Three more things that the Linux community doesn't get

Three more things that the Linux community doesn't get

Summary: Anyway, after wading through some of the comments (I don't know how some of you managed to keep up with the conversation in real time ... you deserve some kind of award too) I've realized that I missed three more points about regular PC users that some in the Linux community (the more vocal members perhaps?) just don't get.

SHARE:

The response to the Five crucial things the Linux community doesn’t understand about the average computer user post I made the other day was, well overwhelming. With some of you I think that the post rung a bell, while with others it must have touched a nerve. I'm pretty sure that getting over 750 TalkBack comments in a couple of days is some kind of record here at ZDNet and just in case there's an award, I'm already writing my speech! :-)

Choosing a suitable Linux distro is a bit like the uninitiated making a trip to Starbucks and expecting to be able to order a plain simple cup of coffeeAnyway, after wading through some of the comments (I don't know how some of you managed to keep up with the conversation in real time ... you deserve some kind of award too) I've realized that I missed three more points about regular PC users that some in the Linux community (the more vocal members perhaps?) just don't get.

1 - The Mac effect

If consumers want a safe way to experience the benefits of running a Unix system, then they have the option of bypassing all the driver and application hassles that Linux offers and choose the Mac route. Sure, you have to pay for it (and pay a premium at that) and it's closed source but the average consumer with money burning a hole in their pocket doesn't give a hoot whether the OS is open source, closed source something in-between. What most users want is a bit of kit they can just push one button to get it going and then start using it. Mac offers this. While Linux offers to remove security worries, Mac does exactly the same while at the same time removing the uncertainty that things won't work.

Choosing Mac over Linux also eliminates the complexity associated with choice. Choosing a suitable Linux distro is a bit like the uninitiated making a trip to Starbucks and expecting to be able to order a plain simple cup of coffee – you quickly realize that life isn't that simple and you need to step out of the queue and do a lot of learning before you walk up to the counter again. With Mac the choice is simply one OS. Simple.

Apple also manages to add two other ingredients to the Mac OS that I find lacking in Linux distros - The Mac OS is perceived as being cool and sexy. Even Ubuntu, which is the best Linux distro I've used doesn't match up to the Mac OS on either of these points.

Mac is the perfect example that people are willing to pay good money for peace of mind. The premium price that Apple charges for products sets a subconcious value on the quality and service that the consumer feels they can expect. Free just can't compete with that.

Next -->

2 - Who provides the free tech support?

Negative campaigning seems to work for political parties but it doesn't work for Linux - and the numbers prove thisI'm going to take a wild guess and predict that the average ZDNet blogs reader is seen by those around them as being "good with computers" (as well as being suave and sophisticated of course ...). I'd also take a guess that you're the person that friends and family members turn to for free tech support (and if you're free of this curse then you don't know how lucky you are!).

Most people who own a PC will want help with it at some point and while some people turn to tech support and others hit the web searching for answers, the majority turn to friends and family for help. If you're a Windows user then there's a good chance you know someone who falls into the category of "being good with computers" who will be willing to help. If the person needing help is running Mac, it's more tricky to find someone who falls into the "owns a Mac and is good with computers" category. Running Linux, forget it. I know people who really want to make the leap to Mac but who won't because they don't know people who could help them if they needed help.

3 - Chill out, it's just an operating system!

Here's another reason why the Linux market share has been flatlined for years while the Mac share is increasing - Mac communities are on the whole friendlier than Linux communities.

I'm not sure if it's just a case that there's a small subset of the Linux community which is both aggressive and vocal or whether the problem is much broader, but this is a major turn off for people considering making the transition to a Linux OS. Even back when Mac communities were considered by many to be pretty hostile and unfriendly places Steve Jobs was clever enough to make sure that this kind of fanatical nonsense didn't make it onto the Apple site and sales literature (although Apple is perfectly capable of coming up with their own fanatical nonsense, at least it's not that aggressive). Negative campaigning seems to work for political parties but it doesn't work for Linux - and the numbers prove this.

Seriously, given the passion behind some of the comments I come across from some Linux users, you'd have thought I was talking about something with life-or-death importance like a heart machine and not an OS.

Bonus - Linux is not too geeky ... really!?!?

One of my points was that despite recent attempts at making some Linux distros more accessible, there are still aspects of the OS that are too geeky and inaccessible. Many disagreed with me on this point but what they didn't realize is that while arguing the point they proved my point. Here's just one such example of someone proving my point:

Put a Windows user in front of a Gnome or KDE environment and I’m willing to bet that they will be able to find their way around.

OK, and talking about Gnome and KDE environments isn't too geeky? Care to simplify that for the average user? The author of the post, having got that off their chest, then goes on to pretty much agree with that I said:

It may take a little while, but eventually they’ll figure out what applications are available and what they need.

