Linux optimize

How Ubuntu Unity can help Linux really succeed

With the upcoming release of Ubuntu 11.04, the new Unity desktop, despite the non-believers, can really help to bring the Linux operating system into the limelight. Here's how.

This morning I woke up to read something a bit disturbing. Sometime around December the iPad iOS ranked above Linux in the listing of desktop operating systems. I really couldn't believe it. A mobile OS was being used more than the Linux OS on the desktop. I wanted to discard it as just another marketing scam, but it turns out there was fact backing it up. And it was already clear the iPad has been, as all Apple products seem to do, selling like mad.

This, of course, got the wheels to turning and the mind to wandering. How can the Linux community turn this around? As usual, I think positively and think, "Yes, the Linux community can turn this situation around, but it will require the help of Mark Shuttleworth and the upcoming Ubuntu Natty Narwhal.

I'm sure everyone grown tired of hearing how Ubuntu must be the big savior of Linux, but I firmly believe, in this case, it might well be a truth some will just have to swallow. Why is that?

Along with Ubuntu 11.04, a new desktop will arrive. That desktop, Ubuntu Unity, does a great job of making desktop work easier and more efficient. Not only that, but it's unique, and the consuming world has become a "show me something newer and better" world. Ubuntu and Unity are in a very unique situation -- they have the next big thing for the desktop. That next big thing is not yet another iteration of Windows 7 or the same old tired OS X desktop. The next big thing is a different, more efficient, way of using the desktop. And that, my friends, is Ubuntu Unity. The real issue is getting that desktop, and it's new ways, into the hands of the public. Here's the thing -- the traditional methods have not, and will not, work. Word of mouth hasn't seemed to work to spread the Gospel According to Linux. Other efforts have failed (for the most part) as well.

What the Linux operating system needs, is for Canonical to really step it up, with the upcoming release of 11.04, and get that wonderful Unity desktop on retail boxes and tablet PCs, such that end users do not have to bother with the installation. That is the single biggest hurdle and, as much as it pains me to say it, Ubuntu and Canonical are probably the only shot Linux has of overcoming this monumental obstacle.

It's been done -- and failed. Remember the nightmare that became the WalMart/Linux experiment and how the PCs sold out and then were quickly returned because the users assumed they were getting a "regular PC"? That disaster did nothing more than feed the FUD machine. For this type of sales pitch to succeed, users need to be able to see the OS in action. That means stores like Best Buy, Target, CostCo, etc., need to have Ubuntu 11.04 powered machines in stock so that users can actually touch and play with them. Slap a cheap price tag on the machines and, once the users get a chance to play with the interface, those machines will walk out of the store.

It really is the only way. How do you think Microsoft has managed to get Windows into nearly every household? It certainly wasn't by creating a reliable, secure operating system. If that were the case there would be much less need for consultancy firms and a flood of various anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-this and anti-that tools. No, Microsoft did it by getting the OS into the hands of the people. And, in order for Linux to enjoy the same level of acceptance, the same level of In your face, in your hands marketing must take place.

With the upcoming release of Natty, Ubuntu could take advantage of that ever-popular Something new. Ubuntu 11.04 does have something new to offer and it's something I believe the public is ready for. Canonical has, for the longest time, been perched on a precipice that could serve as a serious launchpad for Linux. Canonical wants to do this, wants to be this -- but the big question is Will they DO this now.

It is seriously Go Time for Linux. After being overshadowed by a tablet, it is now time for Linux to stop pulling the punches and living it's life in the corner of the dance, shoe-gazing and watching the wallpaper. Canonical needs to grab the cutest girl on the dance floor and show the world its moves. Those moves, however, can not been seen if the public at large doesn't even know Linux exists. This is a very important moment for Linux as a whole and every user and fan of Linux needs to get behind Canonical and help to get Linux into the big box stores, pre-loaded on tablets, and into the hands of the populous. Otherwise, our darling OS will be outshined by every OS on the market.

Mark Shuttleworth, you need to read these words. You need to know your product is capable of winning over the hearts and wallets of the consumer. But in order for that to happen, Ubuntu Unity must have its aim set on replacing the Windows desktop on those floor model PCs in stores across the globe. Get it done Mr. Shuttleworth and the whole of the Linux community will be behind you, beside you, and thanking you.

