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Linux, marketing, world domination

By mac in Op-Ed
Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 03:11:11 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

LinuxPlanet had an interesting opinion piece recently. Now, I know that K5 doesn't have the Linux tilt like That Other Site, but I think this article is interesting in its own right. The author declares that Linux is in its last moments of marketing-innocence, and that any minute the Linux world will be inundated by a tidal wave of the mind-numbing techno-gibberish that we all know and hate so well.

Although I don't necessarily agree with the author that this is bound to happen any minute -- I don't think that "Linux is dripping with money" compared to other "sexy" new computer technologies, despite being a hardcore Linux advocate myself -- I nonetheless think that it is just a matter of time.

Reading such ill-boding articles always makes me wonder why so many Linux folk are so eager for "world domination". Sure, most of them say it in jest, but I believe usually there's an implied "ha ha, but seriously" aspect to it. Wouldn't it be better to reach and stay at a level like the Macs, where you get decent hardware and software support from the computer world, without having the collective and money-thirsty gaze of the business world focussed on you?

And must Linux really vie for top spot of drool-proof lliterate-friendly desktops? This is *not* an elitist sentiment. In general, the tools used should be the ones that best fit the job at hand. We already have Macs which are superb for users which do not have the time nor the inclination to learn about how computers work, and want to get their simple tasks done in as little time as possible. Shouldn't then Linux concentrate on its core strength, providing tools for the advanced users and being the home ground of the tinkerer? I mean being all things to everyone hasn't worked in the least for Windows, why would it work for Linux? If you try to satisfy everyone, someone won't like it. It's a lost cause, isn't it?


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Linux, marketing, world domination | 31 comments (28 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
the beauty of linux... (3.28 / 14) (#2)
by phunbalanced on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 01:37:59 PM EST

to me, the beauty of linux comes from it's versatility. The take over the world mentality fits linux, imo, because of this versatility. If linux can make the best desktop, why shouldn't it? If linux can make the best web server, let it.

The point is the best tool for the job. The whole Unix mindset which has been around since day 1 (Unix day 1, not the author's day 1 <grin>).

The reason that linux is pushed in different places and directions is a demonstration of the utter need for replacements where it's being pushed. If MS Windows WAS the best tool for the job, then noone would be concerned with replacing it. But it isn't and we are. So we take what we have, linux & x & gnome/kde and we make them better and better until they have surpassed windows. But does this mean linux can't serve websites? No. Again, whatever's the best tool for the job.

think in unix.

Re: the beauty of linux... (3.00 / 4) (#10)
by TheDude on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 03:44:29 PM EST

Again, whatever's the best tool for the job.

Good call. I think there's a whole lot of people pushing for linux to take over the 'market-share' in many categories, just because they think it could be better than the current market leader. Why it must be all about markets and market-share is beyond me. That's just the way the world thinks at this point, I guess. Linux is damn versatile. We should be trying it out in many different places. See where it works, where it could work, try it out. If it doesn't work as well as current other OSes, it won't catch on. I know Linux is starting to catch on in the server arena, and it's starting to catch in the desktop arena too. Is it the best for either job, I don't know. But we should at least try to make it so. Sometimes it'll work, somestimes it won't. But since Linux is an Open Source OS, people anywhere can work on making it the best at what they want it to do. That's what I think makes Linux great. There's always a chance it'll be the best tool for any job, as long as people try to make it so.

TheDude of Smokedot
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[ Parent ]
Clash of interests (4.25 / 16) (#3)
by Stargazer on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 01:42:16 PM EST

You will never get anything remotely resembling a consensus on issues like these. This is due to the fact that the reasons for which people use GNU/Linux are so wide and varied that no one viewpoint is likely to ever come out of them.

I'm a free software advocate -- I'm sure some of you have already cought on to that from the last paragraph. I don't believe that everyone should use GNU/Linux; however, I do believe that everyone should use free software. Hence, for me, the development of "user-friendly" graphical user interfaces is critical, to allow as many people as possible the empowerment to use their free software systems effectively.

