During the last fortnight I've had a chance to see one such review. It was written by Walter Mossberg who works for the Wall Street Journal. A second article, by a consultant with an Australian technology marketing group, also caught my attention since it purported to know why Linux market share is where it's at.
One doesn't mean to run down either of these distinguished gentlemen but merely provide some perspective from a different angle. I note with interest that nobody has bothered to take issue with either individual's conclusions.
First to the Australian technology consultant. When anyone tries to understand the position Linux (and by that I mean the distributions, not the kernel alone) occupies in the software ecosphere in marketing terms alone, it is, to put it simply, a waste of time.
Here are the consultant's "13 reasons why Linux won't make it to a desktop near you". My comments are interspersed.
1. The people who make the product have no money for marketing.
By make, if one means Linus Torvalds and his kernel developers, then one is right. But if one looks a bit further afield, there is plenty of advertising by companies which sell Linux or services based on Linux, chief among them IBM. No money for marketing? Hardly.
2. The reason they have no money is that they give the product away.
Actually, a large number of FOSS developers hold well-paid jobs only because they are part of this group. There seems to be some faulty reasoning involved here.
3. Since they give the product away, people never see it in shops.
Linux packs are available in countless shops. Of course, one needs to visit some shops to see them.
4. Because people never see the product in shops or advertised, they don't know it exists.
Very sweeping conclusion and untrue.
5. The makers of the product rely on word of mouth to attract more customers, but their customers only talk to each other.
Is the internet treated as word of mouth? Even if it is, word of mouth generally constitutes a better endorsement than a whole bunch of weasel words on a TV screen. How many people believe those Microsoft ads which run something like: "We see Tom, we understand his passion..."
When did you last see a Cisco ad? And how much market share does Cisco have?
6. On closer inspection, you find that there are 500 versions of the product. When you try to understand the subtle differences between them, you become confused. Your enthusiasm starts to flag.
Once again, one sees the inability to understand what Linux is all about. There may be 500 distributions - seems like a bit of an exaggeration. I doubt very much if any new user is bothered about this fact - he/she takes up one distribution, tries it out and either decides to continue playing with it or else discards it.
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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.