Yeah, eventually.

Thoughts?

<< Home >>

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

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

607 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The unholy trinity of modern computing...

    ... is as follows:

    1. For those with money and/or an image fetish - the Mac
    2. For the geeks - Linux
    3. For the rest - Windows

    And that is how it will stay for the forseeable future unless some event causes some form of drastic disruption. Examples of "drastic" are:

    a) A drive-by virus that completely corrupts Windows.
    b) China/Asia/3rd world adopting Linux en-mass, ie. billions
    c) A thin client that runs so well at such low cost that businesses *have* to buy it.
    d) Mac production is franchised, prices slashed
    e) Human/machine interface that plugs you directly into the net eliminating the need for a PC.

    Any of these would cause a "wobble" in the world of computing, but the status quo will continue until something either frightens users off Windows or makes it too attractive for them not to go elsewhere.

    I don't know what that could be, but nothing lasts forever - not even Microsoft or Windows.
    bportlock
    • Good identification of the three groups.

      Quoting:

      1. For those with money and/or an image fetish - the Mac
      2. For the geeks - Linux
      3. For the rest - Windows

      And Group 3 includes hundreds of millions of people with billions more to follow.

      But the next question should be, Why shouldn't Windows' ubiquity lead to predominance in other markets?

      True, the company has to be careful of anti-trust cases about leveraging. It's obvious to many governments that, left alone, Microsoft predominance will spread into other markets, and they would prefer to have better control over what is sold in their countries.
      So anti-trust leads to Microsoft being defended because of the need for freedom in commercial transactions. How to make the company into a hero...

      But even with the disadvantages of strict oversight, the massive success of Microsoft's move into servers shows that the company can enter markets and win them. And Microsoft is hungry enough for profits that any market with a significant revenue flow can expect competition from Redmond.

      So unless you can see something less redolent of science-fiction arising in the future, you're predicting the predominance of Microsoft in all of computing. If what the company's doing in one market works, why shouldn't it work in another?

      From what's wrong with Linux to what's ominously right with Microsoft... That's not as much a stretch as it seems. It's Linux weaknesses that leave Microsoft unchallenged on the desktop, likely for decades to come, and it's dominance of the desktop that gives the company credibility in other markets.

      Microsoft says, Thank you Linux.
      Anton Philidor
      • That's fairly twisted....

        [i]"Why shouldn't Windows' ubiquity lead to predominance in other markets?"[/i]

        Why should Windows' ubiquity lead to predominance in other markets? Just because it rules the desktop does not mean it is any use for anything else. Microsoft was subcontracted to supply OSD software for Sony so my TV has it in. It is useless. Although the TV has a digital receiver built in, the cheap ?20 set-top decoder I bought does a far, far better job. The set up on the Sony scans all digital channels in about 15-20 minutes. The set-top box does it in under one minute.

        Expertise in one area does not mean expertise in another.



        [i]"the massive success of Microsoft's move into servers shows that the company can enter markets and win them"[/i]

        Who was the competition? For office servers there was only fragmented competition or Netware and Novell took its eye off that particular ball. Of course Microsoft did well - there was noone else.



        [i]"It's Linux weaknesses that leave Microsoft unchallenged on the desktop, likely for decades to come,..."[/i]

        Did you read what I wrote? Never mind the "science fiction" jibe you made. The point is that systems remain stable until something destablises them. That is equally true of the Windows/Microsoft empire.
        bportlock
        • Destabilization and Novell et al.

          Novell's products were not so poor that any competitor could have displaced them just by entering the market. Microsoft spent a great deal of money, and third-party software arose to facilitate migration. Microsoft won.
          (When Novell bought SuSE, I commented in a TalkBack that I hoped Novell would not de-emphasize its own products for one which had not been able to support a much smaller company. Unfortuantely Novell did, and had to ask for cash from... Microsoft.)

          So that's an example of a system disrupted, in this case because of foolish inaction by the market leader. In fact, Microsoft has frequently been lucky in its opponents, which often seem to make mistakes under pressure. Consider the netscape and WordPerfect situations, too.

          So I disagree with your statement:

          "The point is that systems remain stable until something destablises them."

          ... if you're implying that something outside ordinary competition is necessary to destabilize a system. Microsoft competed and Microsoft won.

          But the market holder can also win against competition, as Microsoft is doing on the desktop. That's a system which remains stable only in part because of momentum. Microsoft's need to improve the product in order to sell new versions of Windows has the biproduct of holding off competitors.

