Jack Wallen thinks that what Linux needs is some good marketing. Could a really good commercial finally put Linux on the desktops of mainstream users?
The scene comes up with Larry David (creator of Seinfeld and star of TV's Curb Your Enthusiasm) sitting at a desk in front of a laptop. He's obviously having a bit of trouble (in the way only Larry David can have trouble). He's getting frustrated at something. He's growing verklempt over an issue with his laptop. He's picking it up and shaking it saying, "No, no, no, no, no!" In comes Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine from Seinfeld) who sits down beside him with her own laptop. She opens up the laptop and the welcoming ditty from the Ubuntu GNOME desktop login is heard. Elaine starts working away. Mr. David looks over at Elaine's laptop and says, "You better be careful, there's a virus going around here...your computer will catch it." Mr. David starts to give Elaine's laptop the "evil eye" and says, "Catch it. Catch it. Catch it!"
It doesn't catch it. Elaine continues working and eventually says: "Larry, it's Linux...it won't catch it. It's safe."
Larry: "Well, give me Linux."
Elaine: "Go get it yourself."
Larry: "But I just bought this laptop, I don't want to have to buy anything else."
Elaine: "It's free. Now go away."
Larry: "Free..." The gears are working in Larry's brain. "What's the catch. There's always a catch."
Elaine: "No catch, Larry. It's just free."
Larry looks over Elaine's shoulder as she continues working.
Larry: "Looks good. Hard to believe all of that is free. Why haven't I heard of this before?"
Elaine: "You have now. Now go away!"
Larry: "Fine. I'll go get this Linux."
Larry grabs his laptop and leaves the room. Fade out with voice of Jerry Seinfeld saying, "If Larry David can use it..."
Over the weekend me and a client had a discussion about why Linux hasn't found more traction with the average user. During the discussion, he asked me about Google and what I thought was going to happen with Android. The gist of that conversation was that Google is doing everything right so far and once Android is released as an operating system, it will be an instant success. Why? Because Google knows the public. And Google knows how to market. What Google will do with Android is make an operating system so well integrated with Google and Google Apps that the operating system will become nothing more than an afterthought. Google will take the Linux kernel, place something on top of it, and make it as seamless as an operating system can be. And then...they will market it to perfection. They will make it sexy, they will make it easy, they will make it funny, they will make it something the public thinks it has to have.
And that's what commercials do. They take products and make them desirable, no matter what the product. Think about how many bad products have been sold by good commercials. The right commercial can get the public to buy a steaming pile of poo and think they have purchased gold.
And that is just what Linux needs. Mark Shuttleworth needs to spend some coin to purchase some air time and create a commercial for the Ubuntu distribution that will become a viral wonder. Make Linux mysterious, sexy, and funny! Make it something the people can talk about.
Why am I so convinced about this? Simple, Linux is just as good as any other operating system. The big difference is that the other operating systems have a huge marketing budget to make the masses want (or need) them. Linux doesn't have this. Linux has word of mouth and dedicated fan-shrines hoping to lure in yet another user. The truth is, the public doesn't think that way. The public (especially the U.S. public) is a public of followers who must have some one telling them where to go and what to do.
Now, because Linux is a part of a huge open source community it shouldn't actually need to have a company drop down too much money in order to put together a commercial. All it needs to do is this:
- Find a popular, famous personality that uses Linux and get them to agree to do an open source commercial.
- Make a funny commercial that doesn't pimp one single distribution.
- Get all of the commercial Linux companies together to pitch in to purchase air time.
- Get the commercial on air.
- Enjoy the viral marketing.
It's not a perfect strategy, but it's certainly a start. And there have been plenty of Linux commercials made (but never seen on the screen - outside of the PC monitor). The Linux Foundation ran a contest to create a Linux commercial. The top three chosen weren't too shabby. The top two could be aired during a thirty minute sitcom for sure. But they all lacked that one hook that would convince people Linux is what they need.
After using Linux for over ten years now, I am convinced it is ready for public consumption. I have clients of all shapes, sizes, IQs, colors, and tax brackets happily enjoying Linux. How is that possible? Because I sell them on it. That's what Linux needs - mass, commercial-level selling.
But why Larry David? Did I just pull him out of my memory for no apparent reason? No. Larry David is the epitome of the witty goofball that everything that can go wrong - does. And if he can use Linux, everyone can.