Will Preinstalling Linux Make it more Popular?September 13, 2006
I was reading an article where the author said the Linux would never be widely adopted on the desktop because it was primarily designed for and by geeks. The author then goes on to explain how geeks are different from ordinary Joes.
In the comments, one person made an astute observation: all software is essentially written by geeks! Those folks in Redmond are geeks! They just happen to be big corporate geeks. But they have just as many problems dealing with the using public as Linux-using geeks.
This is similar to Scoble claiming that the reason Linux hasn’t taken off is because of the poor quality fonts. Okay, so he’s an aesthetic geek. But it just goes to show that everyone is trying to come up with a reason why Linux isn’t making it.
The major consensus seems to be that if computer makers were to preinstall Linux, then the computer buying public would have a chance to see and get used to Linux. And all they have to do is use it and they will see how much better it is and then they will like it and tell all their friends and they will tell their friends who will tell their friends and so on and so on and so on…
I think I saw the tip of the iceburg in making Linux move with the Ubuntu hype, and I eluded to how it became successful. Ubuntu is following an AOL model as well as appealing to altruism with Nelson Mandela as a spokesperson. That is a very slick campaign. Making free disks available (in lots of 5, 10 or more) will have an effect. AOL managed to saturate the market and quickly build up an empire in short order long before it was preinstalled on so many machines. The first distro that decides to just send out a billion live CD’s is going to become THE linux distro that everyone is talking about. Put them in boxes of cereal, have them sitting in check-out stands at Wal-Mart, turn them into stocking stuffers, and make them so ubiquitous that every person in the country will be saying, “Oh, yeah. Linux. You must be talking about Ubuntu, right?” and people may get sick and tired of hearing about Linux.
Like AOL’s former legions, people will eventually seek out other distros and settle on other favorites.
Right now, a Linux desktop is not going to draw people to linux because they will simply avoid the unknown devil in favor of the one they know. Yes, Vista is going to be quite expensive and will render an entirely new generation of machines obsolete just like XP did to the P3′s. I may still buy a new machine and it will have Vista preinstalled. But when XP craps out, what will I do with my old machine?
When XP replaced the Win98 machines, Linux did not seem to have as much to offer. But look how many distros are blossoming up just in the past year? Linux is picking up steam. I think Vista is actually going to hasten and help Linux gain a greater foothold. People will still have it on their new machines but once everything is migrated over they will begin thinking; do they still want to be paying for yearly updates to their anti-malware packages on an old machine, while having to pay for the new one? Do they still want to continue babysitting an old machine?
Placing the OS on a few desktops at the store will not be the turning points to getting Linux on more desktops (or laptops) because people do not know Linux and are not comfortable with it. Make it extraordinarily common, and the common folks will check it out. If they like it, they will adopt it.
Which means giving up the command line.
I’m still trying to decide if I really want Linux to be as popular as Windows. I think that is a question folks might really want to ponder.