          If companies in other markets are more like Novell than like Microsoft, then Microsoft can win in those markets. And if the competitors behave as weakly as Linux, then Microsoft can defend against them.
          Anton Philidor
          • Some corrections

            [i]"Microsoft has frequently been lucky in its opponents, which often seem to make mistakes under pressure. Consider the netscape and WordPerfect situations, too."[/i]


            Err - take off the rose-tinted glasses Anton. You're right about Wordperfect but Netscape was targetted by Microsoft's practices that lead them straight into court on an anti-trust action. Try Googling it, there is one or articles about it on the net!



            [i]"So I disagree with your statement:

            'The point is that systems remain stable until something destablises them.'"[/i]



            I would say that Microsoft did not win the server market - Novell lost it.
            bportlock
          • Even Netscape execs said their blunders...

            ... contributed substantially to the company's defeat. Yes, Microsoft's practices were reprehensible, and the company was properly convicted in the anti-trust case. But even without those tactics, it's very likely Microsoft would have won.

            Netscape lost the browser market almost as much as Novell lost its market.

            On the larger point, I think we're agreeing that market dominance is not inherently stable, but an unstable hold which can be quickly undercut by poor management or a more adroit (and preferably honest) competitor.


            For background, one of Netscape's mistakes was open-sourcing the next version of the browser to save money.

            After years of effort, those involved decided the Netscape code was hopeless and they had to start again, thus beginning more years of work.

            AOL bought Netscape and cut them loose, with some resources as a going away present.

            The Foundation produced a browser which wasn't very popular because it was bloated, too much an attempt to replicate both Office and IE.

            It forked, and a lighter version was being developed.

            But the Foundation was almost out of money.

            Nokia came through with a $250,000 donation just when it was needed most. In return for the promise of a lightweight version of the browser Nokia could use to lay off members of its staff and eventually end/reduce its contract with Opera, presumably resulting in layoffs of that company's staff.

            Finally, finally, after all those disasters, ile a Phoeniz, FireFox was born of the less-bloated browser fork, which came home.

            And FireFox had a small but real success after some innovative, spyware-like marketing approaches.

            Microsoft was essentially undamaged, but FireFox would have reminded Microsoft that competition must be met, had Microsoft not already known that lesson thoroughly.
            Anton Philidor
          • Hmmm...

            [i]"On the larger point, I think we're agreeing that market dominance is not inherently stable, but an unstable hold which can be quickly undercut by poor management or a more adroit (and preferably honest) competitor."[/i]

            D*mmit Anton - I'll have stop sgreeing with you! This can't be good for me!!


            [i]"Microsoft was essentially undamaged, but FireFox would have reminded Microsoft that competition must be met, had Microsoft not already known that lesson thoroughly."[/i]

            Ah! This is more like it!

            Rubbish Anton!! Complete and utter c**p!!!!!!

            Microsoft thought there was no competition and let IE6 languish to the point of breaking up the IE team. Only *after* Firefox started eating IE's shorts was the team reformed and IE7 promised.

            FireFox *did* remind Microsoft what competition was and in the most unpleasant way possible - by removing IE market share.
            bportlock
          • Microsoft publicly announced...

            ... the end of the browser in Longhorn, with the functions and capabilities even more inseparable from the operating system itself. Further development of IE was wasted. Of course, Microsoft also promised a new filing system and a number of other innovations which didn't show up in the final product.

            When Mr. Allchin made a realistic assessment of what could be done, including a large amount of code cleaning, the end of the browser didn't make the cut. The team was reformed and IE 7 was the result.

            FireFox did cause me to have to turn off tabbed browsing in IE 7, but aside from that useless feature by popular demand and perhaps some impact on other features, FireFox did not have an effect on plans or performance.

            Microsoft said so. ;-)

            The plan to incorporate the browser lives, as in Microsoft's interest in what the company calls context search, which is search within documents for instance of both the web and the harddrive. The company contrasts that with Google-type searches.

            Me, I think Microsoft did lose interest in the browser because it was so thoroughly won. The only competition was open source, and Microsoft may have underestimated it.
            Anton Philidor
          • Actually, he was wrong about WordPerfect

            Many people still prefer WordPerfect to MS Word. Many of the law firms we deal with have specialized legal software that creates template-driven documents through WordPerfect, NOT Word. The only reason that MS was able to pull ahead of WordPerfect was the licensing deals (later ruled illegal) that they made with PC manufacturers that forced the PC makers to pre-install Word on the computers they sold and effectively barred WordPerfect from the market place.
            JJQ1000
          • The only reason?

            You wrote:

            "The only reason that MS was able to pull ahead of WordPerfect was the licensing deals (later ruled illegal) that they made with PC manufacturers that forced the PC makers to pre-install Word on the computers they sold and effectively barred WordPerfect from the market place."

            The first Windows version was long delayed and then disappointing.

