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5 Reasons that Linux is a failure

By dcolbert Contributor ·
1: Returns of Linux netbooks are currently 4:1 against XP based netbooks.

If ever there was a platform that was suited to all the claimed and perceived strengths of Tux, it would be the low powered, no frills world of the Netbook PC. Yet consumers, by a 4 to 1 margin, are picking XP based netbooks over their Linux counterparts. This failure to leverage an opportunity when Microsoft execution has been flawed, via Vista - illustrates how far behind Linux is. Linux can't afford to let opportunities like this slip by, but by losing the early advantage in the emerging Netbook market, that is exactly what the Linux community is doing. Losing the Netbook market, which I feel is almost a certain thing to happen, could be a critical and fatal misstep for Linux, preventing it from ever becoming a serious contender in the OS "wars". The emergence of Netbooks is the opportunity for Linux to establish itself as a serious contender to Microsoft, and even more importantly, to establish that the OS platform is not actually important. But at present, the Linux community is letting that opportunity pass it by, which is likely to be a far bigger blunder than any mistake Redmond made with the release of Vista.

2: The "Linux is leaner" argument is a myth.

I've been saying for awhile, I can get XP running far better on a Presario 305M "subnotebook" with 128mb of RAM and a 4gb hard-drive (call it a pre-netbook) than any distro of Linux, if I want comparable features. This is a 333mhz Celeron machine. Linux bloat is as bad - if not worse than XP.

3: Linux "Just Works" and is suitable for end users.

The most annoying thing about this is that XP "Just Works", a familiar claim that Linux cannot deliver on this particular box. Linux may be able to be MADE to work on it - but, why would you hassle with the OS other than for the challenge and academic reasons? I recently acquired a EEE PC, and considered sticking with the Xandros distro on it. After trying to load a simple Mp4 video and having it fail to provide audio or video despite "playing" the file, I quickly removed *nix and added Win XP. I suppose I could have messed around with Xandros for hours, days or weeks to get it to work - but instead a "click yes to install" default XP installation resolved that, and likely many more problems. Normal people do not want to spend hours messing with fine tuning and tweaking their OS to get it to do something, merely for the achievement. They want to be doing it, transparently, without having to worry about the infrastructure that allows them to be productive.

4: Linux is more stable than Win32.

Now, this one is difficult to address. The Linux kernel itself is undoubtedly more stable than the Win32 kernel, even today. So if you're content just running a CLI interface and simple non-graphical applications and utilities than run from the CLI, then Linux had an advantage. But once you add Xfree86, and then a Windows Manager, and then an application that runs under that Windows Manager, you've added 3 additional layers of complexity to that model of simplicity, and 3 times are many opportunities for instability. KDE applications are particularily grevious offenders, in my experience - but GIMP isn't immune. Most users don't differentiate between where a failure occurs. Hardware, Infrastructure, OS or Application. All they know is that if something goes wrong it disrupts their productivity. So, we can split hairs on this argument, but ultimately, the perception is what is important. If Open Office is constantly crashing with a SEV error or cannot load a file correctly doesn't matter to the end user - and they certainly don't care if the crash occurs at the OS level or at the particular application.

5: Linux is easier.

Ok... so, there isn't anybody, even the die-hard Accolytes of the Temple of Linux, who are making this claim. But that is the problem. Linux isn't easier. It isn't even easy. Now, some Linux proponents are willing to try to spin this, and I give them an A for effort. "Linux is harder, but it is worth it". There are various explaination for exactly what the "reward" is. It is liberating to be free of the Microsoft Yoke. It is socially responsible to support the ideals of the *nix community. It is mentally stimulating to use an OS that is challening - it broadens your technical skills and understanding, and countless others. The one that you won't hear is that the reward is that you can quickly, simply and efficiently be up and running productively on any task you might endeavor to attempt. Unfortunately, that is the one that the average user is interested in, and the one that Linux can't deliver. Thus, we see a 4:1 return ratio on Linux based netbooks and a mad rush among Netbook manufacturers to move away from customized Linux platforms to WinXP and even Vista.

