“No matter how often it has been said, it seems that many GNU/Linux and Macintosh users refuse to see the obvious. The response to a recent article of mine demonstrated this statement as well as any other example I can think of. What is so obvious? That while speciality software and functionality is nice, it isn’t going to make or break adoption of an operating system.” Find out why at OfB.biz.
The Point Not Taken
Submitted by Timothy R. Butler 2002-11-01 Rumors 30 Comments
“… many people don’t even understand who the average user is.”
That is probably the best statement out of the whole article and many should take it to heart. But unfortunately I think he completely glossed over the usability aspect with “Free in both freedom and price.” I don’t know many average consumers out there that care one whit whether a system is proprietary or not, they just want to be able to turn on their system and do the aforementioned simple tasks. And here I will still maintain that Mac OS X has its advantage. The consumer may not care about the eyecandy, but the system is easy to use, and consistently easy from Mac to Mac, while from Linux distro to Linux distro it is not so consistently easy and obvious at times. There are merits to standardization and unification after all. And that’s what Apple has all their designers for.
there is still a vastly larger number of applications for windows than linux, especially in the higher end – those applications that businesses _really_ need. office applications are ten a penny, but hardcore video and audio editing software are not so widespread…
its getting better, though, now that Maya is available and other large packages (Pro/ENG) are coming soon…
Resistance is futile, surrender to the mighty Microsoft.
… is that what the article is trying to tell users of Macintosh or Linux? Fortunately I don’t think they’ll listen.
I think you should first read the article before writing this oh-so-uninformed comment of yours. The article is pro-linux if you wanna know.
it’s not as simple as windows or mac os. i had a parent of mine give linux a try with their needs only being a web browser and office suite. but when they asked me how to make an alias on the desktop, or install a program, i just gave them a windows box because they simply couldnt do it. even my example of installing real player and making a shortcut on the desktop was very frustrating. when the simple things are addressed then tell me linux has the advantage.
You mention higher end audio/video applications not being available in Linux, but there’s also some basic things in that area like Quicktime (I know… Sorenson…) and the fact that Red Hat won’t even ship with MP3 support and the unavailability of other browser plugins (RealONE, Windows Media unless you get Crossover which isn’t very reliable and is outdated), the fact that actually finding the Real/RealOne players for Linux is burried so deeply within real.com, etc. that are going to make things difficult even for the most simplest and innocent of desktop/multimedia uses. I definitely think Linux is close to the finish line, but when very easy things (that are themselves fairly complicated for computer illiterates…) that are in Windows and Macs are difficult to accomplish in Linux, I think that’s really an unavoidable problem that inventing new open source file formats and other workarounds isn’t going to fix.
Why are the linux distro evanglists going after Apple? I mean, if you’re after the “average” user, you’re looking in the wrong place. Macs have _always_ been specialty devices. You might as well try to capture the sun workstation market (they have about the same market share for the desktop). If you want the average person to use linux, stop dicking around trying to make it look like MacOS! Make it look like windows, make it run like windows (although hopefully with less crashes) and make it support all the functionality you can get from windows. Then you’ll attract the average user with one thing: the cost.
Like many ppl ( I suspect) I provide tech support to my work environment (Microsoft) and use other OS’s at home or in other environments.
Atm I have a great example that reinforces some of the points that this articles articulates. One 1.2ghz intel box that runs Win2k as the default but for the exercise also has had a couple of modern linux distros installed, most recently Redhat 8, Mandrake 8.2 and Woody Debian.
From the Joe user perspective, the linux distros were quite straight forward to set up and in most cases no more time was spent installing and configuring the basic systems compared with the original win2k install. With Open Office installed in addition to the default linux apps there is no significant loss of productivity and the user friendliness is no less than Windows.
Joe and jane average can run Linux desktops on vanilla x86 boxes and do MOST of the same things they do with windows. Sure Mac OSX might look better to some ppl and windows has buckets of strange and diverse apps, but the only areas that Linux really suffers is not the daily hack work but in the fringe areas like Games and Creative.
