Linux and its closing window of opportunity with OEMs

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I am planning on changing the world with this article. I can’t do it on my own: I need your help.

Well, I must admit that changing the whole world might be a little ambitious. For now, I will settle for the “computing world".

Right now, the following factors are true:

  • Linux has a very viable desktop and office suite—for free. OpenOffice being bloated is basically not an issue anymore, since even a basic computer today will run OpenOffice completely fine. Thanks to Ubuntu, end users can now use Linux and not notice the difference.
  • Again thanks to Ubuntu, Linux is amazingly simple to configure.
  • Computers are getting cheaper and cheaper. I am using a $950 laptop, and it’s an amazing machine which will probably last many years.
  • Linux’s hardware support is impressive.
  • Vista is being released. All the anti-piracy procedures will annoy users immensely. Plus, Vista is a new system: a big break from XP.

Despite what people say, Linux does not have a significant slice just yet. By “significant slice", here I mean 20% to 30%. We are nowhere near it, in fact.

Linux has, right now, a huge window of opportunity to actually grab a huge slice of the desktop market. The time is ripe. The opportunity is right there.

And yet, there is one missing piece that is stopping it. In fact, “stopping" here is an understatement. This missing piece could well kill this fantastic opportunity.

The missing piece has a name: OEM. Or, lack thereof.

There is no easy way to go to a major brand (see: Lenovo, HP, Toshiba) and buy a Linux laptop with Ubuntu preinstalled on it.

Why not?

I can see three main reasons:

  • Lack of demand. Yes, not enough people ask for Linux. This is sadly true. Linux users are still a minority.
  • Microsoft lobbying. There is no conspiracy theory here: it’s something everybody knows. Executives of big companies are being pressured (see blackmailed) so that they will never allow people to buy a Linux laptop.
  • Support. Laptop manufacturers have dealt with Windows since day 0. Linux is scary—and I am talking about money, here: big vendors are scared by how much supporting a brand new system will cost.

Lack of demand will not rise until they start offering Linux laptops. This is a catch 22 well known to the computing industry. Microsoft lobbying will never stop. In fact, I suspect it has grown stronger and stronger. Support is an issue that manufacturers will only face if they are forced to.

Linux needs a range of laptops that will never, ever give even a single problem.

Some can argue that Linux can “make it" without the manufacturers’ help.

This is simply not true. Go out there, read the mailing lists, read the bug reports being submitted for sound, suspend support, video cards. You will find countless hackers struggling and trying to guess which bit should be raised at which point. You will see users endlessly applying those patches, and reporting back to the drivers’ developers (who are real saints, if you ask me).

This is not a good way to go about it. It might have worked so far, but it is rapidly becoming unsustainable.

Why? Because the amount of available hardware and devices is growing—and the available documentation is diminishing. Because there is a limited number of people who are skilled (and patient) enough to hack a driver so that it corrects the weirdness of the chipset XYZ that only shows up when the BIOS ABC is being used with parameter QWE on. If you go out there, you will see that it’s a constant battle. It feels like Linux is defending itself, but the enemy is getting bigger and bigger.

Also, Laptops tend to become better supported once they age a little—six months to a year. In that time, hackers have time to fix drivers, support more devices, and so on. This is a problem still: people want to buy new, fast laptops rather than last year’s models. Plus, this year’s version of a laptop might use slightly different chipsets—starting a driver-fixing war again.

So, what does an OEM need to do in order to create a “Linux range"?

  • Make sure that free versions of drivers covering every single piece of hardware used by the machine is fully supported by Linux. By “fully supported", I mean no weirdness, no strange behaviours, no quirkiness. If there are problems, the OEM manufacturer needs to either solve them (most likely by working with the chip’s maker), or not use the defective piece of hardware.
  • Make sure a popular distribution works. For example, they could make it “Certified to work for Ubuntu", and then list “Dapper Drake, Edgy".
  • Make an installation disk that install a system that always, always, always “just works". Again, this is relatively easy with Ubuntu.
  • Offer Linux support to people with problems. This could mean outsourcing some of it, for example. Or training people within the company. They need to keep in mind that here “support" doesn’t mean “OpenOffice won’t change font". This kind of support is not offered to Windows users either.
  • Have a big range of laptops, from small portables (12" screen laptops, at about $950) up to higher end machines (17" monitors).

When this happens, the world will change. Why? Because OEMs will be directly involved in the tuning up of the hardware they provide. They will either fix existing drivers, or buy components that work 100% in Linux. No matter which way they go, Linux will benefit immensely: component makers that don’t support Linux will lose money.