This is representative of one such reason for the use of GNU/Linux -- the ethical imperative. (Whether or not you agree with me as to whether or not there is such an imperative is irrelevant to this post.) It is by no means the only one, however. There are those who use it simply because it is technically superior on so many levels. There are those who use it because, as you state, the tools it provides are best for the job. There are some who use it because they think it's cool.

With so many reasons to use the system, nobody's going to be in agreement on an issue such as this. For me, the increased marketing of GNU/Linux is a Good Thing, so long as the software promoted remains free software. For you, it's a Bad Thing, because the eyes of the business world create needless pressure on development. The odds of us agreeing are slim. Now, expound this conflict by the number of GNU/Linux users, multiply by the number of reasons for which people use the system, and you have guaranteed gridlock.

On a different note, I would take issue with your claim that trying to make all sorts of tools available for GNU/Linux will dilute its ability to provide the best tools for the job. However, you forget that GNU/Linux is not Windows 2000. Nothing, not even the kernel, is forced on anyone. For me, a graphical user interface is cumbersome and only gets in the way of my computing. This is a big plus for GNU/Linux -- nobody and nothing makes me use it. Likewise, the development of what you perceive to be dumbed-down graphical user interfaces for newer users is not going to impair the ability of the best tools for the job to remain just that -- the best tools available.

-- Brett

Re: Clash of interests (3.60 / 5) (#8)
by mac on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 02:53:10 PM EST

You make good points. Let me answer some of them. First, I wasn't trying to imply that wide diversification of GNU/Linux is going to dilute its ability to make the best tools. Well, at least not by the method you mention. I think that the problem will be (or perhaps already is) that the stretching of Linux into the domain of super-friendly little-knowledge-requred tools is going to cause a large influx of users with "high maintenance" requirements, people usually coming from a click-happy platform. By "high maintenance" I mean ones that require a lot of hand-holding.

At first glance this seems not to be a problem, we're always happy to get more people on board. Even the change in demographics shouldn't affect the chances of some more advanced tools getting created, since if there is a large enough itch someone will scratch it. But the problem is the higher noise levels in our communication channels. Perhaps noise is an unfair term, but the huge number of rather simple questions (which BTW almost always could have been answered by consulting an FAQ or HOWTO) tend to drown out the "real" discussions/questions.

Furthermore in the "old days", the newbie soon became educated in Linux and could start answering questions himself; this is not so anymore. By trying to also cater to the non-computer-inclined flocks, where there is no incentive nor requirement to learn anything, we're getting a high load of questions, without any prospect of these users ever becoming able to answer questions. This means that high level of noise is here to stay, and quite possibly grow.

So I think this drowning of the communication channels, probably the most vital component that allowed Linux to reach its current level of success, is going to cause large problems, and hence put a dent in the pace and frequency of the development of more advanced tools.

I don't know, maybe I'm being too much of a pessimist. I hope so. (that's the optimist in me talking now :)

[ Parent ]
Re: Clash of interests (none / 0) (#24)
by XScott on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 12:24:10 AM EST

I think that the problem will be (or perhaps already is) that the stretching of Linux into the domain of super-friendly little-knowledge-requred tools is going to cause a large influx of users with "high maintenance" requirements

This is probably true. I have an artist friend who is playing with Linux, and he really doesn't get it. He can do things like start GIMP and play around with KDE, but he won't even look at the command line. If something breaks, it's broken and reinstalling is how you fix it. Just like his Mac. Actually, it's a bit higher maintenance than his Mac because he'll need someone elses help to do this.

What I don't see is how this will stretch Linux (or *BSD) in any way. My buddy isn't about to join the kernel developers mailing list and offer patches that make the kernel unstable, and there's always going to be some minimal distribution that doesn't have all the fluffy pretty stuff like Gnome and KDE.

How would it affect you if you didn't go looking for the effect?