With Netbooks forecast to be one of the hottest items this holiday season, with rumored deep discounting coming up this Black Friday, this really presented an opportunity for Linux to gain massive visibility into a previously largely uncracked market segment. But instead, it is more likely that this Black Friday and the following holiday season are instead going to see Microsoft dominante yet another platform while reducing Linux once again to a bit player. I've seen a growing lack of confidence for Linux throughout the tech community, an erosion of enthusiasim for the potential of this platform. Despite the buzz regarding cloud computing and the browser as an OS replacement - despite the arrival of powerful and useful personal convergence electronics like the iPhone, Android Phones and Netbooks - Linux has not been effective at leveraging these market changes. That failure to execute may be the swam-song of Linux - at least in regards to ever being a major player.

None of this means that Linux is inferior. But I don't think it is superior, either. The thing is, Linux is better for some things, and worse for others. This seems lost on many Linux advocates. Linux is not a silver bullet. Far from it. In fact, Linux is highly specialized and very well tailored to very specific needs, but woefully disadvantaged at operating in the "mean". Linux users seem to have a real chip on their shoulder and a inferiority complex that makes them tend to overcompensate. They revel in the fact that Linux is obscure, arcane, and requires a superior intellect. They revel in the fact that Linux is somewhat counter-culture and inaccessible to the masses. Yet, the feel that Linux should be all things to all people and they constantly seek affirmation by way of comparisson to other products. They inevitably find that Linux is "superior", although it is quite clear that this requires a form of mental yoga that often defies rational thought. In the meantime, their aggressive, condenscending attitude to anyone that won't drink their special Kool-Aid makes theirs one of the more unpleasant communities on the internet. I'm happy for those of you who enjoy Linux and take whatever benefit, real or imagined, physical or mental, from that action. I'm glad for Linux and the competition it brings to the marketplace. The fine line exists where Linux-reality approaches untruth, where tech-journalists who are also Linux advocates stretch and distort reality. I think the flurry of anti-Vista rhetoric over the last two years or so is an example of this. I don't think the Linux community is alone in culpability for this, either. Apple is likely the biggest culprit, having aggressively promoted a highly popular and successful campaign that often stretches the limits of truth and honest advertising. In fact, the irony of the pot calling the kettle black in Apple Mac/PC ads have often been the most amusing part of that particular campaign. The sheer balls of Apple to implicate that a Mac has better peripheral support than Win32 (by indicating that the Mac speaks to a Japanese "camera" that the PC cannot speak with) is only eclipsed by an add that implicates that Microsoft is spending huge sums of money on advertising Vista that would be better spent on improving their product. I mean really, how much has the PC/Mac campaign cost APPLE over the last 5+ years, and how much better would their product be if they had put that money into R&D? The PC/Mac ads have launched Hollywood careers, for Christ's sake. How come rational people can't see through the logical inconsistency of a prime-time commercial taking another company to task for running prime-time commercials? Especially a company that encourages people to think independently and critically. I'm Jack's amused grin.

Now, really, I think it is becoming readily more apperant that Vista has turned a corner recently, and that parallels between Vista and XP (adoption, lifecycle and stability) are appropriate and fitting. The reason I chose to post this at Tech Republic, and in this particular format, should be obvious. There are certain segments of this industry that don't want to see the anti-Vista rhetoric die away. But the fact is, Linux has every reason and interest in acting just a ruthless and cut-throat in promoting Linux adoption as Mac or Microsoft. To that end, just like a political campaign, there is a large incentive to tarnishing the reputation of your opponent while over-estimating the value of your own (Candidate or product). That is really a fitting analogy. Both a poltical campaign and an advertising campaign have the same
goals; to convince someone to pick one choice over another. But to those who are the target of these campaigns, it is always important to maintain a truly critical perspective and to have a nose for the hyperbole, exaggerations, and outright lies. In particular when any campaign turns "dirty". In the case of Linux, when you look beyond the hyperbole, exaggerations and outright lies, the numbers and facts - in the case of netbooks - tell a very important and undeniable truth. Average consumers, for some reason or another, are rejecting Linux *in this segment*, by what appears to be a SIGNIFICANT margin. Now, no doubt some of the returns are based on people expecting a true laptop experience from a Netbook and being disappointed by the netbook experience. The early perponderence of Linux based netbooks probably means that the returns of Linux based netbooks are going to be skewed further. Regardless, a quick browse at Amazon or Tiger Direct shows that XP has quickly gained on Linux in the netbook segment, and 4:1 returns still indicate that a significant reason for this disparity is Linux itself. The very fact that vendors and manufacturers have so quickly adopted XP in the netbook segment would serve to illustrate that there is demand for XP and dissatisfaction with Linux in this market. The prospective Linux convert should weigh THAT factor very seriously before considering a change. Based on this fact, a prospective Linux convert should be skeptical of the claims made about the opposition. Based on all of that, it is crucial that potential Linux converts research their consideration seriously, carefully weighing all factors, before they jump. As we head into the holiday season, unless you are familiar with Linux, I would recommend that you do NOT make the jump into Linux with a brand new netbook purchase, at the very least. The numbers show that if you do, you are liable to become an unsatisfied statistic.