About

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.

52 comments
pablo.handler
pablo.handler

Yes, you must pay for windows, but is small fraction ($50?) of the total price of the computer. So, few people will see the benefit of paying a little less for having a computer with a 'alien' SO instead of a well know 'friend'.

nickk32
nickk32

Until we are able to run all windows software properly, Ubuntu will never have a good market share. Wine is doing a very good job in getting some of the programs to work it still needs a lot of work. It would be unrealistic to expect people to change all their apps all at once. I have drafting/accounting programs that don't work on Ubuntu. If they did I would use Ubuntu as my first choice. People don't like change, the tools for change need to be as simple and as automated as possible. If you want people to change, keep it simple.

orourkes
orourkes

To have a long term future Linux has to overcome the perception that is not user friendly and move away from the "for geeks only" perception. Simplicity is the key to winning the masses. For starters, software purchase and installation must become super simple. A single click download that results in an installed application - nothing to know. This would be even better if it was serviced from a single online graphical store - click, buy, download, install. Xandros shipped with a version of this years ago. I do this on a mobile phone every day! Yet there are still Linux distros that require me to have intricate knowledge of FTP repositories and to download and install several to a dozen packages to get a single application running. Linux no more needs to run Windows applications than Windows needs to run Linux applications. Wine is a pointless waste of time. If I want Windows on my Linux desktop, Virualisation will fix that problem. All that is necessary is an ability to exchange files as is achieved between Open office and MS Office. I just need to be able to open the file on my Linux desktop, move it in and out of the cloud to my tablet, or my mobile phone and or my Windows desktop in the workplace - regardless of OS/Application mix - or quickly move it from my PC desktop to my virtual desktop if needs be. The emphasis should be on the development of open file formats for a wide range of applications. I am convinced there are many in Linux Land that just don't get User Friendly. I want my Desktop Users to be able to do their work in a simple, intuitive, attractive, customizable GUI that seamlessly presents them with the necessary tools to be interconnect, communicate, share and work in a productive manner. Linux developers could well do with taking a closer look at modern Windows OS help. Linux help, while not exactly an oxymoron, is a long way short of User Friendly. From a management point of view I want a desktop that can seamlessly join my workplace network, integrate fully into my domain, connect to the workplace peripherals as part of an interconnected SOE. Yes, be part of what I am doing, not attempt to present some want-to-be alternative way of working. So I would simply ask the Linux community to stop being precious about the OS and understand that it is simply a means to an end, not the end itself. Every time I notice the OS between me and my job, it is failing the User Friendly test. I will download the latest Ubuntu incarnation, install it onto the VB on my desktop and see if it presents as an alternative User Friendly work tool.

renbsr
renbsr

the point I'm trying to make is the lack of easy installation for programs in Linux. in windows all you do is double click the installer and then; next, next, yes, yes, no, next finish. In Ubuntu you have the software center but, there are more programs than in the software center only, you can install most programs but most of these require searching the Internet (Ubuntu forum) and contain cryptic instructions to compile and eventually run the program, for terminal noobs like me that's a barrier. Unless the installation of these programs becomes easier i don't see Linux with or without unity winning the desktop war

kobus
kobus

Problem with Ubuntu (Linux) is it cannot run adobe photoshop, most companies as well as a lot of private users rely on it, there are a lot of video manipulating programs that's also not compatible, i do agree wit the previous persone saying that copy XP layout, i work with lots of internet cafe's, i have tried to get linux in there but because the buttons looks different and are positioned differently i failed

SteveWisc
SteveWisc

If Linux hasn't made in-roads yet, it won't. Period. Remember the nightmare that became the WalMart/Linux experiment and how the PCs sold out and then were quickly returned because the users assumed they were getting a ???regular PC???? The desktop had NOTHING to with that. Those computers would have been returned running Unity too. They were returned because the WEREN'T Windows boxes. THAT fiasco will prevent ANY major retailer from stocking Linux boxes. If the "big box" retailers thought, even for a moment, that there was profit to be made selling Linux boxes, if they thought the effort was worth it, they would already be selling them. You can't even gain market share with a FREE product! Takeaway: Linux had its chance. It's over. Linux gaining desktop market share? It's not going to happen. Why? Because if it hasn't happened by now, it never will.

pberardis
pberardis

Since almost every teenager and most adults have an iphone/ipod/ipad device; without official iTunes support Linux will alway be on the sidelines. Maybe Apple will introduce a web based cloud version of iTunes but until then Linux just doesn't cut it outside of academia.