Bang for your buck, a good linux distro and a modern x86 gives the user a huge computer package these days.
Sure Mac OSX might look better to some ppl and windows has buckets of strange and diverse apps, but the only areas that Linux really suffers is not the daily hack work but in the fringe areas like Games and Creative.
Games aren’t exactly “fringe” apps, at least not for home users. The migration of games to consoles might be mitigating this somewhat, though.
There are other apps that Windows users are accustomed to that don’t have a Linux equivalent yet….Windows Media accounts for alot of streaming content out there. And Linux has no client equivalent to KaZaA to do p2p on the FastTrack network yet.
“If you want the average person to use linux, stop dicking around trying to make it look like MacOS! Make it look like windows, make it run like windows (although hopefully with less crashes) and make it support all the functionality you can get from windows.”
This isn’t the way to go, to make something attractive it has t o be different. Looking at a Linux that looks like Windows doesn’t make me want to use it, looking at the cool things you can make KDE and Gnome look like now that’s more interesting!
I find it irritating that Linux companies are trying to move people away from Windows to a Linux look a like, that’s almost completely pointless, if you are going to recreate the Windows environment the consumer is better off just using Windows, now if the consumer wants to run Linux then they will! Obviously my parents have no interest in switching from Windows to Linux and could care less about the politics. Maybe we should stop trying to “make” people switch and live in the reality that it is their choice, if they want Linux they will probably choose linux if Lindows of Lycoris didn’t exist.
I am a big promoter of Desktop Linux. I’ve spent quite a bit of money buying the desktop distros in order to help support them. That is where I’m coming from.
Butler is dead wrong when he focuses on web browsing, email and word processing. The current Mac “experience” is much more than that. It is the whole digital hub thing. He is either ignoring or not understanding what this is all about. Zillions of people have bought and are buying camcorders and digital cameras all over the world. Out of the box, OS X gives you, besides AppleWorks, email and browsers, iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iCal and iSync and, if you have a SuperDrive, iDVD. And, if you want more and want to extend some of these, you can buy into .Mac.
This means something to people who use their computers for these types of activities. Just an example, last summer my two brothers and I and our families went to the beach together. We took hundreds of digital photos. When we returned home, we poured over them and picked out the best ones and I uploaded them with iPhoto and had a professional quality photo album delivered to our elderly parents on their 60th anniversary. They were stunned when they saw this, thought we must have spent a fortune to have this done…and were delighted beyond measure. It isn’t just OS X either – regular people who use Windows do this same type of thing too. Apple has it so tightly integrated it has the best “out of box” experience for that type of thing though, in my opinion.
I really want Desktop Linux to get to this point, although I don’t know if it will or not. But, Butler is totally ignoring what a good chunk of average users have been doing and are doing. I don’t get it – what does he think people and families are doing with all those millions of camcorders and digital cameras???
>>”Then you’ll attract the average user with one thing: the cost.”
Attracting users isn’t going to turn the tide against Windows. If the only copies of Windows Microsoft ever sold were retail boxes in Wal-Mart or Best Buy (or even the MS web site) Windows wouldn’t be anywhere close to where it is now. Microsoft doesn’t “attract” users, it gets them by default since the vast majority of computers come with Windows already there. The “average user” never buys OR installs an OS, nor do they want to.
The move to Linux must be a conscious one. It takes EFFORT to move to Linux: acquire the OS, install it yourself, learn how to use it (and this for people who don’t know SCSI from ACPI from RAM).
Why should the “average user” bother? To all intents and purposes Windows is free to the average user, since it’s just there when you bring the machine home. It’s not as if there’s one machine sitting on the shelf for $999.00 with Windows and one for $899.00 with something else. Windows is in a very real sense “part of” the machine as far as the average user is concerned.