-- Of course I think I'm right. If I thought I was wrong, I'd change my mind.
[ Parent ]
If you dont care then why bother (3.16 / 12) (#5)
by maketo on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 01:55:39 PM EST

I thought the point of Linux was to give fun and joy to hackers and alike, not to dominate or be used in a corporate environment. I thought that the moto was "fine, if the boss likes it we will use it, if not, well I will still use it at home to play with". As long as everything is based on joy and hacking for hacking itself, things should be fine. Once you start talking about world domination and comparing the OS to other alternatives and...you have an indicator that many a person is not in it for the right reasons.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
Re: If you dont care then why bother (2.50 / 2) (#14)
by kunsan on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 04:44:27 PM EST

You stated,

> "I thought the point of Linux was to give fun and joy
> to hackers and alike, not to dominate or be used in a
> corporate environment."

I dont think there is a single point or purpose to Linux. To me, that is its' (or any other open source software) inherent strength. It is freely available for anyone to change or use as is for whatever purpose they decide.

> "you have an indicator that many a person is not in it
> for the right reasons."

I am curious to hear what you think is the "right" reason to use, develop, and promote Linux. Personally, I think having an itch, any itch is reason enough. wether your itch is for "world dominitaion" (a foolsih notion in my opinion) or to feel that sense of accomplishment I felt the first time I successfully installed a Unix OS (Solaris, by the way).

I'm no Linux zealot. The only OS I currently run at home is Win98, but I still support the open source movement (caps?). And I hope it continues to grow as it has over the past few years.



With a gun in your mouth, you only speak in vowels -- Fight Club
[ Parent ]
It is already reality (3.08 / 12) (#6)
by dabadab on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 01:58:49 PM EST

People, look around, marketing-babble is already here.
When I first saw a Linux Journal I was shocked - it was full of ads that I would expect to see in the mainstream IT media (and that is full of lies) and it was SOOOOOO disgusting.
And I read articles that talked about "Linux 6.0 is released" (of course they meant Red Hat, not the kernel) and the media coverage of Linux in general did not seem to absolutely fit reality.
So all this shit is here is here and we should put up with it. Anyway, I do not think that it would really affect the way of those who devote their time to develop free/open software for Linux (or the kernel itself). But we will get used to it by time (yes, I think those marketing-vultures are here to stay) just as we adjusted ourselves to all the marketing-lies that surround us 7/24.
Real life is overrated.
Re: It is already reality (3.00 / 3) (#15)
by sugarman on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 04:45:00 PM EST

You are exactly correct. One merely has to look at the majority of responses to this article to see it, albeit in a grassroots, unpolished form.

The end already took place, 10 months ago when LNUX crested as the biggest IPO in history. That made *all* the suits take notice, and every reference to "world domination" was suddenly taken seriously.

Add to that some of the recent involvement of *big* industry players with Linux, and it means that there is no longer an escape. Linux has crossed into the gravity well of the Big Black Hole of Marketing, and things wil never be the same again.

The "good ole days" are gone. If you want to recapture that feel, switch to BSD, or BeOS, decent but stil underneath the radar of the machine.

[ Parent ]

I see it as a good thing (3.00 / 5) (#9)
by Wah on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 03:42:36 PM EST

Mainly because Linux has lacked what marketing can bring it, market share and useability (for the common folk). The GPL should make an assurity that hijacking a product for marketing goals (as opposed to technical ones) becomes an impossibility. What it will add is a number of usuability features and broader market support. All of which can be gleefully cast to the wayside if one prefers.

One thing to consider from the world domination meme. Imagine a computer world that is dominated by linux not in the sense of the software, but in the sense of license. That is not a trivial issue, but IMHO, the issue that makes the whole thing different.

The curious thing will be whether or not (on a large scale) it is marketed as a product, or as a service. Given the price point/competitive barriers to entry, it won't last long as a product, and might even be seen as a failure by those who want to classify it as such.

I have officially seen Linux commercials on TV, and most of the guys on CNBC know how to pronounce it correctly, so there ya go
Fail to Obey?
Not dripping with money? (2.66 / 3) (#11)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 04:05:05 PM EST

I don't think that "Linux is dripping with money" compared to other "sexy" new computer technologies

I think that IBM running full page Linux-focused ads in the NY Times certainly counts as "dripping with money." True, IBM is not Linux, but IBM and many other very large corporations are pouring an insane amount of money into Linux marketing. It seems to me that once companies that seem to be outright frauds start trying to cash in on the Linux name, you know that Linux has crossed the line in the sand.