Markx.Allen
Markx.Allen

Remember how Linux-installed netbooks were going to be the wedge that drove Linux into the consumer mainstream? Yeahhhh, not so much. Stick with phones - ultimately that's what everyone will be using in a few years for everything. There will be screen docks for you to drop your phone into to get more screen space for display. (Either you carry it yourself, or they are public like pay telephones are)

cadstarsucks
cadstarsucks

in regards to computer history. The fact is that MS bullied the sales channel, thereby eliminating competent competition. DRDOS 6.0 was a 32 bit true concurrent multitasker back in the days of windows 3.1! It died because MS told distribution they would have to pay full price for windows if they carried DRDOS!

jjstccean
jjstccean

I would use Linux in a jiffy, was it not for the fact that I can't get productive. I need an easier database than the one OpenOffice pass off as a database. It is so jittery it crashes for no apparent reason, it's loaded with bugs and incompatibilities, such as country settings etc. Creating new tables is a nightmare. And using my current data is not possible unless I'm an OpenOffice Database programmer - I'll just stick with ol Windows and Access.

jmdiazarg
jmdiazarg

I think the big hit here will be to exploit the fact that mobile devices are Linuxes and put marketing efforts on that. Everyday more and more people around the world start using smart phone and tablets and they must associate those devices with Linux. The communication beetween apps running on those devices must be a shinning star that we want to show. Not only the desktop ui need to be improved ir order to gain marketplace but office and enterprise applications wich interacts with such devices.

DesertJim
DesertJim

In the dawn of time people who bought computers bought all sorts of different OS and GUI because they liked the manufacturer, the price or the apps on a particular brand. Then people started getting computers at work, invariably PC AT with MSDOS and eventually windows. When the shelled out for a PC at home they wanted what they were used to at work, so they could share apps, and data. Time has moved on and as the browser and cloud computing are starting to dominate, the whole OS debate should be lessening, This is probably the last Hurrah for OSs anyway and what sits behind Chromium or Firefox will become less and less important apart from a few of us who (like the people at the dawn of time) enjoy playing with the computer rather than the apps. (That actually could be the allure of windows, I used to spend a lot of time on admin, scanning, defragging, etc, thinking I was doing something "useful". Now I have enough free time to write to Tech Republic!)

aspir8or
aspir8or

where's the touch interface? Anyone ported Unity to an (Android) tablet yet? Let's see a few versions out in the wild, then we'll have something to show to the manufacturers. And don't forget there's a new Gnome out which would probably also work well on a tablet.

johnb0647
johnb0647

IMO "Ubuntu and Shuttleworth" don't get it nor does most of the linux community. I submit that constant change in the UI of a "tool" is desirable ONLY to those to whom the tool is an end in itself which is maybe 1% of all computer users. I've been in computers since 1965 working with end users and mostly these users DO NOT want the UI to change even if it >>actually

rarsa
rarsa

The argument of "cannot run my Windows software" is fading. Users are starting to understand that there is a world outside Windows. It is not the desktop, It is the Apps that need to be brought to the forefront and Natty does that nicely with Unity.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Perhaps with smartphones, the public has become acclimated to downloading within a closed environment as the source of their apps. This may help home users accept the repository-based delivery model on home computers too. Jack, most of what you've said has been posted by your readers countless times over the years: - word of mouth doesn't work on non-techies - market penetration will increase when Linux is pre-installed by the hardware vendors - the 'Wal-mart' desktop system (and Linux netbooks) disappointed consumers because they didn't understand what they were buying - the public at large doesn't know Linux exists. I doubt many of those who recognize the name 'Android' understand it's a Linux-based OS (assuming they even know what an OS is). It sure isn't mentioned in the marketing campaigns.

bigpicture
bigpicture

Ubuntu and Shuttleworth are on the right track. And all the GNOMEs and KDEs got it wrong. The interface is not for geeks, the interface is for people, and it is what sells computers. It is "EMOTIONAL" and not "INTELLECTUAL" it's about how it makes you feel. They could learn from the Automotive marketing approach, you don't buy a new vehicle because you need transportation, you buy a new vehicle because of how it makes you feel when sitting in the drivers seat. Unity is the "drivers seat".