Microsoft knows for sure that if one of the largest OEMs does exactly what I described above, others will follow. It will become an unstoppable trend, which will cost Microsoft market share—the same market share that brings value to their stock and sales dollars into their bank accounts. This is why Microsoft has worked so hard, politically, to make absolute sure that OEMs supporting Linux properly just didn’t happen. Sadly, they managed.

How can we make this happen?

  • Show that there is demand. This could be done in several ways. One is for example by calling laptop makers, and asking which Linux laptops they sell. If they don’t, then it’s important to ask the person to speak to a teamleader and have the complaint logged. Another way, is to create a new project with a full range of latest, bleeding edge laptops which work in Linux out of the box. Since this is aimed at desktop users, “certifying" these laptops for Ubuntu would probably work.
  • Lobby OEMs at higher levels. Executives need to understand that by not providing Linux laptops, they are actually losing money. This is tricky—it’s hard to get to talk to people “at the top". And, normally Microsoft has the potential to buy expensive “presents" for these executives... But, the Linux community is large, and we all know the principle of “six degrees of separation"...
  • Send a clear message to OEMs: they can outsource support to start with. Canonical could provide that support, for example.

Not acting right now could cost Linux dearly. Very dearly. There is a window of opportunity open right now. It will eventually shut. Microsoft might be able to keep their stronghold on OEMs forever. Trusted computing is their next card to play—Linux will be even harder to use on a lot of hardware. And things will only get worse.

What are your comments about this? What do you think I got wrong? How do you think we could achieve what I got right?

I am here, listening to your comments.



Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Besides convincing hardware manufacturers' top executives, end consumers should be convinced to ask for Linux. It is the way it works with offer following demand.

This can be done through showing that Linux is built with freedom in mind, that its users always own the music they might buy on the system, that they will always be able to read their documents in 10 years from now, that they won't ever be tied to a specific harware platform or closed proprietary formats. This last point will particularly be efficient on corporate users, who value total cost of ownership, are risk-averse and flexibility-oriented.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Once the Chinese make the majority of the computers in the world, and they put their own Linux distribution on them by default, the problem will be solved. Customers can then try to install Windows on them, if Windows is what they really desire.

The linux "support" problem can be resolved for those corporations quite easily, by providing FAQ's free on their websites, and by selling tech support, just as some other corporations do.

When CostCo and Walmart have Linux PC's in their stores, much of the distribution problem will be solved.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Walmart DOES offer a Linux PC -,111557-page,1/article.html

But right now, Linux, even Ubuntu, isn't as easy to use as Mac and Windoze - mostly due to the drivers as said by the author. Once the hardware configuration 'issue' is solved, then it will spread rapidly. Especially when it can be used to keep getting value out of existing hardware.

I agree that a big shift will happen in the developing world first, because a $300 "Windows tax" is far higher than you would figure.

I think Linux and Open Source is the way of the future - even now, the best most stable software is Open Source (the "released versions" anyway) - and eventually a tipping point will be reached.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Well, Ubuntu works but openSUSE, Fedora and other distributions works pretty good as well. Why so much Ubuntuness?, it is not the perfect distro neither the only one.

And, thanks to Ubuntu??. Really?. Before Ubuntu there was only dark and obscurantism and then, thanks to Ubuntu, light was made?. No mate!. The community if far more than just Ubuntu, and thanks!. Think: who first realeased a grafical intaller, a friendly desktop, who "invented" 3D desktops and so on. Sorry, but I cannot list a single revolutionary feature that can be assigned to Canonical efforts. None.


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

That, right there, is the double-edged sword of Linux. On one hand, there are a myriad of options an end user can go with when using Linux. On the other hand, there are a myriad of options an end user can go with when using Linux.

There are some OEMs (Dell in particular I believe. Sorry, no link, just from memory) that has spoken out about this and has said that the problem with supporting Linux is that everyone out there wants to use a different distro. Which is the OEM to support? Until companies can make a product that works without extensive tweaking on all the big distros (Debian, Ubuntu, RedHat, Suse, ), Linux is going to have issues with mainstream OEM support.


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

What to thank Ubuntu for? Thank them for making an installer that is very successful at getting your hardware to work without any tweaking and taking the guesswork out of installation. Pretty much every other distro out there gives you an infinite list of packages to install; this is a very daunting step if you're new to Linux.

Finally there is a distro that picks a combination that 80% of the users out there will be happy with. Then thank them that they made it trivial to install the packages they didn't select as default for the remaining 20%.

Thank them for selecting one of the most stable linux bases out there and making it friendly enough for a noob to get up and running.

And Ubuntu became distro of the year without having to use a flashy GUI installer. They made the text installer simple. It can only get better from here!