Re: Not dripping with money? (3.66 / 3) (#12)
by mac on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 04:21:45 PM EST

Just because large companies are pouring large amounts of money into advertising Linux, doesn't necessarily mean that Linux is "dripping with money" (by which I mean "there's big money to be made in Linux"). I think these companies are doing this in the hope of starting a new trend, away from Microsoft products, and in so doing become the dominant players in that arena. A sort of an investment with possible future dividends, if you will. I mean look at Corel, they're putting everything on the Linux bandwagon trying to save themselves, and yet it looks like they're still going to go under. If there was so much money to be made in Linux, surely their situation would have improved already. It's not like Corel Linux is a piece of junk; it's quite good for the Linux newbie.

Don't get me wrong, there *is* money to be made in Linux, but not on the scale similar to when you sell an actual product. I mean most of the business models that revolve around Linux are service-based. If Microsoft was to distribute Windows for free but rake in their money through service contracts, I don't think they would be doing as well as they have so far. Their incessant upgrade cycle I think confirms my viewpoint.

[ Parent ]
Re: Not dripping with money? (3.50 / 2) (#20)
by simmons75 on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 06:44:07 PM EST

Just because large companies are pouring large amounts of money into advertising Linux, doesn't necessarily
mean that Linux is "dripping with money" (by which I mean "there's big money to be made in Linux").

Exactly! :^) IBM, in my opinion, is just trying to "create a need" as we advertising folks like to say. If they can put their name on it (powerful name, still (some would say "again"), in the computer world connecting themselves with a buzzword-friendly, clueless-press-giddy operating system. 4-color full-page bleed ads scream "THIS IS IMPORTANT!" especially when connected to such a big company (provided the ad is done well; I really haven't seen examples of their ads.)

My grand fear is that the press attention and companies like IBM throwing in with us is going to kill interest, rather than help further build the market. Time will tell.
So there.

[ Parent ]
Marketing helps versatility (3.33 / 3) (#13)
by Erf on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 04:24:53 PM EST

As has already been mentioned in comments here, one of the reasons Linux is so great is its versatility. I'm not forced to use stuff designed for people who've never touched a computer before. KDE or Gnome or whatever may soon become (or maybe already are) droolproof, but at home I can turn on FVWM2 and get some real work done. :)

In other words, increasing the number of Linux users can only be a Good Thing; there will always be people who want to cater to the "permanent newbies" (the ones Mac mentions in a comment, who can't or don't feel the need to really learn anything beyond which button to click), but since those are generally not the same people who write the really powerful stuff, that stuff won't get watered down. And all the extra users means manufacturers of games and hardware and other goodies will start to consider our needs as well. (In fact, in some companies that's already happening.

...doin' the things a particle can...

Linux Should Strive to be Superlative (3.66 / 9) (#16)
by PhilosophyGeek on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 04:54:02 PM EST

I don't understand the point of the author's rant. Does he really think it best that GNU/Linux remain a mediocre operating system? The goal of any endeavour should be to do the job as well as can possibly be done.

Of course, that goal begs the question: what is the job the GNU/Linux has set out to do?

Here, we see the beauty of Open Source. An operating system like Win9x has whatever goal was set out in the marketing requirements document. User input was solicited, but the point of the OS is to push Microsoft's agenda. Win9x is a consumer OS meant to be easy to use, cheap, and full of functionality. That you have to reboot upon changing the IP address of your computer is a "feature" over which you have no power. You can write applications for Windows, but the UI, the core OS, and MFC are there for good. (I'm not condemning MSFT, just noting how the system works)

GNU/Linux has many different projects associated, which is why I even refer to it as such instead of as "Linux" (thx RMS). Any of those projects are free to go whichever way they want. You don't like your window manager *bang* write your own. You don't like the way the kernel works *bang* go hacking away.

We should welcome the infusion of money to the Linux community. It means: more applications, more functionality, more stuff that's going to enhance the GNU/Linux experience on all levels. Some companies are working on UI, some on embedded Linux, and some are focusing on making Linux a great Web server. None of these components are good for everyone, but they help to make GNU/Linux an operating system with a multitude of choices. People can glue together components to make an operating system, which is customized to their needs. And the best part is, if you don't like what's out there or if a component you need is missing, you are free to alter the existing code or start a new project.

