Open Source

Is too much choice getting in the way of Linux' acceptance?

During a conversation with a member of the Linux foundation, Jack Wallen had the seed of an idea planted. The idea germinated very quickly, leaving behind the realization that the grand scheme of Linux is being hindered by one of its best "features" -- choice.

Last week I was having a discussion with one of the members of the Linux Foundation about a series of articles I am writing for The series centers around helping new users either discover open source alternatives to Windows applications and/or help the new user learn how they can run those "must have" Windows applications by emulation or virtualization.

During this discussion we discussed what it would take to create a "definitive manual" for new Linux users migrating from Windows. It became all too clear that there is one issue at the heart of the creation of any single "definitive manual" for the Linux operating system. That issue? Too many choices.

I know, I know...absolute crazy talk. But hear me out before you label me a mad man. This issue is fairly key to the wider adoption of Linux.

When someone comes to you asking for help in the migration from Windows to Linux how do you help them? You might start off telling them about the fundamentals of Linux, how it came to be, and what open source means. You will discuss the abundance of applications available. You will discuss the Linux desktop and how many choices there are. And that discussion will fuel the first flames of confusion. When this confusion builds you will eventually come around to the topic of distributions. It is at this point where you can finally start showing your newbie the similarities and differences between Windows and Linux.

Now, imagine that scenario if you didn't have to worry about finally getting to the point where you had to sell the user on a distribution. Imagine, if you will for a moment, there was only one "officially sanctioned and supported" Linux distribution. How much easier would the task of migrating users be? Not only would you not have to worry about standardization, you would also speak the same language as other Linux users and gurus.

We all know there is a standards-based organization - the Linux Standards Base. This organization works in conjunction with the Linux Foundation to come to some semblance of standards for the Linux operating system. This hasn't been an easy task because their are so many distributions to standardize. But imagine if one distribution could be chosen above all else to "officially represent" and be sanctioned by the Linux Foundation, Linus, and possibly a governing body made up of developers, media, and corporate sponsors.

This distribution could easily be the focal point of plenty of documentation, education, support, you name it. Migrating from Windows would become a piece of cake because every user of the "official Linux" would speak the same language for a change.

Think about it for a moment. Let the idea sink in. Now, would you be willing to give up your favorite distribution for this to happen? Or would you be willing to accept the idea that your favorite might have to become nothing more than a variant of the "official distribution"? Because we all know that even this wouldn't stop the open source community from continuing to create the way they do. But even if forks of the "official distribution" were developed, there would still be "the one" that companies and new users could migrate to and know what they were getting, know that they could get world-wide, standardized support.

Would you be willing to go this far so that Linux could make that leap it has been wanting to make for years? And how do you think this would affect Linux in general? Would it be a step forward? If not this, how far would you be willing to go to help Linux gain further acceptance?

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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