BasBak
BasBak

I totally agree with Mr. Wallen. Ubuntu has all the potentials to offer wide varieties of services to users. Adding to that, the huge repository of free applications helps a lot. Suffice it to say: IT'S FREE. No need to mention the multi-advantages of Linux OS, which easily competes over Windows OS. Since 4 years now, Ubuntu has been the optimal alternative to Windows for me, so that I don't have to worry about viruses any more. Long live Ubuntu ... God bless Mr. Shuttleworth.

scootnyinzer
scootnyinzer

Without billions in marketing, how can a free OS and unfamiliar open source software compete? And in the minds of MOST computer users, Ubuntu isn't BETTER until it runs that windows software better than windows and will install drivers for every printer, scanner and smart-phone on the planet. When you tell folks the software is free and so are the updates, they exclaim "Free software? How can it be any good? How do they make their money?" I'm a linux fanboy, but I KNOW that you'd have a better chance of switching a Coors Light drinker to Guiness Stout than getting a Windows user to switch to Linux on the desktop. Which is sad because Linux actually has managed to win the hearts and minds of the U.S. consumer --- on smartphones and tablets

Alzie
Alzie

Computers tend to have low markups. The market is very competitive and the only real difference to casual shoppers is price. If you sell a Windows based system you get to offer antivirus and office software which has a better markup and then installation and setup. A linux box comes with most of your software needs available for free through their repositories. You may still be able to get a setup sale but that's about it. The only way you can get shelf space in a chain is if you can provide more profit for the retailer than with a Windows computer and I can't see that happening

ITOdeed
ITOdeed

If it was easier to make peripherals work with Ubuntu, I think it would be more popular than it is. It's been my experience that lots of folks download it and installed it, but then deleted it when peripherals won't work with it.

Olderdan
Olderdan

Last year, my wife's aging Windows laptop started acting up. It took forever to boot, load Firefox, shutdown. I convinced her to give Ubuntu a try. She admitted it was faster. But she finally tossed in the towel saying, among other things, she didn't like how it "handled text." By that she meant that the OpenOffice/LibreOffice didn't work like Microsoft Word. She decided to buy a Mac. Yes it was more money but even Consumer Reports says user satisfaction is high. Linux will not survive outside a small minority of people who happen to like it as a server platform.

Paul R.A.
Paul R.A.

am building a box for a desktop- steep climb though for Linux- but if ever now is the time. the GUI is better, less dependancy on command line- that is what the masses are looking for- point and click. but you need support in a big way - get it into a best buy and pushed not lingering on a back counter unplugged with dust on it

Slayer_
Slayer_

People in general, don't like change. Lots of those newbie users that started with Ubuntu, may jump ship when their distro looks totally different after an upgrade.

cerewa
cerewa

Linux, Ubuntu and OSX want to be moderately successful where Windows is strong (desktops/laptops/business setting) but they're kicking but where windows is weak: smart phones and tablets. So the new ubuntu is aiming to be an OS that works on tablets and netbooks without sacrificing quality on the desktop. Where Linux will really hit a gold mine is by providing good performance and compatibility with the software and hardware that already works with android OR Ubuntu. want to run a smartphone app on your tablet or desktop? why not? want to run a desktop app on your smartphone or tablet? sure! (we like smart user interfaces that have minimal screen-size requirements AND work great on a big screen). software developers WILL aim for these goals.

cerewa
cerewa

I'm posting this from Ubuntu 11.04 beta (with Unity). I have been using 11.04 since it was in alpha. It looks and acts a lot like OSX, with largely the same advantages and disadvantages, BUT at a lower price. Advantages: no viruses. fast. doesn't crash much. easy to use. If you're an expert you can play around with unix command line tools. disadvantages: doesn't work with hardware or software that's intended exclusively for windows: some webcams, some 3d graphics cards, some printers, and a small percentage of wireless cards. it's unusual to encounter an app that doesn't work on linux&macOS (either with or without WINE) unless there's a top quality copycat app available for linux&macOS. The "dock" on Ubuntu 11.04 is like the dock on OSX except it's on the left of the screen. the menu bar at the top is almost the same, and so are the "application indicators" (equivalent to windows's system tray).

