor player? Not outside the States

Summary: I just finished reading Dana Blankenhorn's post, "Will Ubuntu remain a minor player" on a break between interviews and meetings. Interestingly, just before I read his post, I met with the President of Metasys, a Brazilian company that has Linux-based servers, desktops, and software in thousands of schools, businesses, and homes throughout Latin America, Africa, and Europe.

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I just finished reading Dana Blankenhorn's post, "Will Ubuntu remain a minor player" on a break between interviews and meetings. Interestingly, just before I read his post, I met with the President of Metasys, a Brazilian company that has Linux-based servers, desktops, and software in thousands of schools, businesses, and homes throughout Latin America, Africa, and Europe. Metasys is running on 350,000 desktops in Brazil alone. And guess what? People pay for it because it's good; it has a great ecosystem of server, software, and management products; and because it's still drastically cheaper than Windows.

While Dana's post specifically addressed Ubuntu, he might as well have been asking if Linux would always be a marginal player on the desktop. If I have learned nothing else by attending the Classmate Eco System Summit it's that there are a lot of people outside the United States doing a lot of incredibly innovative things in education and that many of them are doing it cheaply with Linux.

So-called "emerging markets" (which, at this rate, won't be emerging for long, and will quickly become "overtaking markets") are rolling out a variety of operating systems and engaging in really progressive learning models. Worldwide, there are 13 million active Ubuntu users with use growing faster than any other distribution. Check out these trends from Google gauging online interest (with breakdowns by region).

In many places, people (far more than the 300 million in the US) are buying their first computers with no preconceptions about what an OS should be. As these markets explode, one has to wonder if our perception that the US is the only market that matters to operating system vendors will change. Microsoft gets it; they are putting incredible amounts of pressure on governments in Brazil to compete with Metasys and are largely proving unsuccessful (this is only one example, of course; Microsoft is working very aggressively in countless other markets and had a vocal presence at the first full day of the Summit).

In China, Ubuntu is gaining traction quickly since, due to rampant piracy, Windows is essentially free in that country. New users are choosing operating systems based on merit rather than price, since price is largely irrelevant in that market.

So perhaps Ubuntu, and Linux in general will struggle to gain market share on the desktop in the States for now, particularly since Windows 7 looks to be a decent operating system. We need to remember, though, that the US is not the only PC market in the world. In fact, it's a shrinking, saturated market. When many of the international partners with whom we work in this global economy find Windows and Linux to be equally legitimate (or even favor Linux because of its openness and low cost or free software), what will happen to desktop Linux here?

Even as companies like HP and Dell continue to legitimize Ubuntu through high-quality offerings on their netbooks, I think we'll see a shift here in the States. It's just that the shift Stateside won't matter all that much globally given the size of this market relative to what we now call emerging markets.

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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151 comments
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  • Agreed, with one minor point difference . . .

    I believe that the reason you're seeing what you are in China is that since most Windows installations are pirated copies, they get no support. And if you're going to have no support, might as well get an OS that doesn't need that much support in the first place . . .

    You also don't have a large market that has used nothing but Windows and doesn't have a very large base of software that requires Windows that they RELY on . . . Once again, OSS (or FOSS) stands a better chance of winning out.

    With Windows putting in better anti-piracy methods, I think you're going to see a large move to Linux in places like China (then again, you could see the Government over there actually support pirating Windows . . . ;) ).
    JLHenry
    • Not to mention

      Doesn't China have a state run Linux distro they're trying to get people to use? Red Linux I think it is called...
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • It's called...

        Red Flag Linux or ?? Linux if you like.
        zkiwi
        • The Kanji character

          combination here is pretty straight forward, although where I live in JP it has kind of a negative association with communism (or so the locals tell me!). zkiwi; are you a kiwi? Either way, impressive Kanji knowledge!!
          rikasa
          • Je suis de la Nouvelle-Z?lande

            However, I am somewhat multi-lingual, although Japanese isn't one of the languages. I can do Mandarin, French, and a smattering of German, Italian and Spanish. Enough so I don't totally embarrass myself!
            zkiwi
      • Red Flag - (beat me to it) (nt)

        nt
        Economister
        • Ah

          I knew it was along those lines
          The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Forgot all about that one!!! Good Catch!! (nt)

        nt
        JLHenry
  • Your absolutely lying about Ubuntu, they couldn't gaim market share

    any where in the world if their life dependent upon it. Linux/Ubuntu is only for the geeks, never mind people who would rely on a computer.