I don't want GNU/Linux to have a fraction of the market. I want it to have as much of the market as it is capable of handling. World domination is OK! What motivation could there be to want to remain the exclusive toy of geeks? Just that: exclusivity. C'mon. I'm sure that people will still be hacking fvwm2 in 10 years, if you're not happy with a flashy KDE interface. There will always be a uber-geeky core to Linux. But let's let everyone else into the community, too. They may come in through different doors, but we're all going to the same place.

Re: Linux Should Strive to be Superlative (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by mac on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 05:59:22 PM EST

My point is not that Linux should be a mediocre OS on the sidelines, but that it should be a superlative one *in its own area of expertise*. Since the majority of computer users just need a word processor, spreadsheet or a GUI mail reader, and since that need is filled extremely well by such platforms as the iMac, why expend so much energy in trying to match it? Is there really any benefit to the above-mentioned user when they run Linux? Or perhaps do the developers expect to be able to develop a desktop which is even more user-friendly for these basic users? (IMHO that would be very difficult)

You see, I often get the impression that the big push for a super-friendly desktop, such as KDE or GNOME, is mostly for reasons of "world domination": the main impetus seems to be so that the Windows et al. people can be given a painless way to switch over to Linux. At least that's my impression sometimes. But is there a good reason other than padding our ranks? Will the end-user really benefit that much?

I also think Linux should expand into as many areas as possible, but I'm just wondering if it makes sense in this area.

BTW, I don't think that Linux should be an "exclusive toy of geeks". If anyone wants to join, by all means, they're quite welcome. I'm just questioning why bother developing a solution to a problem which already has one or two extremely good solutions, and hence could be deemed solved.

[ Parent ]
Read my top-level comment. (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by simmons75 on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 06:38:57 PM EST

Without re-hashing too much, I believe the true problem is in the way a distribution is put together. I really don't believe every distribution has to go after every possible use of Linux. Why is it Linux-Mandrake, when a default install is done, wants to default to runlevel 5 (X11 login) wants to default to KDE, *and* runs Apache as default? Do they want the server market, or the desktop market?

It would be advantageous, I believe, to put together distros *just* for specific tasks, i.e. web server, file sharing a la Mac/Windows, desktop workstation, etc. As far as the last is concerned, I've been interested in doing just that but haven't really had the time to devote to it. I think it'd be a fun project, but until you could: 1.) find a way for me to get paid to do it 2.) help put together such a thing and 3.) get hardware vendors interested in shipping machines with it I don't see a point. Red Hat, are you listening?
So there.

[ Parent ]
Re: Linux Should Strive to be Superlative (2.00 / 1) (#21)
by PhilosophyGeek on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 08:15:58 PM EST

Just a short response, in case I didn't make this explicit.

GNU/Linux can be whatever it wants to be. It evolves. Depending on what components you include, your system should be able to function as a great consumer operating system or an amazing Web server.

The core feature of GNU/Linux is that it has a stable (and evolving) core on which all of this other nifty stuff can be built.

[ Parent ]

Re: Linux Should Strive to be Superlative (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by Justinfinity on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 02:05:35 AM EST

Of course, that goal begs the question: what is the job the GNU/Linux has set out to do?

IIRC, Linus created the Linux kernel as a free alternative to Minix. that's all. people have taken it and used the freedom of the GPL to morph Linus' creation into:

  • powerful servers for pratically any protocol you care to mention
  • powerfuls development workstation for almost any language you can think of
  • lightweight embedded client that runs on a ton of hardware
  • corporate desktop productivity systems
  • number-crunching clustering units for any computationly intensive task out there
  • and anything in between!
Linux is, and will remain, whatever the users make it. the GPL keeps it free no matter what marketing crap the corporate world applies to it. Linux is like "the matrix", except the whole world is Neo, "the One who can remake the matrix as he see's fit" (although Linus does retain a bit more control, like neo's subconscious if you want another Matrix-related analogy).