Linux costs: money, time, probably both. Not only that, your investment in Windows software (or even all the “free” stuff that comes bundled with new PCs, like Lotus SmartSuite, Office, Quicken, MSMoney) is pretty much thrown away. There is simply no logical or compelling reason at this point for the average user to switch to Linux. Until the average user can go to Best Buy and see two identical machines sitting on the shelf, one with Windows and a cheaper one with some flavor or Linux, Windows is safe. Until the average user can go to Wal-Mart and pick up a copy of PrintMaster Gold Linux Edition or Norton Linux Systemworks or 100 Great Games For Linux or … well, anything. And when they take it home they damn well better be able to put the CD in and click “Next” until it’s installed.
For the average user Linux is by far the more costly choice. Asking people to switch for purely technical reasons (ie, stability and virus immunity) isn’t going to work. The average user doesn’t care about that stuff. Asking them to switch because Microsoft is evil and Bill Gates is the devil isn’t going to work. They don’t care about that either. They care that they don’t HAVE to care: Windows XP does all the work. It makes the best decisions it can because it’s been designed to work for people without the knowledge to make those decisions. XP isn’t “dumbed down”, it’s brilliant. It has to be everything to everyone all the time. Not exactly an easy job, when you think about it.
The MS developers have been given a pretty awful task: write an OS that ANYone can sit down and use. Write an OS that takes care of all the housekeeping on its own, that makes decisions for the user not because the MS coders are arrogant or because Windows is the ultimate tool for taking over the world but just because the vast majority of users don’t want to make those decisions, they don’t want to have to care.
There is only one way Linux can take over the desktop: it must BECOME Windows. Maybe a better Windows than Windows, in its own way, but Windows in all the ways that we Linux zealots claim to hate. It must be dumbed-down (which, god forbid, puts the workload on the coders instead of the users) . It must be tailored from the ground up for the LOWEST common denominator. It must ASSUME that the person at the keyboard is a total neophyte that barely comprehends the concept of mouse-clicking. The guts of the system must be hidden behind pretty GUIs with lots of carefully labelled checkboxes, and those only when absolutely necessary. The most difficult decisions should be made by the OS to insure its own integrity. Will this break for a few users? Of course, but the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few or the one, right?
It seems to me that all the people who seem to want Linux to move onto mainstream desktops (or who believe it will) fail to realize this. Either that or we expect that, for whatever reason MILLIONS of computer users around the world are suddenly going to wake up and say, “I think I’ll expend time, effort and money to learn Linux. Sure, it’s a bit rough around the edges. It won’t run my favorite software. The kids’ games aren’t going to work and their favorite websites are only properly rendered by IE. My financial software won’t work. But what the heck, I have nothing but time and money, right?”
It’s just not going to happen. The only way Linux will EVER hit mainstream desktops is by being a better Windows than Windows and that means that from the “elite” Linux geek’s point of view it will have to be even MORE “dumbed-down” than XP allegedly is now.
That brings up a few interesting questions: If Linux becomes that kind of system, if Linux becomes a better Windows than Windows … then what will us Linux geeks use? Then what will we hate? We will have won, right? But then we’d have a system even more sheep-oriented than what it replaced! What will be the new pet OS of the “elite”? When Linux has become as “stupid” as Windows, how will you differentiate yourself from the “Linux sheep” mindlessly clicking through setup Wizards and opening e-mail viruses?
When I went looking for a printer last weekend, I went to Fry’s Electronics (amoung other places) – they had at least 15-20 printers on display. On the printer labels where it said what operating systems were supported, wanna know how many of them included Linux? NONE! I’m sorry, but that is a HUGE problem. Not that these printers wouldn’t work under Linux (in fact, I’d venture to guess that all of them would), but is it the kind of process where you turn it on and it just works? How about Scanners? And MP3 players? And digital cameras? And external USB 2.0/Firewire storage devices? Obviously, you can’t insert the CD to install the drivers because there are no drivers for Linux on the CD. And if you get stuck and need to call the printer/device manufacturer for help making things work in Linux, there’s little chance you’re going to get any support whatsoever. It’s things like this that people don’t consider when they think all Joe User will ever need in life is to browse the web and check email. I’m sorry, but there’s just more to life than that.