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

You are just right. And unfortunately our GNU/Linux community is myopic. Too devided. Unable to put all efforts in one or a few directions. To consolidate. To use the resources wisely, not making 'yet-another-unneeded-Linux-distro or seventeenth music player that actually doesn't work.

We lack drivers. Badly. We lack in next layer - windowing system, sound system...
People require network, graphics and sound. If we cannot give it to them - they won't go.

And we need to consolidate to get all the data from the manufacturers - or reverse engineer.

We need people, money and other resources, like leadership. Can we do it?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Im sorry people but as much as I admire the Linux ideal. It's because of it,that it hurts itself.
Too many distro;s, not enough drivers to support media that comsumers demand. Even software that does not work well in use. Yes, im talking about all those people that don't write good code. Microsoft has one distro if you will. Apple has one distro. Come up with one good distro that everyone will support and promote the shit out of it!!! Then maybe people will get interested in it. Until that happens, linux will not make any inroads into the consumer computer business.The best thing to happen to Linux in the past is Red Hat and Suse. You need a big company with some real technical support to attract everyday consumers.
But even so Linux is still considered by the average joe to be more difficult to learn to use than windows.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Too many distro;s.... Well, I am not so sure. Be aware of what you are comparing. Saying that MS only has one distro is a bit far-fetched in my view. I consider a distro to be a bundle of software consisting of the base-OS, necessary drivers and a few more or less useful programs put together by a distributor. MS has one base-operating system, which in itself does not really include much. Drivers and other software are up to third-party manufacturers to produce and contribute. These distributors (manufacturers or other OEM's) collect all these necessary items for you, streamline the installation process, create an image, and with a bit of luck you even get a recovery-cd... In this way you actually talk about Dell-, HP-, IBM-, Gateway-, and Acer-"distro's", just to name a few. A fresh OS-only installation from retail windows-cd's will probably not work very well on hardware from these manufacturers either. Not to mention using the distribution-specific install media on a system from another vendor. Ever tried to install from a Dell recovery-cd to an HP-system or vice versa? Did it work?
*Any* manufacturer or OEM can easily do this to a linux system as well. If they want to. Or if the hardware-manufacturer wants to. Not enough drivers is really not a "linux"-problem, but a manufacturer-problem. If the manufacturers release the specs or produce the drivers themselves, everything works on linux as easy as on windows.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Consolidation will happen over time. Right now Ubuntu and Kubuntu have come to dominate in just a couple of years (well most rapidly over the last 6 months since 6.06), and estimated to have over half the desktops using Linux.

At this rate, Ubuntu will have about a stable 80% "desktop share" within a few years.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I Agreee with you. Red Hat and SUSE (Novell) are large companies that put the effort in the Linux Operative System as viable choice in the Enterprise and Government. These clients must to pay licences, and depends heavily in robust and scalable solutions. By the way,they do not use games, open standards are wellcomed and security is a priority.

That is why Linux can be the perfect solution, believe me because my work is to put Linux in these envivonments.

But there is a catch:

The perception from the choice makers is that they need a huge recognized company to support the implementation solution, and Ubuntu, Debian, Ututo are not in the list. Red Hat, Novell and Mandriva are.

Of course, Ubuntu et all, are really good and robust solution, I know for sure but Enterprise and Govt, do not has that perception, and as Steve Jobs said. "perception in reality".

Now, GNU ppl can't understand this. They atack Red Hat, Novell every time they got a chance. They are "purists" and if one bit of code is closed source, as many drivers are, then cry foul and promote an scandal. A knife in the back for Linux backers. The Linux adoption for this environment are not because are free or open source or because there are some purists promoting it, is becuase is the BEST SOLUTION in the market. And I agree hundred percent. I prefer Red Hat solution and not M$ solution, may be is not perfect for you, but is a WAY BETTER solution, do not agree?.

When some purists put GNU acronym before Linux, appear to me that they don't understand the basics of the problem: MS/Windows can be called in this way because M$ makes Windows, Apple/MacOS X can be called in this way because Apple Computer makes MacOS X. Stop Calling Linux as GNU/Linux because GNU don't makes Linux, LINUX IS UNIVERSAL, not GNU propietary. Do not stole it for you. This is offensive for many Linux entusiasts like me that looks you as biased and blind people.

Want Linux be a successfuly OS?. I can tell you simple things that YOU, not the OEMs must to do, and is simple because all depends on YOU, not on others:

1) Be tolerant, things evolve steadily, if purism will prevail, it will be in time, do not try to force situations. Do not blame Red Hat, Novell, KDE or every thing does not match exact your expectations. Some is better than none.

