Linux risks netbooks defeat to Microsoft
Small window of opportunity
Ubuntu-based things do well in tech circles, but the consumer space is different, as gOS discovered when Wal-Mart blamed poor demand from baseball caps and mullets for its decision to stop selling Linux-loaded PCs.
David Liu, chief executive of Emeryville, California-based gOS, is undaunted. Indeed he is optimistic that Linux can succeed in the consumer market, on "next generation" appliances and the increasingly popular netbooks that offer the "best experiences". To that end, gOS has launched version 3.0 of its consumer-focused Linux operating system, which packs in Google Gadgets.
But Liu also sees a threat on the horizon. Why? OEMs are only flirting with Linux in the consumer space, and that leaves the path clear for Microsoft on netbooks and appliances to duplicate its PC-based Windows empire.
"Linux companies like ourselves need to work closely with people making the next wave of appliance or netbooks... we need to seize it before other people fill the gap," Liu told a LinuxWorld panel on life, now that OEMs are shipping Linux PCs.
"The business model of Microsoft will adjust down [to netbooks and appliances]," he told The Register afterwards. "We can do it, but it's a really small window of time. The PC world is moving on."
Liu agreed that it is hard trying to catch consumers' interest in a channel geared towards Windows. "We have been trying to resize and use open source to appeal to consumers, but to be honest it's tough," he said.
OEMs have been shipping more Linux on selected PC models, but have yet to make Linux generally available as a pre-installed and supported option. They still rely on Windows and look certain to continue doing so as companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo respond to the run-away Asus' EEE with their own netbook-style devices.
Demand for Linux does exist with Linux-powered PCs going into specialized markets like education. HP's recently launched mini notebook - also for education and available with SuSE Linux, Windows XP or Windows Vista - has been enjoying adoption outside of its intended market. HP technology strategist Jim Mann told LinuxWorld there hadd been: "A lot of interest and purchase from business executives".
Mann was one of the few OEMs on the panel to venture an opinion on the subjects of Linux versus Windows and the netbook craze. The reason that OEMs are not offering Linux more broadly is simple - and timeless: usability and the lack thereof.
Google Gadgets gone wild: the latest gOS
"From a general operating system perspective - there's still a lot of packages to download. That's not something you are going to see my mom use," Mann said bluntly. "Until it gets to the point where it's drop-dead simple or devices lock down functionality, you aren't going to see much uptake among consumers."
Liu reckons that Linux has improved. The problem is that OEMs aren't working to fit Linux-based netbooks or appliances into their portfolio in a way that consumers can understand and at the same time doesn't compromise existing revenue streams.
"The window [of opportunity] is how do we tell consumers and get support of partners on the hardware side? To [get partners to] work on packages of software and hardware to make it clear where this fits into the ecosystem of products," Liu said. "If you have a device running on Linux, how can it fit naturally and gracefully, so it's here to advance profit rather than kill the existing business?"®
Re: Barrier of entry
Linux is pretty much "turnkey". Windows is much, MUCH further from turnkey. That line is a load of complete bollocks.
What's the problem is that MS sit on propriatory protocols and butt-widening EULA and license costs to make non-MS software unusable:
Exchange: Works with MS blessed closed source apps. And non-MS apps blessed are always late to the game because MS writes the server to fit their other programs and after all the work THEN tells others who pay mucho dinero for blessings how to rewrite their app.
AD: Works with the *correctly versioned* blessed OS.
MSOffice: Obscured format even MS don't understand (but get to take years developing the new version in secret so they can get something that "works" even if they don't understand why). Doesn't even work with other MS apps and barely consistent with the same MS Office version on a different machine.
Sharepoint: Another hook to tie beancounters who get OTHER PEOPLE to write their documents (and reformat again AND AGAIN) into MSOffice. Works with only The Blessed.
Server CAL: Pay for a windows license even if there's no windows. No financial advantage and you get "that configuration is not supported" so lose your "enterprise grade" support contract. Nice.
EULA: Squeal little piggie! May not even be allowed to connect heterogenic systems together.
So for businesses, non-linux is sabotaged from as many directions as MS can manage to make it hard to go non-Windows on *anything*.
For the home market, either your ISP only supports Windows/IE, your bank only supports ActiveX/IE or you have more than one computer so if you've invested in Windows, MS are going to make it hard for you wherever possible.
THESE are the reasons why Linux (and Apple) don't take off: not utility, usability, cost or power. MS already have their dick so far down your throat there's no room for anything and you can't talk loud enough to be heard.
Less choice please
Linux could obliterate MS in this space....if there was one single distribution that everyone worked on to make it the obvious de facto choice for SCC's. From a technology point of view, it is the correct decision as it needs less resources to provide a compelling experience.
Unfortunately the very nature of linux development works against them. Every developer has their own opinion of what would be best, and merrily makes there own ideal system, which almost always bears no relation to what the average person wants.
People actually crave 'simplicity' this is sad, as computers are not simple, and never have been. This means that people actually crave familiarity, which leads them inexorably to choosing the thing that most closely resembles what they have. Offering thousands of different distributions all subtly different is not a good idea, it is in fact identical to the marketing scam used by large telecoms companies to confuse punters into buying the wrong contract. People are utterly paralysed by choice when they cannot process the differentiating factors....
Have one system that everyone can come to understand, standardise on it...sure keep all that customisability so that us geeks and the teenagers can play, but make it simple and consistent at first glance. People want to buy a toaster, not a multifaceted bread grilling appliance.
And I say this all as a happy penguin lover...just a realistic one
@ When will OSS types finally realise the truth of this....
""But it's free as in beer" is just a hopeless message, a laudable one, but hopeless as a tool to win hearts and minds from the windows world.""
If you're going to quote something it helps if you know what you're talking about. The quote you were looking for is:
"Free as in freedom, not free as in free beer" -RMS
I stopped reading your post at that point because I figured if you were that far off on your quote the rest of your post would most likely be garbage too.
"Where did you get your data from?"
It's big. It's Black. And I be afraid of it.
@ AC 12.08.08. 14:18 GMT, "I thought we were consumers..."
"Ow yeah...the great idea of adding wine emulation onto majority of Linux distribution so users can run Windows apps....which requires a Windows OS license anyway....smart"
http://www.winehq.org/ claims that Wine does not require Windows. Where did you get your data from?