Linux Users Deluding Themselves

February 18, 2008 — 9 Comments

This from Slashdot

Vlad Dolezal tips us to a philosophical take on why Linux hasn’t grown to challenge Windows as the most popular operating system. According to the author, the reason is simple; Linux is free, and humans tend not to equate free things with being valuable. “Here’s what Compy McNewb sees. He can get both OS’s for free. But one of them is worth over three hundred dollars, while the other one is worth nothing. ‘That’s not true!’ I hear you scream. ‘Linux is worth a lot! It’s just being offered for free!’ I know it’s not true that Linux is worth less than Windows. It’s far more valuable to the end user in terms of getting things done. But that’s not what Average Joe Computer Newbie sees. He sees a free product versus a three-hundred-dollar product he can get free. It’s all about the perception!”




Price has nothing to do with it. See the success of Firefox for that.The thought that Windows reigns supreme due to price is delusional to say the best.


Now I’m no Windows fan (don’t even start me on that) and I enjoy Linux, but the difference isn’t the price, its in the usage. Linux has come a long way since I first tried switching in about 2002 (Red Hat 7.6, I know the distro because I just threw out the Dummies book it came with). It was hard then; drivers were thin and installing them required command line instructions. Today things have come along way. Distros are damn easy to install, and most things install without any need for the command line. But simply that’s most things, and presuming then that the hardware is supported. To give an example I tried Ubuntu on my last PC laptop (last year, and it wouldn’t have been 12 months old at the time) and it didn’t natively support the WiFi card. Despite hours trying to find support, no luck.?Ǭ† Linux still doesn’t always work 100% out of the box.


And then there’s the software. The favorite line of Linux fanboys is to argue that there is a Linux package that substitutes for anything. That’s true to a point, but that software isn’t always as fully featured as what is offered on Windows or Mac, and it tends to be ugly as well. Take The Gimp for example, great package that I used in a workplace for years, but the moment I had the opportunity to switch back to Photoshop I did. I recommend and install Open Office for people, but I went with iWork for my Macs because it’s slow and not nearly as nice to work with.


Of course the counter argument (and I’ve heard this plenty of times before) is that you can tweak Linux to make it look however you want. The problem for the average guy is he wants it to look good and work with everything out of the box. Windows is a pain, but it provides better hardware support and Vista is prettier out of the box.


Another point I’d note is that people don’t want to think about their operating system. It’s why people are switching from Windows to Mac and not Linux. In terms of setting things up Linux is a retrograde step, where as Mac’s just work. I never have to think about my OS with my two Macs, I just get on with my work, and if I need to install something it’s 100% going to work with the OS (presuming a Mac version, which is most things these days).


“It’s far more valuable to the end user in terms of getting things done


Um, no, because most people don’t want the extra power and access. GTD in OS is using it, not fighting the OS to install drivers just because you can do more hardcore geek stuff with it. Windows remains familiar and relatively easy to use to the vast majority of people, Linux distros aren’t, its got nothing to do with $.


Last point though is we are starting to see Linux installed and being used, like on the EeePC I bought she who must be obeyed. Great little distro, everything there ready to use and no need to worry about drivers or what not. Although I can install XP on it I’ve got no plans to, because the distro works and is functional. That’s where Linux is going to make inroads, because in its current state it isn’t going to start winning the desktop wars, something that has been argued about for as long as I can remember. How many years were going to be the year of the Linux Desktop? 🙂 Linux will grow desktop marketshare at the low end, and possibly as the distros improve will then make further inroads as people become more comfortable with using Linux.