2) GNU is great, I know, but is not the owner of FOSS. Try to others think FOSS as human universal, because this is TRUE. Try others to get involved. May be GNU create the concept but do not OWN it.

At last, the solution is change your mind, and this is not easy.

Pietro Pesci Feltri

Terry Hancock's picture

I just made a post on the "What about selling" thread that might be relevant here too. In brief, it occured to me that branded GNU/Linux distributions might be sold as a fund-raising system to local non-profits the way chocolate bars or coupon books are today in the USA.

It's sound kind of goofy, but it would put free software in the hands of a lot of extra people, through their local charities, schools, and other personal connections. It's a very grass-roots approach.

I don't know if you could do pre-installed GNU/Linux this way, but you might (I was just thinking about disks when I wrote the post).

Terry Hancock's picture

Actually, there are already probably dozens of companies out there who will sell you a desktop or laptop computer pre-loaded with GNU/Linux. Just flip through the advertisers in the Linux magazines to find a few (just as proof-of-principle, look at Emperor Linux, but there are plenty of others out there).

The question isn't really “Why isn't somebody selling pre-loaded Linux?", it's “Why isn't my convenient big-name corporate source selling pre-loaded Linux?", or perhaps more to the icy sharp point, “Why can't I be bothered to purchase my equipment from suppliers who respect my values instead of toadying up to the big boys like all the other techno-serfs?"

Mauro Bieg's picture

Okay. The big OEMs won't ship GNU/Linux pre-installed. But why doesn't there start some smaller company selling computers specialized for GNU/Linux use. I would be more than glad if somebody could point me me to a laptop I could buy, and be sure that GNU/Linux does work on it. Without any hassle.

They could also sell very, very cheap computers. A kind of a mac mini, just cheaper. If the right distribution is installed, 800Mhz are far enough to surf the 'Net, write some emails and text sheets. And that's what most computer users do with their boxes.

An other approach would be that for example Canonical created that 'Official Ubuntu Certified' label you were talking about, and only computers which met certain criteria were allowed to use that label and the stores website could be linked from the Ubuntu website. Wouldn't a lot of people click on that link just to be sure to have a new computer that 'just works'?

Terry Hancock's picture

Um, you might want to read my post right before yours.

There are places that will sell you a system pre-loaded with Linux. They tend to advertise a lot in Linux magazines. I even linked to an example. Here's another one: R-Cubed Technologies.

So once again, the question I have is why are we pretending these companies don't exist, and fawning all over big companies that don't provide the service we want? Is it so important to have IBM or Lenovo or somebody giving you what you want, instead of a smaller company? What the heck happened to the free market?

You just need to look in better places when you shop.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

is it possible for the community or the distribution owner to sell laptops or desktops with Linux pre-installed? The price to sell may be just for covering the hardware cost?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I've been rallying the writer's point for a while now, and the answer to your question is simply: that we can't walk into a shop and play with the laptop/desktop before purchasing it.

ALL shops that you mention selling Linux pre-installed only sell their products online. This means that I can't look at or browse how they work before I buy.

Don't get me wrong. When I do purchase my next computer, I will definitely order a computer with Linux pre-installed, however, this will happen in a few years. Until then, I would love to go to my local shop and play with the laptop until it's time to make the purchase. This in itself, will make me more excited and eager to buy, maybe I'll buy early.. but not with the status quo.

What we need is someone to open a shop that doesn't sell windows computer, but only Linux computers alongside other gadgets. This way, M$ won't be able to up their OEM licenses and screw me over, and the Linux community will definitely make all their purchases (gadgets as well) from this shop. Put it someone accessible, central London for instance and you're off.

I reckon there is a large enough community of people who would shop from there to make it profitable, all is needed is startup capital. Mark Shuttleworth? It's a bit of a dream at the moment though.

Mauro Bieg's picture

:-) sorry, but when I started typing, your post wasn't there yet. seriously.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

System76 sells laptops and desktops preloaded with ubuntu:

Dell sells some linux desktops too:

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Read another opinion

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The machine that will establish Linux as a major mainstream desktop OS isn't the PC, but the Sony PS3. It will sell over 12 million per year and accumulate over 100 million units in sales over the next 5 or 6 years - that is 1 for every 60 people on this planet folks, and one really big OEM - the biggest by a large margin in fact.

Linux advocates should focus on getting a Linux variant for the total newbie onto the PS3 - one that will just require inserting a DVD and booting to install to hard drive, and one that is polished and comes preconfigured with the full gamut of Internet multi-media applications pre-installed, and requires no configuration or maintenance at all, and comes with all the applications required by the typical home user already preinstalled and preconfigured. This should be easy to do, because the hardware is fixed, and the only variable is USB peripherials. The lure of such a big market should also be enough to make any peripheral manufacturer dump any anti-trust abusing advertising rebate system Microsoft may put out, which would lock them out of the PS3 market.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Let's say that PS3 gets out of it's launch-itis slump and actually does sell even half as much as you say over the next 6 years.