As for Macs, they did a lot better in this area, as many of the printers had Mac support and the printer I got actually had a full-color poster ‘quick start’ guide for Macs. Of course, the main disadvantage to Macs is that they run on non-PC hardware, and there’s a good chance Joe User isn’t going to invest in one if everybody he knows (including his parents/children) are all running Windows. I’m not saying that’s the best choice, only reality. Same goes for AOL users – even if they know there are ISPs with much better service, they’re going to stick with what’s easiest/most familiar.
Other thoughts ….
“Games aren’t exactly “fringe” apps, at least not for home users”
This is so true. I personally don’t know any Joe Users under the age of 50 who hasn’t bought at least one game for his/her PC. My dad, for instance, isn’t enough into gaming to get a dedicated console like a PS2, but will sometimes (every great once in awhile) pick up a game for his PC while at Target or CompUSA.
“if you are going to recreate the Windows environment the consumer is better off just using Windows”
I couldn’t agree more. If Linux is to become like Windows, it must *really* become like Windows … this is not a good thing
“Maybe we should stop trying to “make” people switch and live in the reality that it is their choice”
Probably the best statement in this thread. I swear … sometimes Linux zealots are worse than hardcore Bible thumpers. You gotta respect their right to believe/use whatever they want, but sometimes … ya just kind of wish they would shut up and go away
I agree that games aren’t “fringe,” but that doesn’t stop businesses from using it. When talking about little games though, Linux is great, e.g. Sokoban, Yahtzee, Shanghai, etc. But its still lacking in big commercial games.
I disagree that there is much migration to consoles. Counterstrike will never really work on consoles, and its super popular. Some games do work well, but deep strategy games, first person shooters, and Real-time strategy just isn’t as good.
Games are the only reason I still keep windows around at all, and games are the reason I started learning about computers in the first place.(in the Dos days, they didn’t “just work”)
I think it will be a really hard sell to get Mac users to switch to linux. Windows might be a little easier, because not all windows users have chosen windows, but may just be using a default.
I think Linux just needs small improvements, and a BIG push.
I agree with pretty much everything you said.
“That brings up a few interesting questions: If Linux becomes that kind of system, if Linux becomes a better Windows than Windows … then what will us Linux geeks use? Then what will we hate? We will have won, right? But then we’d have a system even more sheep-oriented than what it replaced!”
And of course, when people say that want Linux to take over the desktop, I really don’t think they understand what the consequences would be (‘ruined’ Linux) for what they’re asking for.
“When Linux has become as “stupid” as Windows, how will you differentiate yourself from the “Linux sheep” mindlessly clicking through setup Wizards and opening e-mail viruses?”
They’d all switch to using Debian, helping their desktop movement and starting the vicious cycle all over again
Even if linux becomes the next windows, it won’t be just like it. Sure there could be lots of monkeys using it, but the “leet dudez” will have to run things starting with Debian, Gentoo, Rock, or even Dettu[Xx]. Even if linux is like windows, you will still be able to customize it, you will still be able to hack it much better than windows.
You’re always free to use more fringe OS’s. Syllable, Plan 9, etc., you know what they are. You could even join the TUNES project.
There is very big difference between being an advocate and being a zealot. It is important to respect others’ choices, but enabling poeple to make choices is important too.
Never trust anyone else to do it right. 🙂
“Even if linux is like windows, you will still be able to customize it, you will still be able to hack it much better than windows.”
Nah, I don’t think so. With the commercial ‘AOL’ version(s) of Linux in the future, you wont be hacking shit, or at least not legally anyway
Of course, there’ll always bee the free alternative distros (just as there free alternative distros now), but of course you gotta know, all the lemmings will be using the AOL version.
in order to catch Microsoft. Let’s face facts: Microsoft is top of the heap and is likely to stay there unless the Linux crowd gets it’s head screwed on straight – and soon.
(I’m talking about the desktop).
