Ubuntu: It's time to tackle the marketing machine, open source style

With the addition of an iTunes-like music service, Jack Wallen sees Ubuntu 10.04 being a huge hit. But it's going to require some help from the Ubuntu community. Read on to see how he thinks the community can help the Ubuntu distribution.

Ubuntu. Ah Ubuntu. My old friend. That Linux desktop OS that pried my fingers away from the likes of Fedora, Mandriva, SuSE, and many others. That operating system that has made it quite simple for the unwashed masses to enjoy the Linux operating system without having to so much as lift a finger at the command line. That operating system that, despite being one of the best (if not THE best) desktop operating systems available, still cannot gain any traction.

But that can change. For sure. In just over three months Ubuntu 10.04 will release. This release will offer something no other operating system has to offer - a built-in music service. That's right. In the newest release of the Ubuntu Software Center you will find an "iTunes-like" music service that will allow you to purchase music from the same application that allows you to install applications. I would image this will be a partnership with Amazon's digital music download service (seeing as how Amazon already has a version of its MP3 download tool for Linux). The music service will work in conjunction with either Rhythmbox or Banshee like so:

  1. Search for music through music player app (Rhythmbox or Banshee, thanks to an integrated web browser engine inside the music player).
  2. Music store will open up in music player.
  3. Purchase music.
  4. Music will download to ~/Music.
  5. Listen to music with music app.

Sounds an awful lot like iTunes does it not? And why shouldn't it? Apple did get that service right early on. But one thing that will be different with Ubuntu is that this whole shebang will be built into the operating system without the addition of extra software. You install the OS, start Rhythmbox (or Banshee), and start purchasing music. How simple is that? And soon enough commercial software will join the mix inside of the Ubuntu Software Center.

At least for the average user, this could be a game changer. But Ubuntu HAS to market themselves. Ubuntu needs to have boxed copies of 10.04 on shelves at big box stores. In fact, I would take this one step further and tell Ubuntu to actually put a price on these boxed versions. I would think the average user would gladly pay 20 bucks for an operating system that, upon installation, will have a built-in, iTunes-like music service out of the box. No batteries required. Think of how simple the marketing would be:

  • No viruses.
  • No malware.
  • No reboots.
  • And now...built-in app and music store!
  • Half the calories and twice the flavor!

When this boxed operating system is placed on the same shelf (selling at $19.99 or $29.99) as Apple OSX and Windows 7, people are going to give Ubuntu a look and many people will purchase Ubuntu.

But seriously...community

Canonical has created one of the finest operating systems on the market - but without the market backing them. When 9.04 (and 9.10) released, it did so with little fanfare. That was a mistake because this release was just shy of brilliant. With 10.04 adding music to the app "store" mix, Ubuntu could easily have a HUGE hit on their hands. But that hit will go unheard if there is no marketing. But since Ubuntu is open source, and follows in a very open source-like manner, this marketing might fall into the hands of the community. That, of course, is where things get a bit interesting.

Because Linux is open source, it depends upon its community for so much. This time around, I would ask the Ubuntu community at large to give Canonical a hand and start the market machine up themselves. Let's do this. But do what?

  1. Since most people now get their information online, what better place to start. So the Ubuntu community can create a vast online marketing campaign for Ubuntu 10.04. Create web sites that pimp the new release and get links to that site from everyone possible. Not just geek-friendly sites, but wherever news is published.
  2. Take it to the streets. If you're in a city that has crowded city streets, start a flyer campaign and hand out flyers spelling out the benefits and features of Ubuntu 10.04.
  3. Attack the YouTube generation. There are plenty of Ubuntu community members that are aspiring filmmakers. Create clever videos and put them up on YouTube. Cash in on the "I'm a Mac I'm a PC" video idea - you know where to take it from there.

I'm sure the community can think of plenty of other ways to stir up a frenzy for Ubuntu 10.04. But it has to start now. The seed of desire must be planted before the sun ever shines on this patch of dirt. I am calling out the Ubuntu community and throwing down the gauntlet. You help make this, you help sell this. If you love your distribution as much as you say you do, then it's time for you to take your distribution to the masses. And to do that, you are going to have to give to Linux what Linux can't give to Linux - marketing. It's the Achilles' heel of Linux. The one thing it epic fails at.

If you go to the Ubuntu Community Page, you will see links to nearly every aspect of the operating system. You can contribute (code, artwork, documentation), you can get help, you can even read the code of conduct. The one thing you cannot do is help market the operating system. This is a missing feature from my perspective. If I write a novel and decide to do on-demand publishing, I am in charge of the marketing of that book. I think it's time the Ubuntu community took charge of the marketing of their operating system.

Let's begin the campaign now. Hang the banners, print the stickers, create the videos and flyers, wear your tee shirts. The fight is on to tackle the marketing machine, open source style!