I know this is going to sound silly to many but...
I remember the days of old (that'd be the mid to late '90s) when I could walk into any given sudo-geek shop (Best Buy, CompUSA, Circuit City...) and find boxed Linux products on the shelf. It was usually your standard fare (Red Hat, Caldera Linux, SuSE, Mandrake...) and the price ranged from 19.99 to 79.99. And I'll never forget stepping up to the shelf, picking up my first box of Red Hat Linux and feeling so proud that I was one of those in the shop interested in this operating system. I knew that few others there had the stones to give it a try and it gave my ego a boost.
But even more important, it gave the Linux operating system a presence. People, average Janes, could see for themselves that there were alternatives to Windows and those alternatives could be very, very cheap.
And they had a shiny, shrink-wrapped box in their hand to prove it.
But now about the only way to get Linux is to download the iso image or, in the case of Ubuntu, know how to request a CD be shipped to you. Just another layer between the people and the machine keeping Linux from growing even more popular.
Linux needs to return to the shelves. Linux needs shiny plastic boxes (and aluminum Christmas trees) so people can touch it and know it's there and real. This gives the operating system, and it's people, validity.
Problem is, it's free. Okay, so it's not really a problem. But it makes things a bit muddy. You see if I wanted to I could take Ubuntu (or any distribution for that matter), repackage it, call it mine, and sell it on the shelves. But not very many people who are interested in the success of Linux have deep enough pockets to foot that bill.
And now with Microsoft releasing a new version of Windows that will pollute the software departments of every store, Linux is going to find it even harder to gain new ground, to entice new users.
So how do we do it? Do we burn iso's on our own and pass them out at every LUG gathering we can? Well, that won't do much because you're preaching to the choir. Do we give them out to our geek-wanna-be friends at Christmas time and tell them they will finally find peace on earth (at least with their computer)?
It's a tough shell to crack. But there has to be someway to get Linux back on the shelves and into the hands of the people. I miss walking through the isles of the geek-stops and glowing because I AM A LINUX USER!
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 jackwallen.com.