M$ got to where they are by means of strategy and timing.The penguinistas need to do the same. Being fractured in to umpteen distros is only hurting. At least the kernel comes from a single source.
Does anyone think that Unix wouldn’t be the leader if it hadn’t been fractured into more flavors than Baskin-Robbins?
In the eyes of the market, M$ has no competition. Haven’t you noticed how the share price is only mildly affected by whatever bad press they get?
No matter what you think of them – and I don’t think very much at all – so long as Linux follows the distro-of-the-week routine, it will always be third fiddle.
As M$ has proven repeatedly, you don’t have to be either the most original or the best – be known, be identifiable and be good enough.
I think that the UnitedLinux approach is a good one – now it needs to be done for the desktop. Are there any Linux ads on TV? Maybe it’s time.
Not sure that the author is missing his own point, yes users only want to be able to browse, email etc with a minimum of fuss. Trawling through the various Linux flavours, configuring it to work with your hardware (if it supported), downloading drivers etc isn’t hassle-free.
The advantage of the Mac is this: it’s a single package of hardware, operating system and applications (for photos, music, browsing, movies and email) which work well together in an easy to learn environment. The average user can simply buy one, plug it in and start to use it. Sure the interface is different from Windows but I for one don’t believe that the windows interface is the best model and I find it a real shame that many Linux distros simply try and copy that interface whereas Macos provides something differnet and (depending on your view) more polished.
I have both PC & Mac, Windows & Linux and my partner (not an IT person, and average user) has drifted onto the Mac as her preferred machine, not just for browsing, but for creating CDs, email and other things that she simply didn’t tackle with a PC.
As seems to be typical of tech columnists, the author has missed the point of where Apple is going.
Apple isn’t aiming for taking over mass Windows desktops. Nor is it aiming to displace mass Linux-based servers. Rather, it’s aiming for corporate longevity.
What do I mean by this? In the good-old days, you could have a small business running on a Mac, no worries. But what if you wanted to grow from a small business? Stability, applications, reliability as a server, scalability, support… all issues you would have to consider when growing. And in most cases, this lead to dumping of the Macintosh platform for Windows. Where do you think the ‘not-for-serious-work’ tag came from for the Macintosh?
However, with MacOS X on board, with products such as the XServe, and with backing from enterprise players like Sybase and Oracle, the Macintosh has more credibility as a serious-work platform… it has a ways to go, but it all adds up to small businesses growing but keeping their Macintosh infrastructure rather than ‘automatically’ dumping it for Windows. This is on the principle that “if you use Windows at work, you will use it at home”. Apple hopes to use this principle for “if you use MacOS X at work, you will use it at home”. Not NOW, but in the future.
This also has the advantage of giving Apple a seat at the table in both the proprietary and open-source universes. No matter which way the struggle goes, Apple is in there with a fighting chance. Runs my UNIX-based applications next door to Office, syncs with my mobile phone/palmtop out of the box, and lets me IM my colleagues too with no configuration? Some professions have been DREAMING about a system like this for ages.
I find all this far more interesting and credible than musings about why Linux and MacOS X won’t capture a lions’ share of the market as quickly as proponents would hope.
So what’s wrong with that?
I’m not a “lemming” – I use Linux. However, my Linux experience is seriously trampled with problems with drivers, my favourite software not ported to Linux etc. etc. Also, sometimes I don’t have the time or am just to tired to edit all those files and would like to simply buy (or download) an app that works out-of-the-box and requires just a few Next’s
Therefore, the situation with me and all those lemmings using the same OS, except that mine is hacked and tweaked beyond recognition and theirs is “lamerized” actually sounds perfect to me!?
He sees ease of use as it attibutes to him.
My parents who are completely computer literate have two computers that their darling son gave them. Once Windows PC and one I-Mac. Dad who has specific programs he uses on the PC uses the PC. Mom who just does mundane tasks uses the Mac. Why? The PC is too hard. Even dad agrees, but he uses PCs at the office, so he needs to bring work home and mom is using the Mac so he uses the PC. Mom who cares less likes one mouse button. Two mouse buttons are confusing.
