Finding Linux Systems Where They Never Were Found Before

By Caitlyn Martin
September 10, 2008 | Comments: 3

I regularly receive a catalog from Tiger Direct in the mail. Up until very recently every system, desktop and laptop, in their catalog ran Windows and sported a Windows logo in the ad. While the majority still do, a half a dozen laptops, all low-end netbooks, are sold with Linux preinstalled and the Tux logo is prominently featured in some of the ads. Linux netbooks by Sylvania, Asus, HP, and Acer are all prominently advertised alongside Windows systems. Searching for Linux on their website reveals additional models available preloaded with Linux.

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If you've read my previous posts on Linux capturing at least a piece of the desktop and laptop market you know I believe a major piece of the puzzle is getting preloaded, well configured, easy to use systems out where people can see them. I still believe big box retailers, both electronics specialty stores like Best Buy and Circuit City in the U.S., as well as more general stores like Wal-Mart, are key. Linux is still locked out of most such stores or has a minimal presence at best.

Still, catalogs like this are a huge step forward. Everyone who buys anything from Tiger Direct, either online or at one of their outlet stores, receives this catalog. If they look through it they do see Linux offered as an alternative to Windows. Most non-technical people I talk to don't even know what Linux is. Mind share is a prerequisite to market share. Once you make people aware than an alternative exists some will begin to look into it.

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Unfortunately when a less technical user asks someone what this Linux thing is they get an answer like, "oh thats a free os and it's only for tech-heads you don't want that" or "if you use Linux you won't be able to buy any software for it" (which is somewhat true but misleading) Until they see their brother-inlaw or their best friend using it they will never realize what they are missing out on.

But remember when we get less technical people using Linux it may begin to act like Windows. Things like idiotic protectionist dialogs popping up and when you want kill -9 a command you have to use stop process a suggestion. Perhaps the masses shouldn't use Linux.

I have yet to see a Linux distribution where a dialog pops up when you type kill or anything else at the command line. I don't think Linux has to be Windows-like to be user friendly or usable by the masses. The Asus EeePC implementation of Xandros is an excellent example of that. I also don't think that Windows really is all that user friendly for people who aren't already familiar with it. Mac OSX, yes, Windows, no.

Bottom line: anything that brings Linux to people's attention in a positive and non-threatening way is a good thing. I also see no reason why the masses can't use Windows or how that will prevent technical users from getting under the hood and using Linux to it's full potential.

"if you use Linux you won't be able to buy any software for it" (which is somewhat true but misleading) - no. It is just plain wrong. There is lots of software to be bought for Linux. Only things like Office Software for which you usually pay are free (but you can still get a commercial version of StarOffice for Linux).

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