Open Source

The de-marketing of Linux

This weekend I was writing an article for TechRepublic about Puppy Linux. During the process of writing this article it struck me as interesting how obsessed I had become with having the ability to carry around a bootable thumb drive with a fully capable Linux operating system on board. I wanted to have Linux with me all the time. I wanted to be at a friend or colleagues house or office and be able to safely wipe away his or her Windows operating system and use my own operating system. Once I was done, I wanted to be able to reboot so my friend could have his or her computer back in its original state.

I was able to get to that point. But that point brought up another point. Fanaticism. I guess you'd say I am a fanatic about Linux. I have been since I first heard about it in the mid 90s. You can ask the men and women I worked with at TechRepublic and they will gladly tell you how loud my opinion was about Linux. It's still the same.

But what about the public? Why has Linux not caught on? I know it's caught on in IT departments around the globe. But why not the desktop? Is it because of the nature of the OS leads it to zero marketing? We all know that consumerism is fueled by marketing. I remember a long time ago when I first saw a version of Linux on the shelves at Target. At the time I thought it had finally happened. But that shelf-life was short lived. And now Linux has no shelf-life. Linux has no shiny boxes sitting pretty on the shelves for the grubby hands of consumers to grab. Linux is now relegated to downloading isos or ordering from various websites. 

I honestly think that is one of the biggest issues keeping Linux from dominating the desktop. Think about it. Jane consumer is shopping for a new operating system because hers finally died. She goes to the store and sees, sitting next to one another, Windows Vista for roughly 200.00 USD and Fedora Core 7 for roughly 19.99. Which is she going to choose? Even without knowing the difference, any consumer (unless a Windows fanatic) will opt to save roughly 180.00.

But that's not happening. It's not happening because there are no shiny boxes. It's not happening because Microsoft struck deals with PC makers that the PC makers couldn't pass up. It's not happening because the public has no idea the savings (on so many levels) they are missing.

No viruses

No malware

No crashes

No insane hardware requirements

No EULs that are nothing but law-speak



I don't have an answer to this issue. Do you? Do you know how Linux can find it's way to the desktop? It's not really an issue of compatibility. It's not an issue of the OS not being mature enough. It's not an issue of usability. No, those are arguments long gone. Now it's simply an issue of marketing. Linux and the open source community has to learn how to strike deals ala Microsoft. If not, Linux will remain on servers and embedded in teeny-tiny systems unnoticed by men and women.

Linux needs commercials like the OS X vs. Microsoft commercials. Linux needs shiny boxes on shelves. Linux needs a sexy spokesmodel or a catchy Emo pop song to back it up.

How do we make it happen? 


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

Editor's Picks