    It's silly to think that anyone would prefer any operating system to Windows, its just plain silly. besides what do they out side the United Stares, they probably are still using Windows 3.1. Ubuntu sounds like an animal not a operating system. If you think I'm wrong just ask Loverock Davidson or Mike Cox, they will tell you I'm 100% correct on this .....Ubuntu how silly.... Windows is for the people :-)
    Over and Out
    • If sarcasm - well done. If not, you're in trouble (nt)

      nt
      Economister
      • He/She's in trouble! (nt)

        .
        InAction Man
        • Believe me...

          she(s) are normally not that ignorant.
          yschoo1
    • lightingrod

      Logic.

      "any where in the world if their life dependent upon it. Linux/Ubuntu is only for the geeks, never mind people who would rely on a computer."

      The author already pointed out that 1/3 of a million in Brazil are 'paying' for Linux. A local hospital system is based on Windows and it is always crashing. Lives are definitely dependent on Windows and as often is the case it don't work.

      "It's silly to think that anyone would prefer any operating system to Windows, its just plain silly. besides what do they out side the United Stares, they probably are still using Windows 3.1"

      I live outside the U.S. 1. I'm telling you that none of the knock off shops are selling 3.1 or 3.11 or 3.11 for Workgroups or 95 or 95 release xx or 98 or 98 xx or Me! 2. If you are going to steal Windows then 3.1 doesn't come to mind. 3. If OEM's have a Windows version under Windows XP they would be selling it to you at a premium.

      People where I live are using a mixture of Windows, Mac, Unix and Linux. Surprise!

      "Ubuntu sounds like an animal not a operating system."

      I'll try make an argument as weak as yours. Lets see Windows sounds like Windows, you know that insecure thing on the front of buildings that you can throw a chair through and gain easy access. Actually maybe Windows fits.

      "Loverock Davidson or Mike Cox"
      Who!

      Thanks for being the "Obligatory Windows Fan Boy"

      In my opinion, the biggest threat to Linux in the Third World would be 1. the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 2. Governments that require users to buy Windows because they can more easily controlled.

      _carlleigh_
      • LMFO

        Took the hook, bait and tackle this one, eh?

        Thanks for brightning up my day sonny.

        "The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."
        gnesterenko
      • You dont get quality things for free

        When people place their quality time for creating an operating system. There is nothing wrong in asking for pay.
        digish777
        • Exactly! If you want good sunshine or clean fresh air prepare to pay up!

          You get what you pay for. No money no air to breath.
          InAction Man
        • but how are you measuring "[i]free[/i]"?

          1) Nobody said or implied there is anything wrong in asking for pay.

          2) There are many ways to define "[i]free[/i]" and "[i]pay[/i]"

          So I find absolutely no value in your comment and don't even know what you are attempting to say.
          sunworks
      • My Hospital Uses Windows 2k...

        To date, no one has died from a windows crash or other thought up, bogus tale. No has died from windows catching a virus. In fact, except for us pornsters, very few people ever hear of a virus. And, us pornsters know that if you are going to enter a porn site, you must suit up, you know, use anti-virus. So, FUD geting deperate?
        eargasm
    • Not Quite

      I stay in Africa and Ubuntu is "nice" but not reliable enough for mission critical tasks.

      Ubuntu is impractical as it requires Internet access for updates.

      Bill's software tends to be okay out of the box.

      Linux is fussy about hardware which negates the whole "free" aspect.
      PoohPall
    • Awesome.....

      ignorance is bliss indeed. So your basing your facts on two people whom probably never used the Ubuntu OS in the first place and all they do is troll on this site. Great, please tell me the sky is pink today.

      You don't know jack about the OS and I can bet my life on it that you don't know too much about windows either. In Europe, Australia, South Africa, Ecuador, Brazil, Columbia, Germany and a bunch of other places which are not so supportive of corrupt company such as Microsoft; Ubuntu is shining regardless of what you think(others). The amazing part is that you only here crap like this from IT Admins/Software developers who's job depend on it because they don't want to learn anything else, Hah! I've been running Ubuntu for almost 3 years now non stop and guess what I can do everything, once you let go of the notion of "if it ain't windows I can't do it" BS then your good to go! Oh yeah I do graphics/software development work using strict FOSS software. So far so good.
      spartan2276