In one of my most recent "10 Things..." articles, I spoke about what I would like to see come about in Ubuntu 11.04. This came in the wake of the recently released 10.10 and the high praise it will certainly garner. My wishes for 11.04 were (in some cases) a bit lofty or (in other cases) quite understandable.
One "feature" that I intentionally left out of that mix is something I want to address now. This "feature" is one that I have gone on and on about over the last decade or so and begs my attention once again. That "feature" is marketing. Let me explain.
With Ubuntu 10.10 the world is getting one of the most flexible, versatile, stable, and down-right enjoyable operating systems to date. Ubuntu 10.10 improved on what 10.04 brought to us and even added a few new features. And, to put it bluntly, the release is fantastic.
Ubuntu is a very user-friendly operating system built upon a very stable and secure kernel. It offers thousands upon thousands of free software titles, offers purchase-able music downloads, and now even offers commercial software that can be purchased. And with 11.04, uTouch (the multi-touch interface) will have matured to the point of being ready for mass use.
With Canonical working to perfect and deploy all of these outstanding features, why is it they are not bothering to better market their distribution? It simply doesn't make sense. Even Microsoft, who has had the stronghold on desktop operating systems for years, still markets their new releases. Windows 7 comes out and the television and print markets are flooded with campaigns.
If Canonical did but one thing with 11.04, it should be to fire up a strong marketing campaign. And, if it does, it needs to stop preaching to the choir and, instead, try the unknown waters of television advertising and/or print advertising in markets not typically visited by Linux or open source software.
Canonical (and all creators of Linux distributions) could create the epitome of operating systems, the perfect environment for the desktop, but if they do not engage in some marketing, the only ones that will use it are those who already do. How in the world is Linux to gain ground using that model? It won't. This is not a youtube video that can go viral in a matter of seconds. This is an operating system that people have to willingly choose and take the time to install - or purchase a machine that has the OS pre-loaded.
And even that begets another issue. The average user is not going to install a different OS on the computer - no matter HOW easy it is to install. The average user is lucky to know where to type a URL in their browser most days!
Maybe, what Canonical needs to do is go the Apple way and have their own hardware division. They could buy a small PC manufacturer (say System76 or something like that) and then start producing the computer from top to bottom. Then all they do is deal with the devil and find a big-box store to sell their products (or even a large volume on-line store like Amazon.com).
From my vantage point, the rise of Linux is inevitable. The company that will most likely be behind this is fairly obvious. The speed at which this will happen is the big variable. Canonical could easily take their 11.04 release and, with a smart enough marketing campaign, finally start to bring in the big numbers for Linux.
Mr. Shuttleworth, you have the OS down pat. It's finally time you give that OS to the masses and the only way you are going to be able to do that is to take the time and "sell" it. Sell it to the choir, to the groundlings in the front row, to the average citizens in the middle of the house, and the elite in the box seats. Do yourself, and everyone else, a favor and bring Linux to the masses with a brilliant marketing campaign that no one can resist.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.