Now if I stuck a Linux box in there, forget it. Will not do it. I left home years ago, I don’t need to stay for tech support.
After reading all of the comments, a couple of things stand out to me. Linux and the Mac community NEED to embrace each other. After all, they both stand to benefit from both user bases. Apple is really trying to embrace the idea of open source software and Linux is trying to gain installation base. Both operating systems
are founded on open source architechture. Both operating systems are in direct competition with windoze. In the end, the consumer is the one who wins because all the Os’s borrow/steal each others ideas to create a better product. I have worked in mixed environments for years, and I have my favorites for different tasks, but over the years I have seen a steady evolution toward Unix like operation and functionality. What really needs to
happen (and I credit Apple) is an easy way to write software once and compile it for many chipsets/Operating systems. This will lead to applications that are not propeitary to one OS and reduce the costs associated with development. It also opens up applications to a larger installation base and revenue for software developers. All the platforms have good points and they all have big drawbacks. The trick is to see this time as the beginning of the tools to really empower all computer users. The one constant is change. Root for who you want to win, but don’t become blind to what the competition can teach you.
There is an interesting situation with Apple and TerraSoft, who distribute Yellow Dog Linux. There are other Linux distros that run on PPC, like Mandrake and SuSE, but YDL is a special situation. They have become an official Apple Reseller. Ever since Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he has never allowed anything like this before. He wouldn’t let BeOS run on the (then) new G3 Macs, killed off cloning, etc. It seems that, in sort of a fragmented way, with its unix underpinnings and Darwin, Apple is trying to “be in the picture” as far is Linux is concerned.
> while speciality software and functionality is nice, it
> isn’t going to make or break adoption of an#
> operating system
Of course it is. No speciality software/functionality > I don’t use the OS > OS not adopted (by me). It’s exactly that what makes my decision for or against a certain OS.
All I really want is a POSIX-compatible desktop OS. Which works on my Computer. That means OS X on my iBook, and BeOS & FreeBSD on my Athlon. I adopted both, they both serve my needs. Yes, I’d probably use Windows, if it hadn’t the f*cked up “volume letters”, the insane “file extension=file type” system and the stupid mentality of “throw it all in C:WINNT”. That last one is the reason why I don’t like the BSDs and Linuxes: “throw it all in /usr/bin”.
You read it right: I don’t care at all what Joe Random User uses. I care what I use, and currently I’m not satisfied.
<quote from Pius II>That last one is the reason why I don’t like the BSDs and Linuxes: “throw it all in /usr/bin”.</quote>
Not all linux versions “throw it all in /usr/bin.
SuSE does not. Slackware certainly does not. This has its own issues and if OSX is for you go for it.
I just can’t get by paying the apple-premium for the hardware. Still, that’s just me. Go for it. Be happy and you got the right idea the hell with what everyone else uses. Let them be happy in their own place.
This is all off topic, I’m mostly commenting on the comments because the article is stoopid.
Want to make people switch to Linux? Do what I do, stop giving them pirated copies of Windows or Mac software. If they have to fork over the cash for their OS and each App they want to go with it they’ll think twice about it. Then stop supporting those OSs. They already come with support from the manufacturer. We have enough to worry about supporting Linux, its obvious it isn’t ready for the desktop yet. My parents have been using it for the last year without too many problems, but I still get the occational phone call asking me how to create a desktop icon or find their bookmarks for them, that sort of thing. But at least its stable and virus free.
Linux doesn’t support P2P nets? Gnutella provides the network for Kazaa and the various other P2Ps that couldn’t survive on their own without the help of free software. And yes there are gnutella clients for linux, gtktella is one of them.
And if Linux ever does take over the desktop it won’t have e-mail viruses or stupid setup Wizards because it doesn’t need them. It already knows everything it needs to know about your hardware, should autodetect and autoconfigure everything. And then the only difference between me and the “Linux sheep” would be that I know how to use the terminal.