How many of those people do you think are buying a PS3 to use as a computer and not just a gaming console/blu-ray player? How many are going to connect keyboards and mice to their PS3s? I'm betting less than 1%. PS2 could run Linux also, and that didn't take off.

Finally, how many Linux applications will run well on 512K of RAM? How many can you keep open at one time?

PS3 won't change the world of Linux and vice-versa. It will just be one of the other thousands of devices Linux can run on.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

don't get your hopes up :)

could linux run on the wii?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Best article I have read in many a long day. Bang on. We need to do as suggested a.s.a.p.

Surely there should be a web site called: whose sole job it is to list all OEM's which specialize in PCs -- both laptops and desktops -- PRE-LOADED with Linux. In my case I have two custom built generic machines which were never tainted with MS software and run Red-Hat Linux and Ubuntu respectively. I sure would have been very happy to have bought pre-loaded FULLY FUNCTIONAL machines.

There is absolutely nothing which holds back Linux usage more than the widespread availability of pre-loaded machines and the widespread knowledge of how to get our hands on them.

. . Ted Swart . .

Nate Bargmann's picture

when even the One Laptop Per Child project is prevaricating on its use of Linux? A couple of weeks back there was a story about the OLPC prototype being at Microsoft so they could evaluate it for some version of XP and that an SD slot had already been added per Microsoft's request. If OLPC, a project intending to use Linux from the start, can't avoid being influenced by Microsoft and ultimately succumbing to them, how can we expect Dell to withstand Microsoft's overtures?

Microsoft is pushing on every visible front and probably many that aren't too visible. They are pressuring customers, OEMs, hardware manufacturers, governments, and standards bodies to obfuscate any notion of an alternative. There is only One Microsoft Way and they intend to keep it that way.

Until some heretofore unknown OEM becomes the darling of those purchasing Linux pre-installed and claims a significant share of the market, the Dells of the world will only pay Linux lip service. Why should they change their present business model? They're not losing enough sales to matter plus they get to sell a copy of Windows to the aggravated Linux user. As long as Microsoft is happy, the OEMs are happy.

Welcome to life under a monopoly.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for greater Linux market share. Without OEM support Windows is no more capable on a given piece of hardware than Linux. The existing OEMs have heard from us for the better part of a decade and yet little has changed with regard to buying a Linux machine "off the shelf". Going head on with OEMs is a losing cause, so we must try something different. Something smarter.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Advertise Open Source software, Open Source values, and the Linux Kernel On TV, radio, magazines, and news papers. Let the world know the advantages of Linux and let the world make a choice if they can. The only barrier here is money. Lots of MONEY... Who can donate free advertising for Linux? A foundation needs to be created to focus on the mission and receive donations. I know Linux users will make yearly donations to this cause and corporate companies like Google, IBM, Redhat will also contribute. All we need is the right person to set this off in the right direction and keep in the right course until the word Linux and Opensource becomes a house hold name.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Every one should look at
They have very reasonable prices and most everything 'just works' on thier laptops
And if it doesn't they are already working on it. I own one of thier low end laptops
and I have been very pleased with it. I am buying my next laptop and server from them
for sure.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

