I have seen infinite amounts of ‘Why Linux hasn’t succeeded on the desktop’ posts, and truly, they’re all right and wrong at the same time. The reason services, products, and other things don’t take off can usually be traced back to one problem: Entry barriers.
Linux has astounding barriers to entry, despite it being ‘free’. Even Ubuntu, heralded as one of the easiest of the Linux distributions available is a serious PITA to even find, let alone install, if you’re not skilled with your computer. Let’s look at the steps a ‘normal’ switcher would have to go through just to get find and get Linux.
- Find out about Linux: The user needs to find out that the alternative exists.
- Find the distribution they want: This is both simple and difficult because Ubuntu is nearly synonymous with Linux anymore, but lots of options do exist.
- Download a .iso file that they have no idea what to do with, this may very well be the users first experience with torrenting as well.
- Find out what to do with this .iso file, and how to burn it properly, and check for burn quality
- (optional) set their bios to boot from CD.
Now, OEMs make things a lot easier, but they still have higher barriers to entry than a normal PC would.
- Find out about Linux.
- Find an OEM where Linux is readily available (DELL, if you dig around the site a little bit)
Now, I won’t insult you by bothering to go through the steps that it takes to get a Mac or a Windows PC, because the barriers are most certainly lower there. I’m sure you can figure that out, but I’ll include an edit if enough people want me to. 🙂
So, we’ve looked at the barriers to JUST finding out and getting ahold of Linux. Those are significant alone for the majority of PC users out there. That’s also just a generalized example, I’m not accounting for the varied amounts of frustration, pain, and lost time that just doing these things to GET Linux will earn you. As you well know there are a lot of other barriers to entry and use, that include: Learning how things work, learning the CLI (Command Line) and learning how the concept of repos works and how it differs from the regular .exe installer’s we’re used to seeing. The user needs to learn about their hardware, they need to learn about drivers, etc.
So, let’s assume that the user goes through all of this, what did they earn? They earned an operating system that seems to be more geared towards (poorly) mimicking Windows functionality and UI for the sake of ‘familiarity’. They’ve earned a more secure, but less functional, less friendly version of Windows.
And therein lies the biggest problem, the barriers to entry are so much higher than the barriers to leaving. It’s easier to go back to OS X or Windows than it is to stick with Linux, and that’s a problem. Ubuntu, or another distribution, needs to change things. They need to give Linux a new interface, they need to make changes to make it clear that the users ‘aren’t in kansas anymore’. Users are not going to jump through dozens of flaming hoops to get to a prize that is functionally a dulled down version of what they were using before. The barriers to entry must be lowered, and the barriers to leaving must be raised if any degree of success is going to be attained ‘on the desktop’.
That’s my personal take on it, at least. Take it with a grain of salt, much like every other post on this subject.
*** Disclaimer: “Linux” in this post and all future posts of mine is used to refer to “GNU/Linux” but without the annoying “GNU” portion.
Rant Over. Flame On.
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