I used to be a Linux Zealot, hell I still am, but I don’t go around telling people Linux is the next best thing anymore. They don’t need to hear that. I keep fluffing up the good qualities of OSX and XP and tell users their favorite OS is good enough for them. Usually I just recommend additional free software like cygwin or crazybrowser, just the little things that can help them get the most out of their POS. As far as I’m concerned converting people to anything these days is just a game all you capitalists like to play. Capitalism is sick and twisted and I want no part of it.
I agree with the “stop giving them pirated copies”. That would infact help out the free software community. Alot of people are cheap when it comes to software. (I know people who are more than happy to spend thousands and thousands of $’s on hardware, but when it comes to say a $10 game. They go “Oh my god! How can they charge that much?!?!”)
As for not telling them it’s the next best thing. That’s actually I think a better advertisement for Linux, than the chant that it is. Why? Because the chant gets old 🙂 I can’t tell you how many times I (and others I know) have heard one of those chants (for Mac OS, Linux, or whatever) and then next year we hear the same or similar chant and then next year… Well, you get the picture. After awhile it just makes the people saying it look silly.
As for Linux autodetecting and configuring everything… I guess if I install the latest hardware which came out after Linux, it will autodetect that too, eh? I doubt it. No offense intended, but you’re exaggerating here.
As for Capitalism being sick and twisted…
Every “ideal”/”system” can be corrupted and capitalism has been obviously infected with this corruption. But changing systems isn’t going to get rid of the corruption. Some people live to screw other people over and they will find a way to take advantage of any system. It’s as simple as that. Also, from certain points of view any system is flawed anyway. Never mind the people that want to purposefully screw others over.
As such, one must truly think long and hard about changing systems, because even though it may look good (because it corrects the current problems) the future problems it may introduce that you aren’t even aware of at the moment could be just as bad, if not worse.
There have been some good responses and posts here, but I think the author may be fearing that we are all missing his point.
Linux, in it’s current form, has the all the functionality that the average user needs. Agreed.
I accept the author’s contention that the average user really needs only email and an internet browser.
Two years ago, my supervisor asked me for advice when he was buying a new computer. I am a Mac user, but I did not try to persuade him to by a Mac. I showed him a Mac, and told him it would meet his needs. He needed Windows compatability, he said. We looked at entry level Windows machines for just over $1,000. He looked indecisive.
He ended up buying a near top of the line machine from Dell for more than $2,500. He ‘needed’ Office professional as well because he required the Access database. He saw some people at work that had created a personal database using it.
I knew he would never create a database. That requires real effort and programming ability. The average user will just never do it. (Anyone reading this board is not an average user). Isn’t it true that while it is possible to assemble a cheap computer from parts, most will max out their machine. That performance, and ‘functionality’, is not important for the ‘average’ user either. They could have bought that horrible, proprietary, Mac for the same money or less.
I don’t think Linux is going to fail. It can do nothing but succeed. It is a hobbyist OS that has the support of major corporations. And a free OS running on computers assembled from low-cost components appeals to many cheap bastards; it’s not going away and will only improve.
Windows has an enormous number of applications and developers. That matters to many people. The software is included on most computers so appears to be free from the consumers point of view (as Rob said). Many will steal copies of software from work and swap programs with their friends and neighbors, so applications may be ‘free as in cost’ as well.
The Mac is a sort of computer for Mavericks also, like Linux. I think it is well suited for neophytes, but not completely. Yes, some things are automated beyond belief and work in such an elegant manner that you’ll smile. But using a Mac I find myself out there alone against a lot of illiterate Windows users everyday. For that reason, I think many Mac users are above average in their knowlege of how to use computers and get work done. We have to deal with the odd proprietary file formats that Windows users ignorantly give us.
You should have no quarrel with Mac users. We are in the same boat and want the same things as Linux users: open standards for video, photos, audio, text documents, file transer, database connectivity, etc. It’s the data that matters, not the OS used to display and manipulate it.