System76 is just down the road from me (well, sort of) and I didn't even know it existed.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Remember that time in history when you would endlessly get that AOL CD via snail mail? I realize that it's expensive to spam every American home with a CD. But are we not right now in a situation, where just like the early days of the internet, in which some people have a general idea what Linux is but most are relatively uneducated as to how one could benefit from using it? What if there is a company that would be willing to take this approach; offer people a free operating system via mail. They possibly could use an advertising approach such as an operating system that is more secure, has the ability to display a 3D desktop, lets you surf the web, burn CDs and DVDs, write documents and spreadsheets that are compatible with windows, and send e-mails and much more all on this one free DVD or CD. It would be a backward approach starting not with the enterprise but the people who make up the enterprise. Thus more enterprises would be more willing to adopt an operating system that isn't so foreign to their workers. And as more enterprises and home users start using Linux naturally these big corporations would reconsider supporting Linux as it would become more profitable for them to do so. Yes, I realize that AOL has since failed but you know at one point their advertising scheme worked on a lot of Americans. Where are the Linux commercials on television? Why do most people not know that they have an alternative that is free and a lot better than Windows? The answer is no one has seen it on the boob tube or have had it come in the mail so frequently that it has turned into a nice set of coasters. How can you beat free, greater stability, and more security?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Don't get me wrong, linux is an awesome operating system, but it lacks something everyone wants. Expandability. Sure, you can get extras for it. But, even in ubuntu that often takes a quick trip to terminal. Nobody wants to look up on the internet how to install Java, but with linux you have to. Windows has made everything so easy. Hey, you want a program. Pop, download it and double click it. Vlala... it's installed.
Linux is promising don't get me wrong. But, what user would want to type something into a terminal. Windows XP doesn't make me do this.
I know that some of you a probably going to be up in arms about this, but it still remains a fact. Linux is harder to use than Windows. You can't deny it. Everyone and their grandma can run a windows machine, but linux is so different, so weird. Linux is amazing. It has potential. Ubuntu has made it stronger and more user friendly. But, it sill needs a terminal to install some programs (not all, ubuntu's add programs where a lot of programs are collected with point and click install does a good job, just doesn't include every cool linux program out there) linux will not be readily accepted by the public.
Lastly, one more problem is lack of game support. With Windows Vista and DirectX 10 a whole new gaming platform arrived. Linux cannot easily provide support. So, gamers or even a person who wants to play a simple game, will stay away from linux.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Microsoft Windows seems to be easy for some because these people have learn to use it. Unfortunately, once they tried to apply their skills of other operating system, they seem lost because no one teached them to adapt on these new environment.

"Linux is promising don't get me wrong. But, what user would want to type something into a terminal. Windows XP doesn't make me do this."

Have you ever used a modern Linux based distribution? It seems not. When it comes to fix a particular issues, these Microsoft Windows XP are lost.

"I know that some of you a probably going to be up in arms about this, but it still remains a fact. Linux is harder to use than Windows. You can't deny it. Everyone and their grandma can run a windows machine, but linux is so different, so weird."

It is not. A Linux distribution is just different. This argument just show how ignorant it is. That example demonstrated the inability to adapt to a new environment. Speaking of Grandma, I can tell you I have seen a 78 years old women perfectly using a Linux distribution without a problem thus completely defeating the posted logic.

"Lastly, one more problem is lack of game support. With Windows Vista and DirectX 10 a whole new gaming platform arrived. Linux cannot easily provide support. So, gamers or even a person who wants to play a simple game, will stay away from linux."

It will take time for games to get as popular on Microsoft Windows Vista similar to Windows XP in 2001. However, the future is crossplatform as gaming companies like ID software show. Tools for making games are available from SDL to Ogre. The real problem is actually the publisher. Afterall, RPM (under way of revamping) is part of LSB, sources are available,

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I have been using a mac laptop for a little over a year now, and I have had a back up Linux box for a little more than that. I can't program, I can't install outside of Synaptic/apt-get, I can't use the terminal, and I don't have time to learn how, but I would like to. I just do the basic OOO, browsing, etc. What scares me the most (and scare is probably too strong a word), is the Linux file structure (i don't know a usr from a bin, well i do but i don't) and the installation/uninstall process.

If they made it more like OS X, which for novice users has the System folder which people will stay out of and other folders for Apps, Music, Etc. then I would be a lot more ready to move over completely to Linux without the fear that I would lose all my files and mess up the computer. I know there is one distro that uses that now but I forget the name.

Also, if you had a free Distro stand at the front of every Wal-mart, I would expect a lot of people would just grab cds and play with them at home. Do what AOL does.

Also also, is there a group like the NEA (National Endowment For the Arts) that is either public or private that gives funding to programmers or groups of programmers to work on worthwhile *nix programs full time?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Do more research.

1) There was linux before Ubuntu and gee whiz, even GRAPHICAL installers and configuration tools! Mandrake, for example, had one of the best installers and configuration suites out there years before Ubuntu came along, and it's still superior today.

2) There are MANY OEMs out there that will sell you a machine with linux pre-installed. Even WALMART sells inexpensive linux boxes and has for quite some time!

What most statisticians miss is the very probable scenario that most people wishing to buy a machine to run linux either a) buy a machine with NO operating system, or b) builds it themselves.

3) Linux supports far more hardware than Windows... remember there was linux for BOTH x86 and PPC long before someone got desperate enough to build a "Mac" out of x86 parts. That's something that neither Microsoft or Apple can lay claim to, at least until quite recently.

4) Even though many have them available OEMs don't see a profit margin in pushing linux preinstalled to the forefront yet. They risk ticking off the evil empire if they do, for starters. Secondly OEMs have very little to do with driver support.

That window isn't about to close anytime soon and I believe that if you look a little more closely you will see that it's getting bigger every day.