            From the Wikipedia article:

            "Between the weaknesses of the initial Windows version [in 1993], and Microsoft's simultaneous aggressive marketing of Word for Windows as part of the Microsoft Office applications suite, WordPerfect's sales suffered a decline from which it never recovered.

            Amongst its remaining avid users are many law firms and a few universities, to which Corel now caters as niche markets, with, for example, a major sale to the United States Department of Justice in 2005 [1].

            In November 2004, Novell filed an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft for alleged anticompetitive behavior that Novell claims led to loss of WordPerfect market share [2]."


            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPerfect

            Inclusion of Word in a suite of office applications was a significant factor. WordPerfect became part of a Borland suite in 1993, two years after the first Windows version.

            Here again, Microsoft's tactics can be disapproved without asserting that the company won solely because of them.

            On the other hand, whether Microsoft could have won without the assistance of WordPerfect management is a more contentious issue.

            Microsoft is in fact lucky in its opponents.
            Anton Philidor
        • I agree

          "Expertise in one area does not mean expertise in another."

          I agree. Look at what Microsoft does well now ... Windows, Office, dev tools. Go back 10 years and it was the same thing. All that's changed is how it's packaged. All the innovation into new areas has been small and tentitive.
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Actually, it's real twisted

        Anton continues to slide further into dementia.

        "It's Linux weaknesses that leave Microsoft unchallenged on the desktop"

        No, it's MS position as a monopoly, garnered unethically if not illegally, that leaves MS unchallenged on the desktop. And perhaps, MS will continue to dominate for years to come, but Linux keeps getting better and less "Geeky" as time transpires.

        I would like to see a [b]blog piece about the things that MS just doesn't get.[/b] I am sure it numbers more than 7. But until that day, Adrian and his opinions about Linux will dominate the discussion without regard to the fact that the Linux/GPL community of developers are not about domination but instead about [b]choice, one of the first things that MS just doesn't get.[/b]

        Good job pointing out the obvious Adrian. We all know that Linux takes computer skills. But you left out the fact that Windows does as well.

        I know this by the number of zombie Windows PCs on the planet including the one owned by my neighbors who have no basic computing skills and know nothing about how the internet communicates or web pages are created, downloaded and displayed.

        I agree that Windows will never by displaced by Linux. I will also admit that [b]the Linux/GPL community is not trying to displace Windows[/b] which is the complete, and incorrect premise, for Adrian's list.

        I do admire [b]one of the important things that the "Linux Community does get" and that is [b]choice[/b]. All of the different Vista flavors do not represent real choice, just confusion over how much to spend.

        Choices mandate decisions and a lot of people would rather not. For them, there's Windows. No need to choose, just buy it at the CompuHut and let them have it. For the small minority that welcomes choice, freedom and personal responsibility, they can choose windows or any flavor of Linux or the Mac.
        jacarter3
        • Me too

          [b][i]I would like to see a blog piece about the things that MS just doesn't get.[/i][/b]

          I'd like to see that as well, as well as a blog piece about the things that Apple just doesn't get.
          Badgered
          • Would be a huge blog piece ...

            ... I'll leave that to Mary Jo!
            Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
          • Me three, Especially the Piece on Apple

            Apple's EULA and loading OSX on non-Apple HDW. I wrote several pieces on my blog (http://www.chbtb.com/?p=25) about that.

            Everyday, someone is putting OSX on some other piece of hardware. Apple should embrace it.
            padapa
        • You're right, and you're wrong

          How you're right: MS does get quite a few things wrong, all of which don't stop me from using Windows.
          How you're wrong: Linux get the things wrong that make me not use their OS.
          Master Dingo
          • Fine - no need for you to choose

            anything but what you're comfortable with. Like I said, only a small minority will make that decision.

            I am just curious, have you ever installed Linux on an older machine and really, truthfully, tried it out or are you just going by what the zealots say? What were the things that you feel were wrong?
            jacarter3
          • Yes, I did

            As I wrote in another post, I'm a gamer. Linux has all of the qualities and boot up functionality of DOS in regards to gaming. I'm not going back to that. I tried an early version of Redhat (shortly after they went public), I tried Unbutu about a year and a half ago, and I used to run a UNIX password server for a small business about 12 years ago. I'm familiar with it, and I know that it is a very bad choice for gaming.

            -Dingo
            Master Dingo
          • Thanks for the reply! :)

            I was not aware of your gamer status. I have never really used a computer for games (at least in the last 10 years - the last game I tried was "[i]7th Guest[/i]"), so this is somewhat of a foreign perspective to me.

            I would have thought that the XBox, or PS3 or alternative would be a better platform for games than an overclocked PC, but I am completely out of my element in assessing game platforms...
            jacarter3
          • It would be nice...

            It'd be nice if more developers would release Linux-compatible games. I mean, Wine works great for some games, but its useless for others...
            KWierso