[ Parent ]
test (1.00 / 1) (#27)
by Justinfinity on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 02:10:45 AM EST

don't reply to this, just a test

[ Parent ]
The true problem. (4.15 / 13) (#18)
by simmons75 on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 06:31:05 PM EST

In the article I see a problem that is all-too-prevalent of late.

Linux is not an operating system.

Before you rate this down, read for a moment. Of late, I decided to throw in with some other loose-knit efforts to get BSD utils like ls, chmod, etc. to compile/run on a Linux box. I ran across a statement (more than once) that went like the following: "FreeBSD is better than Linux because FreeBSD is controlled by one governing body, unlike Linux where different distributions aren't 100% compatible." Whatever. It's like me saying that Debian Linux is better than BSD because Debian is controlled by a single entity. Face it, Linux is a kernel, not an OS.

So why bring it up here? Because the distros get it wrong. I can't remember the company's name right now, but there's a company that packages their own distributions for very specific tasks. One's for running a firewall, one's for running a web server, etc. If you look at Debian, Red Hat, Linux-Mandrake, even Slackware are all guilty of the same thing: throwing every conceivable application of their distro on one box.

An example of Something Done Right(TM) from the BSD world is, IMHO, MacOS X. This is a system built to be a desktop system. Sure, some fools will use it to run Apache or some other web server. Let them use the pipe wrench to hammer nails if they want. Point is, it's optimized for the desktop, and seems to be targeted toward the print world. This is great for someone like me. Lesson to be learned: distros should target a market, target it well, and execute a strategy. Do one or two things, do them well, and leave everyone else alone.

Another point. The community of zealots need to stop being so hostile toward commercial vendors. "Release the source! We want the source!" I even saw one company actually put "please don't scream at us for being closed-source" in their press release. For God's sake, I like the freedom of the Linux-based desktop, but I need tools like QuarkXPress and Adobe products like Illustrator and Photoshop. Before you state, "but there's Sketch and The GIMP" then could you please help me hack together different color models for said programs? And could you get me good representation when Adobe sues me for patent infringement? They've got the RGB<->CMYK patents that prevent the OSS community from using them. :^( Can you talk Pantone into dropping their NDA requirement? Thanks! Save your anti-commercial sentiment for the companies that think they can get away with violating the GPL, please.

Driver support. Yeah, the lament I hear from newbies is terrible hardware support. You can thank the market domination of a certain operating system developer for that. What, why would you need API documentation? We ship the drivers! Just install the DLLs! Ugh. At least when DOS was still king in the PC world, you could get documentation. I've got an old dot-matrix in the closet that has its full set of escape codes published in a manual, with code examples for GW-BASIC. My current HP? "Call our Customer Service Hotline." No, thanks.

In short, what we need to do to make desktop market domination possible is market segmentation (I know; marketing is a dirty word :^), conservative activism (yes, that does sound contradictory, doesn't it :^) and impassioned pleas for better product documentation. Heck, get on Usenet and find out if you can find a number of users of a piece of poorly-supported hardware, and put together a petition in the form of a *nicely-worded* request. Who knows, you might even get help from companies that you might not have even expected.
So there.

Re: The true problem. (3.50 / 2) (#23)
by zavyman on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 11:33:36 PM EST

And you are exactly right. But the goal of Linux is certainly not desktop domination. When you try to fight to wars at once (server and desktop domination) you tend to not do spectacular at both. It's hard to hear, but most programmers who program for Linux program for other programmers, not for end users. It's easier, and when you are volunteering your time for a free project, hacks are all that are necessary; only rarely does a team spend time making the application perfect.

Mac OS X is a perfect example of what a company will do for domination and a profit. The Apple team had to transform the world of unix into the first viable consumer implementation. They did this, in fact, in a relatively short amount of time for what they accomplished.

I am not denying that Linux could not be the same way. But possibilites to not lend themselves to action. Apple's programmers were paid and worked only on this product. I don't see it happening in the Linux world.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, consumer software is almost always closed source. Consumers are not programmers, and they demand quality control as well as ease of use. It is not just a coincidence that most consumers use closed source software. And this seems to be the way it will remain.