Your article didn't completely suck and certainly does more good than harm but do you have to sound so panicky about it? Settle down chicken little... the skies not falling ;)

thorbeast's picture
Submitted by thorbeast on

Toronto Canada

One thing that has boosted Windows over the years is the fact that most computer games are written for Windows. So, we have another Catch 22 - getting game companies to make the games fully compatible with Linux. But, we need lots of people using Linux before this will happen. But, to get more people on Linux, we need it to support more games...

One thing that Linux has on it's side against Windows and Mac is price. As other OSes become more and more expensive (and require more and more expensive hardware), Linux becomes more attractive to those who just need a computer to do the average things (email, browser, some games, photos, music, word processing ...). Not everyone can afford, or needs a bleeding edge system. And dishing out a couple of hundred bucks or more for an OS, when you can get Linux for free, makes less sense as Linux becomes more user friendly - and if more games are written for it.

I'm a long-time Windows tech and I'm just getting into Ubuntu, and it's starting to look better all the time. I think I'll be installing it on a number of systems over the coming year.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I have been a linux gamer for quite some time. And with the help of Wine, Transgamming, and Cross Over Office, I havn't found too many windows programs that can't run in Linux. Between these three projects most new games can run almost the day they are released. In some cases it may take as long as 3 weeks but eventually, if its worthwhile, you'll be able to run that program on Linux. It might not run nativly, but the speed difference between World of Warcraft on my Windows PC verses World of Warcraft via transgamming wasn't even noticable.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I don't see adds. You all want to see off the shelf Linux laptops and pc's. Then spend some of this creative energy making commercials and ads for these oem's. So many of us have blogs and sites, but I never see NOTICEABLE APPEALING ADDS. If you guys can make Beryl and what not, where are the adds. So far I have seen one in the US for Ubuntu in California on a billboard. People don't know what Linux is. Even though you and I care about the freedom they don't. If you tell them it just works, you don't have to spend countless hours maintaining it, and its performance will not decrease over time you will get their attention. I love my Linux, but it seems that you all forget that we a the fring and most people don't care about their OS they just want it to be simple and work. Ubuntu has come close in my opinion (don't beat me up here) I really think that symphony has a good start on simple maybe the four corners of the screen being even more simple though like computer, Internet, pictures, email, maybe something in the middle on the bottom like applications and call it good. Anyone who has worked a help desk recently should know what I mean. You talk about cheap computers look at Eway.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Talk to the average kid who games on windows. Most likely he/she is the "official tech support " to every friend and relative they have. They've likely reinstalled windows for dozens of people multiple times just to fix an annoyance that was too much hassle to fix any other way. Talk to them. They'll tell you that 99% of the people they know personally use windows and only 20% of them actually "USE" windows to do anything sophisticated.

That vast majority of users would have no problem switching over to Ubuntu. Even Microsoft admits that 90% of Word users only use 10% of the features. Lots of people can't even tell the difference between Wordpad and Word.

I say, talk to these kids, introduce them to distros with XGL. "Vista Eye Candy with better performance on 3 year old hardware". DONATE $$$$$ TO THE PROJECTS THAT BRING WINDOWS GAMING TO LINUX!!!!
The gamers are the key to the masses of users that they unofficially have to support windows for!

Get them to get their people to forego buying a new expensive machine (where I live a piece of poo system will cost $1800+) just to run vista and instead put linux on those same machines. Linux will take a system that was on it's way out and make it last at least 3 more years. Hopefully this will result in a decline in sales for OEMs and when they look into the problem they'll realize that the only way these people are going to get a new system is if it runs the Linux Distro they've grown comfortable with.

How many of you know people who ONLY use Internet Explorer? They get home, boot up, launch IE and surf until it's time to sleep or watch tv. NOTHING ELSE! They don't launch even one other app (ok maybe an IM app, but look at how many people have started using onl or similar).
Those people don't need Windows. They don't need a new machine. They don't even need a full featured Linux Distro. We need to convince the gamer kids to teach the people they have computing influence over.

gadget00's picture
Submitted by gadget00 on

This is my thought: we could manage to get some OEM support, maybe pulling some FOSS strings with IBM and Lenovo for example, with those big companies(e.g. HP) supporting Linux and their business partners, and also with Novell business partners(ups, MS got there, blank that one); Imagine just opening a small division of HP DVpavillion laptops with 100% working linux; im babbling just about thinking of it. Then, just imagine we made it. Now that we got Linux Certified laptops, and preinstalled Linux boxes from big OEM's :
how is multimedia going to work?