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

...but I don't see it. The user interface metrics of Unity (as well as Gnome) as used have much in common with Mac OSX, but fall short of the flash and pizzaz that sells it to the unwashed masses. Worse, it moves away from the standard ways the stick in the mud office crowd is used to dealing with a PC through their extensive indoctrination in Windows. Want to sell Linux to Windows users? Be more standards compliant and less buggy than MS. I think we got this, but we need to show it. Want to sell Linux to the Apple crowd? Portray Shuttleworth as a messianic figure in a black turtleneck and use him to pitch something simpler and prettier than a Mac. Personally, I'd pass on that market... too fussy and nebulous in their expectations. Unity and new things like it make Linux more of an outlier than it already is. Sure, it may be the best thing since sliced bread, but anything that involves a learning curve, no matter how gentle, will drive more people away that attract them. Who exactly is Unity targeted at? Probably not Windows or Mac users. If it's the geeks already using Linux (myself included), they'll likely appreciate it, them move on to the next shiny object; there's no brand loyalty. If it's to the hard core geeks, they'll likely grunt in appreciation of the tight code and architecture and go back to compiling their LFS kernel. For the record, my businesses are 100% Linux (not including VMs) and all servers and desktops are Ubuntu. Not a week goes by without some positive comment from staff or clients related to uptime, stability, or speed. I am convinced the world needs Linux, but I have my doubts that Unity will help with acceptance. I hope I am wrong. Ubuntu has done as much for Linux and open source recently as Sun and Redhat did in the past. I would love to see Linux in use across the board.

orourkes
orourkes

Why would I want another OS to run my windows software. Windows does that just fine. And if I don't want to pay for a copy of Windows (or second copy), why would I want to pay for very expensive Windows based software (let alone a second copy). All I need is to be able to continue my work in whichever environment I'm using. If I create a presentation or video or start programming a web-app in one platform I need to be able to see and use and extend it in the next platform. Each day I use a personal Andriod phone, a work based iphone, a workplace Windows 7 OS, a home Windows and a home Linux (Suse) machine. File portability is far more important than application portability. Failing to see or use the file is far more frustrating than using two or three different applications. I think Jack's point was Linux has failed because it has failed to present as something new. iPhones and iPad weren't necessarily new (we had phones and tablets), but they presented as something new and were highly successful. Another OS running Windows apps is not something new. Please give us something simple, User Friendly, new, smart, and better that seamlessly integrates into our existing work patterns and future work needs.

crbarron_48125
crbarron_48125

As a user who gradually migrated from Windows to being, at home, a 95% Linux (Mint) user (it's an Ubuntu variant), I just don't understand your post. I have never compiled a Linux program in my life, nor do I ever intend to. In Software Manager, I find 30,492 packages. Do you seriously believe any casual user would be forced to rove the Internet for programs? I don't. I go to the major website for a later edition of VirtualBox or Wine or Adobe flash. Other than that, the Software Manager or Synaptic has just about every application I could imagine, and many that I can't. Just click to select, then click to Install. That's it. And you are even notified when the program is updated, so you can automatically load the latest updates. I never got that from Windows. Only gradually are Windows programmers coming around to that good idea.

harishkumar09
harishkumar09

But you can change the kernel of Linux, something evil Bill Gates and the even more eviler Steve Jobs won't let you do that.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Those cigarette-carton-sized mobile phones from the '70s never developed into anything...