[ Parent ]
Re: The true problem. (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by simmons75 on Sat Sep 23, 2000 at 12:00:19 AM EST

Ah, but here we disagree slightly. I feel that it's actually possible to take a chunk of both the server *and* the desktop market. Projects such as KDE and have proven it's possible to build at least a decent desktop for a UN*X box. It's the distributors who should be faulted.

You see, when you open, say, a Red Hat box, there's certain choices one is asked to make when installing. Do you want to use your machine as a server? A workstation? Customize it? That's all well and good, but the problem with this model is that RH lacks a certain focus. They seem to want it *all.* Same with other distributions. The current crop of distros are fine for those of us who actually like to get our hands a bit dirty, but not for the average Joe (I believe distributors will have to get manufacturers to ship computers with their distros pre-installed if they want the desktop market.) Corel, God forbid, seems to have it kinda figured out. Their system is aimed closer to the desktop, even if they do wear an evil grin when they thrust it upon us. :^)

So in short, I really think thatthe community can handle a desktop focus. I'm just not sure if the folks throwing together distros can.
So there.

[ Parent ]
Re: The true problem. (2.75 / 4) (#25)
by XScott on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 12:56:53 AM EST

Linux is not an operating system.

You're using Apple's or Microsoft's definition of an operating system. That's fine and all I guess (actually I disagree, but you can use whatever words you want to). You want a box on your desktop that does what you need, and you call the overall package of software an operating system. It's a Mac, or it's Windows.

I prefer to think of an operating system as the kernel, drivers and syscall interface. Note, I'd put /bin/ls and /bin/sh in the application category. I would still call it a Unix operating system if the normal command like tools were replaced with something else to make the syscalls for me.

IMNSHO "GNU/Linux" is just a silly way to jump on the hype band wagon. I appreciated the GNU tools long before Linux got as big as it has. It was never GNU/Solaris or GNU/DEC-UNIX though. Now GNU/HURD I can see. (Or at least could see if I could get it to boot.)

-- Of course I think I'm right. If I thought I was wrong, I'd change my mind.
[ Parent ]
Re: The true problem. (3.50 / 2) (#30)
by mindstrm on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 08:24:30 PM EST

Just a side note.
The reason it was never 'GNU/Solaris' is becuase sun doesn't distributed the GNU tools with solaris. Or very very few, anyway.
Same for the other commercial unices.
Linux distributions all use a great deal of Gnu software for their core components, like libc. So GNU/Linux is a very good point.

[ Parent ]
Hucksters in the Bazaar? (2.75 / 8) (#22)
by JB on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 10:42:36 PM EST

Hucksters in the Bazzar? Outrageous. I'm seeking shelter across the street in the Cathedral.

Possible, but unlikely (3.40 / 5) (#28)
by kinkie on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 04:30:02 AM EST

As somebody already pointed out, Linux is just a foundation over which many things can be built. So let's just change the topic from "Linux" to "Linux-based distributions", which is what we're referring to here.

There is nobody "trying to fit all needs". There are only a few "generalistic" distributions, others are targeted at very specific tasks, and most if not all can be tailored so by some decently-experienced sysadmin.
For instance, there are distros dedicated to being a firewall, or a masquerading box (sorry, I don't remember the names for these ones), or a client for newbees (Corel). Others are meant as out-of-the-box-enterprise-ready (Caldera), and most have a distinct personality: for instance I think Mandrake to be the most apt for tech-savy people being introduced for the first time to Linux, while RedHat and SuSE are a bit more high-end-geared stuff, that can be stripped away of most bells and whistles and do good servers. And Debian is best for the hard-core experienced people, who want to have control on the system, at the expense of some setup-comfyness.

As you can see, there _are_ differences among distros, maybe not so much in the software they carry, but in the "feel" they have. And the fact that you can usually choose among many different packages for a single function is a good thing (tm) and so is the fact that you can just decide not install something (when I set a new system up, step 3 after installing and security-upgrading is stripping the system of unnecessary packages). Try removing the WINS server from a newly-installed NT Box, if you can. And who uses WINS now?
pro^H^H^HGnupaganda (4.37 / 8) (#29)
by kraant on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 05:14:22 AM EST

Borrowing from Asimov's Foundation series I'd like to engage in a bit of psychohistory

If Linux as a marketing money maker doesn't work then there'll be a bit of a kerfuffle with another re-alignment of factions (for example Red Hat will finally have to decide whether they believe in freedom or the mighty dollar) but the dust will settle and life will go on as it has before.