It is my big question, since not all the plugins for multimedia/streaming/flash/shockwave/etc have total support. For the common user, multimedia is one (if not the one) key of computer usage. It is very irritating to see yahoo! streaming service and many others not been compatible with Netscape browsers, or not having shockwave for Linux. iTunes not suitable for linux, and the list can keep on growing a bit. Big companies wont jump on the Linux wagon, if they will have to attend lots of calls like "nobody told me that iTunes didnt worked in this computer"; "why i cant stream yahoo! if i payed the whole year for it", "AOL is not here", "my game is not working". See, there are other barriers left. There is an existing system moving right now, and Linux, before gaining presence, it has to adapt very wellto it. After winning with the OEMs, how we then get moving in the multimedia department?
"God is waiting to give you a better kernel: the love of Christ. Open your source code. You'll never crash again"

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I read a poll that determined that the majority of computer users would give up their administrative passwords in exchange for a chocolate bar. So it seems possible that the majority of users will trade their computing freedom for a piece of MS Vista or Apple Aqua eye candy.

The only way that a major OEM will break their exclusive contracts with MS (or Apple break its hardware lock-in) - and allow non-MS OSes to be pre-installed - is if the bean counters calculate that it is no longer beneficial to the bottom line. And this will only happen if people begin to rebel against the 'trusted computing' and 'DRM' features of MS Vista and OS X. But people will only understand these draconian limitations after having experienced them first hand.

I think the computing world will continue to be split into two groups for the foreseeable future - the free (FOSS) computer world and the encumbered (MS, Apple) computer world. I think that the free group will ultimately triumph, but it will be a tedious process occurring over a decade or so.

Dave Guard's picture

"So it seems possible that the majority of users will trade their computing freedom for a piece of MS Vista or Apple Aqua eye candy."

You're right, and when they see what Linux really has to offer many of them will trade MS products away just as easily. Every person I've shown my new laptop to (which is running Ubuntu Edgy and Beryl and came from Rcubed) has said "Ooh I think I want one of those." The ones who've never had a good look at Linux before have been left thinking that Linux is better than Windows (the truth!).

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I see this a lot. Over the years it always comes up. I would please direct you to a phrase:

‘‘The number of UNIX installations has grown to 10, with more expected.’’
The UNIX Programmer’s Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972.

So don't worry too much about certain things happening in 6 months or a year or 5 years......

John H

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

SuSE Enterprise and OpenSuSE work well on most Lenovo Thinkpad models which are, in my opinion, also the best overall notebook PCs. They are very sturdy, hard to break, have superb keyboards, and displays, and they last forever. I'm using OpenSuSE on an 8-year old Thinkpad with a 300 MHz Pentium II, 384 Megs of RAM, and a 4 Gig slow 4200 rpm hard drive. It takes a while to boot up, but it runs fine once its booted. I've installed various versions of SuSE on dozens of Thinkpads, including current models and it runs well on them.

Lenovo also will sell you a Thinkpad without an operating system, so you don't have to pay the Vindows "tax". Last I heard you actually have to call them to order one. You can find references to them on the website, but I think you have to call to order one. Tell them that you want to buy the Thinkpad T60 models that are certified for SuSE Enterprise Linux that come without an operating system. OpenSuSE will also work fine on these model Thinkpads.

Another great way to buy a Thinkpad is to buy an IBM certified used Thinkpad. These are mostly Thinkpads that IBM has leased to Fortune 500 corporations. They come back from the lease, are checked by IBM technicians for proper operation and are sold for 1/4 of their new price, as little as %300 to $500. Many of them are deluxe T-models with Titanium-coated cases that, when new, sold for 4 times the price. They have a 90-day warranty and I've bought dozens of them for friends, coworkers, and companies I've worked for. Never had a bum one and they make great Linux PCs. I put OpenSuSE on them. The only caviat is that because they are in limited supply and are such great deals, they tend to sell out very rapidly. If you see a model you like, buy it right away, tomorrow they will probably all be sold, although they're always getting in new supplies, so there will always be some available.

This Lenovo webpage has a link to Novell's website in the lower right hand corner:

Here is Novell's webpage with references to the SuSE certified Thinkpad T60s:

The Thinkpads that come with Windows will generally work well with SuSE Enterprise or OpenSuSE, but you will be getting a copy of Vindows that you will be throwing away.

Check out the excellent Linux on Laptops webpages for reports by Thinkpad owners on distros that worked for them on specific Thinkpad models:

No matter whether you buy a new or a certified used Thinkpad, tell the order taker on the phone or put in a comment in the online form telling them that you are going to be putting Linux on your Thinkpad and would like them to sell them with Linux installed. They will log these sorts of comments and if they get enough interest, they will respond to it.