Slayer_
Slayer_

Just think of how many accomplishments required time. You don't think cars instantly showed up in everyone's garages do you? The first cars were considered an expensive novelty and not much use. Now cars have risen to the point of love affairs, people love their cars, cars have a huge following, people like to modify them, tweak them, and defend them as if they were their own child. Doesn't that sound similar to most of the Linux arguments around here? Will Linux become prominent? With Andriod, it technically already has. On the desktop? it could take some time. First we need to get off this mobile OS kick we are on, and make those new PC phones have a full OS when docked. With Linux, it should be fairly easy to do as Nix can be configured to load different modules, and run levels, right from the bootloader. The dock can provide a new bootloader to instruct the system to load a full Nix desktop, when undocked, the default bootloader only reaches a certain runlevel (whatever it may be) that loads the mobile OS instead. Once the manufactures get this right, desktop OS's will follow as they will want to maintain compatibility, and you can bet MS will do whatever it can to prevent compatibility. The next step will be games, those phone games, will now run on the full desktop version (probably with better graphics for the increased monitor size). This will effectively be games for Linux. Further pushing MS out of the market. MS is like a guy hanging from a cliff, and Apple has already stomped on one hand, but Linux just can't seem to sober up enough to get the aim to stomp on the other hand and let MS drop to its death.

Slayer_
Slayer_

According to you, almost every teenager is walking around carrying multiple STD's in the form of Apple products... Put that pollution on a VM. Wither you run Windows or Linux, that crap should be on a VM to keep the rest of your system clean.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

Make it familiar (no or minimal perceived learning curve), and you'll attract users who don't wanna learn Vista or W7. From there let them customize based on what the user thinks they need.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It doesn't keep people from buying smartphones and tablets. The problem is users don't expect those devices to run their Windows apps; they do expect their desktops and laptops to do so.

LeonBA
LeonBA

Funny you should mention that last bit. A few weeks ago, my brother said he'd sure like to find an operating system based on Android. When I turned and showed him my Xubuntu system, he immediately lost interest. I don't know what it is--maybe because "Linux" has become permanently associated in the public's mind with "Computer geek" or something.

ksarkies
ksarkies

I think people need to get away from the "server platform" concept of Linux. I have helped a few people change to Linux, some because they were fed up with Windows' instability and vulnerability, and some because they couldn't afford to fork out the money for a Windows install. They were very happy and word got around, but take up is slow as we know. One user went back to Windows because he couldn't get a new printer to provide the features he needed. This is where the real block is -- manufacturer support. Anyway, why are people wanting to see Linux "succeed" in the same way the big commercial offerings have done? Maybe to do with the frustration of having to endlessly fix our friends' and relatives' broken machines? Those of us who know Linux can continue to use and support (and recommend) it, and being small in number, we are not yet of interest to the big time cybercrims.

edwardtisdale
edwardtisdale

If I were to try 11.04 and not like it, I'd just go back to 10.10 until support ends, and when it does, see how long I can still use it until finally trying another brand of Linux.

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

What, are they going back to Windows?? I think not.

harishkumar09
harishkumar09

No viruses, because of too small a footprint.

edwardtisdale
edwardtisdale

Did you have 10.10? Every Ubuntu I have used (since 9.04) has had no problem with hardware, and the packaging always says it's for Windows.

Dethpod
Dethpod

What to know why Linux will never make it out of the server room. It's "advocates".

Slayer_
Slayer_

Especially if they moved to Ubuntu because they hated the new interface change from Win Vista/Win7

harishkumar09
harishkumar09

Linux will never ever make it because they spend a lot of time abusing their target audience! Unwashed masses! That is the way medieval church priests and brahmins spoke about the masses, and where are they now? Linux advocates must understand that people by computers to do accounting, write reports, run spreadsheets and play video games. How crass! When you can spend your valuable time playing around with the kernal -- and learning how the OS works -- things that Microsoft or Macs --- will not allow you to do it -- why would you want to do accounting and develop childish presentations?

I_M_Patient
I_M_Patient

Perhaps referring to Mac users as unwashed masses (I'm seeing hippie artists here) and to Windows users as indoctrinated is in poor taste, but I can see the point within the rhetoric. Both typical Windows and Mac users are used to doing things a certain way and would probably never have used a computer 15 or 20 years ago given a choice. A Linux user would have been a computer user, though not what we would consider an early adopter. Ubuntu has changed this somewhat, shifting the demographic. This shift makes it necessary to support these new users with familiar if not intuitive UIs, or they will retreat. Unity may present a daunting apparent learning curve to new Ubuntu users. To clarify, this learning curve is apparent, not necessarily real.