On the other hand if Linux does become a major money-spinner here is what will probably happen.

As someone else has already said saturation of communication channels will occur. This isn't a total disaster. The various commercial Linux mailing lists will be totally saturated, as will in all probability the general Linux lists.

All will not be lost however Usenet provides a good way of examining what happens when a communication medium similar to lists is saturated by newbies and assorted other lusers.

Some groups were totally lost. Some groups changed. Most of the groups that survived had a very active user population and a sense of their history. They basically assimilated all the newbies who had potential and aggressively flamed off the ones who they thought didn't.

Now how does this relate to the various Linux communities?

Absorbing a large influx of outsiders can be very traumatic for a community, as we've seen fairly dramatically proven on k5 itself. What I contend is that those Linux communities who make an active effort in educating their newbies and instilling them with a sense of history and heritage. In other words giving them a long ranging perspective on their culture are the ones that are going to survive intact.

This is where the true damage that Open Source has caused will be shown. This is because free software has an inherently much broader appeal than Open Source because it focuses directly on the rights of those users. Open Source has buzzword appeal but it is far easier to indoctrinate someone in the righteousness of free software.

What I mean is people think Open Source is cool but a lot more people care about free software. It's something that inspires stronger emotions.

So what I think will happen to Linux is that there will be a great divide between the commercial distributions such as Red Hat and SuSE and the ones with a more community based approach such as Slackware and Debian.

This is because a clueful community is a great asset to any free software project because without it a large part of the edge it has against proprietary software is lost.

The commercial distributions lack of community, heritage and large number of people who don't contribute back to the system will cause them to lose ground in quality to the community based ones (as has already been happening to some extent.)

Before anyone flames me for being elitist. When I say contribute back to the system I don't mean that everyone has to go out and write their own bug fix patches and mail the diffs to the author (although that is nice). Just reporting bugs, requesting features without being demanding or hell even just engaging in idle chitchat with the author and thanking them is great. And from what I've seen of proprietary products there is far less of this interaction between user and developer going on. Most users just work around anything short of a show-stopping bug and make rude complaints for insane features if they do communicate with the author at all.

What I am more worried about however is that an overflow if non-technical newbies will sever the communication links between the two groups. At my university there is a local Linux newsgroup.

A lot of people start out with a copy of Red Hat install, it then they appear on the newsgroup. Their questions are answered with due diligence by the denizens of the newsgroup who also explain how it would be easier to do the same thing on Debian. And due to the advocacy of the local Debianites most people who find they like Linux give it a try.

Maybe not so much in this case but more so for LUGs and newsgroups with a larger circulation. If the s/n dropped down to a value close to zero a lot of those people would abandon the more generalised Linux forums for Debian or Slackware specific mailing lists.

Having lost most of their knowledge base most of those lists would then (at least for a while) become useless and if any home grown talent did emerge they would have a very different philosophy compared to the community based distributions. And it's not like the commercial distributions would be interested in introducing their users to their community-based counterparts....

Because of all this the differences between the various Linux distributions will only increase. A vicious cycle of lack of cross-pollination allowing further drift between the distributions which further discourages cross-pollination. I wouldn't go as far as to say that there'd be a kernel fork, but I would say that the learning curve between distributions would start to get fairly steep especially between the commercial and the community based ones.

Look at MacOS X for an example of what the commercial distributions are probably trying to aim for. I mean yes a person with *n[iu]x experience can sort of navigate their way around the environment once they've found the console but it would take a fair chunk of effort for them to get the tools they are used to such as GCC working on it not to mention learning about netinfo. And once OSX gets released and becomes at least somewhat popular among the general user populace imagine the learning curve they'd face moving from it to say a Linux or a Unix?

Heh... Anyway that's enough from me... Maybe I've given people something to mull over...
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...

Linux, marketing, world domination | 31 comments (28 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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