OSN: The often-mentioned nastiness of Linux advocates on the internet, and their impatience for anyone with a "noob" question.
MR: Our target is the "noob," and work hard to help these new users. We have multimedia tutorials which walk users through all the basics. Our forums are loaded with helpful people, many who came to Linspire as "noob" Linux users themselves. We have telephone and email support which we offer our customers. To go beyond a small percentage of desktop users, Linux needs to be inviting to the non-techno elite. That's where our focus is. In a way, we are to desktop Linux what AOL was to the Internet. AOL wasn't for the techno elite, but that group recommended it to all their non-technical friends. Without the Internet becoming easy for the average consumer, it wouldn't have grown like it has, which then in turns draws more resources to the Internet, helping everyone. The more people using Linux on their desktop, the more resources that will flow to it, benefiting "noobs" and experts alike.
OSN: The quirkiness and "slowness" of X, and the limitation that puts on the Linux GUI.
MR: We don't think desktop Linux is being held back by X or any other technical limitation. The biggest challenges are educating consumers that desktop Linux is now practical for many uses and building the distribution channels to get it in front of consumers. It's hard work supporting retailers, distributors and OEMs, but that's what's needed most. Any minor technical limitations that Linux may still have, are far out weighed by some of the many problems Microsoft Windows users face, such as viruses, security, expensive and proprietary software, and so on.
OSN: Many people point out that while Windows (and a drive full of common Windows software) is expensive, that since all bargain PCs come with Windows anyway, and indeed, most potential Linux users have already paid for Windows and already have it on their computer, that there's little incentive to make the switch for economic reasons. For example, you sell a $299 computer. But Dell also sells a $299 computer that includes Windows XP and WordPerfect. What's a non-techie home user's incentive to pick yours?
MR: There are 3 reasons that people consider desktop Linux and Linspire. First is price. If they can avoid $100 for the OS, several hundred for an office suit, and hundreds more for Frontpage, Visio and Frontpage and instead replace them with ultra-affordable open source titles, that's an enormous advantage. The second reason people are considering desktop Linux is to avoid the cost and hassle of endless security issues from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which are now part of the daily life for Microsoft Windows users. Today, these are basically non-existent for Linux so users can focus on getting their jobs done and not baby-sitting their computer. And Linspire makes Linux easy to use and maintain by making things point and click easy. We work hard at auto-configuring all the common file formats and devices from inline Quicktime movies to the latest printers. And if they need more software, they can add it with a single click using CNR.
If someone has already paid for Microsoft Windows XP, then they are a much tougher sell for desktop Linux because the number one driver is value. The largest opportunities for desktop Linux in the near term are the "green field" opportunities in emerging markets. If we can give someone a desktop Linux computer before they spend money and time on Microsoft Windows XP, then that's ideal. It's fascinating to look at lraiser.com and see exactly where hundreds of new desktop Linux users are sprouting up every single day all around the globe. In the US and other first world countries, I think the sweet spot is in cost conscience businesses, second and third computer homes, and schools.
OSN: Others might say that Linux has some potential now in the technical workstation space or centrally-managed business desktop, but is still too rough for the home user. What do you think are the essential differences between business and home uses, and is there anything about Linux today that makes it suitable for one and not the other? Would you agree that Linux has a stronger entry point right now in businesses than it does in the home?
MR: Well for businesses the lack of ability to support the latest games is actually a feature. :) Since Linux does a great job with core office duties and internet tasks, it's well-suited for business deployment today. We are working on large deployments with companies in telecommunications, entertainment and software businesses right now. Most are migrating their customer support staff first who do most of their work inside a web browser and then moving to their wider employee base. The cost savings and virtually non-existent security issues are compelling to businesses. However, we have hundreds of new Linspire users each day, and the majority of those are from consumers looking for affordability and security. We have to work harder to support those users, because they use a wide range of peripherals, software, etc., but it helps us get better and road tests us for when businesses are ready to try Linux.
OSN: What do you think are the core qualities that a non-techie home user is looking for in a computer, and why do you think a Linux system would fit the bill? And why wouldn't a Windows XP system or a Mac fit just as well or better?
MR: Home users needs are not that different from business users. Remember Microsoft sells the identical products to both. Cost and security are again the largest factors. Home users are probably more concerned with support since they don't have a technical staff to call upon. Apple makes great products, but they are very, very expensive.
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