The Penguin Reaches for the Noose: The Fallout

penguin23.jpgYesterday I posted about Linux’ apparent halt in momentum for gaining traction with mainstream consumers, and I managed to upset a fair number of people. The problem is that I don’ t think a lot of the commenters actually read the entire piece. I was really lamenting the fact that Linux was being stopped in its tracks by Best Buy and the fact that familiarity seems to be winning out over innovation. Another point I’d like to make has to do with notebook vendor support. The fact that Dell and Lenovo offer Linux means absolutely nothing if the companies don’t promote their availability. And not just on their Web sites. Ask the average person on the street whether he knows if he can get an Inspiron preloaded with Ubuntu (nevermind what Ubuntu is) and all you’ll get back is a blank stare. As for whether I’m a “paid plant” by Microsoft . . . perhaps you missed the part of the piece where the words “Vista sucks” appeared. One certainly positive sign for Linux that I shouldn’t have ignored is that Intel is embracing the platform when it comes to current and next-generation Netbooks. The super-sleek concept that Intel showed at IDF in Shanghai demonstrates that Linux could be front and center when it comes to systems that will showcase the next-generation Atom processor. I think in this respect I may have overreacted to Best Buy’s move as being a death-knell for Linux in general. It’s certainly a big obstacle in my view, but that doesn’t mean Linux doesn’t have a shot at going mainstream in the long run if there’s enough industry support (beyond lip service to commenters on Dell’s IdeaStorm). The question is how these machines will be marketed. Maybe if Linux isn’t promoted at all and the emphasis is merely on what these Netbooks can do Linux will be able to knock down the doors at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, et al. But I haven’t seen anyone make a strong enough case yet. And Windows missteps alone aren’t enough. The crapware epidemic didn’t do it. Windows’ security problems didn’t do it. And the botched Vista launch didn’t do it. But maybe all of these ingredients in combination with a unified Linux UI could turn some heads. One last point. I couldn’t help but notice that one commenter referenced Star Trek in defending Linux. “Absolutely right. It’s just like when Star Trek was canceled; that was the definitive and final end to any development of market share by the series. Oh, wait, maybe you didn’t hear, someone made a movie out of it. And what’s this? A new series? Can’t be. I’m sure I heard someone say it was dead.” It’s probably not a good idea to make a case for Linux being for more than just geeks while referencing a brand that has defined geekdom for 42 years. Stay tuned for the analysts’ take on whether Linux will go mainstream. And for a head-to-head between the Linux- and XP-powered Eee PCs.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. blackbelt_jones Says:

    Latest Scientific Research indicates that “Forever is a long, long, time”.

    People keep predicting its demise, and other people keep predicting a big all-at-once breakthrough. What happens instead of either is slow, steady growth that can’t be stopped, because here’s the thing about Linux: it’s not a buisness, therefore it can’t be put out of business. It’s always going to be there, and it’s always going to be freely available to anyone who wants to market it. Sooner or later, someone will get it right.

    And who cares if geeks like Star Trek? Is Star Trek not considered mainstream? Is Star Trek not commercially viable? Do really think you scored points with that snappy comeback?

  2. Mike Cane Says:

    Linux is the new Mac.

    As in the Bad Old Days of Mac, when people would see Windows software and ask, “Do you have a Mac version?”

    The answer was always No, with a free sneer thrown in!

    Now Macs are alive and vibrant and can kick serious Windows ass.

    Linux needs to get to that point to continue.

    Good bloody luck. Get BlogDesk, Photo Toolkit, all the video codecs, and Flash/Shockwave (that latter pair *without* the present install contortions!), and that will improve matters.

    Then again: *Which* frikkin Linux?! Which GUI?

    What, you think people want to *compile*?

    Live long and prosper, pal. Exit that holodeck and join the real world!

  3. blackbelt_jones Says:

    Hello, and how’s the weather back there in 1998?

    I don’t think I’ve had to compile a single damn thing for my Ubuntu system, with something like 30 thousand software packages available at a single command. Flash installed to Firefox with just a couple of clicks. I got all the codecs in one place with a single google search for “ubuntu multimedia”. There was no need to even edit my sources file, just to copy and paste a couple of commands into the terminal window.

    And that’s how linux works in the real world of 2008.

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