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I'll take the bait

by jmgarvin In reply to 5 Reasons that Linux is a ...

1) You assume Linux is a single company with marketing.

2) Citation Needed

3) I can't play MP4s on my Windows XP box. I have to download VLC or iTunes. The nice thing is that most distros save me that step with graphical installers that magically grab packages for you, rather than hunting on the web for it.

4) The difference is that Linux is far more graceful when errors do happen.

5) How is Linux more difficult for the average user? All they need is email, browser, and a word processor. Linux fills that need and does so very easily and FAR more securely.

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Holy cow!

by Forum Surfer In reply to 5 Reasons that Linux is a ...

This one is gonna last for days. I like Linux and feel it is great for certain applications, netbooks in particular.

However, you can't deny the huge return of so many net books. Is it the consumer's fault for not researching the product they purchased? Yes! Is it the consumer's fault for not taking the time to learn a different OS as opposed to running back to the store for a refund? Yes! Maybe the manufacturer should put big "This is not a Windows product sticker" on the box?

None of this is a failure for Linux or the Linux community. Speaking of the community, some out there are very helpful, polite and respectful. Others are exactly as you described. But the same thing can be said of Windows admins, network admins, programmers or DBA's.

Still, you can't ignore the high return rate.

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by jck In reply to Holy cow!

None of this is a failure for Linux or the Linux community. Speaking of the community, some out there are very helpful, polite and respectful. Others are exactly as you described. But the same thing can be said of Windows admins, network admins, programmers or DBA's.

Agreed. Plus, the multitude of Linux wikis and sites out there are much easier to search and research than Microsoft's "knowledge base".

The high return rate sucks, but I think that's cause new PC owners want to be lazy and play...not actually think about what they are doing.

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Not completely agreeing.

by Forum Surfer In reply to agreed

All the wikis are a nice touch, yes. Most of the time I just eed a gentle nudge in the right direction, not a complete wiki. It is comforting to know they are out there in case I do need them.

But I have zero problems searching the net for Microsoft issues and finding a solution quickly. I always find xp, vista, sharepoint, exchange, dpm, office or whatver m$ product help relatively quickly and easily. Sometimes I find the answer in the knowledge base other times on other sites. LEt's face it....M$, Apple and *nix all have a strong web presence and countless communities to help guide us.

And also all goes back to the consumer being cheap and lazy. They want a full fledged powerhouse laptop for $400 and it just isn't going to happen. They buy a $300 laptop runing *nix, a handful of grade school learning games for windows and a copy of Crysis, then get mad and return it all because their kid can't play it. Consumers are lazy and uninformed in alot of areas, but that is their right to be lazy and uninformed.

Lol, I just think stores should have more stringent return polices. Once upon a time when you bought something you couldn't return an item unless it didn't work, not because it doesn't work like you THOUGHT it did. :)

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There's the lazy accusation again.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Not completely agreeing.

When consumers buy retail systems and all they've ever seen was Windows, they expect Windows. There's nothing to research if you don't know alternatives exist. It's not an Apple, ergo it's Windows. Apple and MS's combined campaigns equating 'PC' with 'Windows' hasn't helped.

If the only cars you've driven have automatic transmissions, and all your friends and family have automatic transmissions, and you don't know manual trannys even exist, are you going to ask the sales person what kind of transmission the car has? And are you going to learn to drive that manual transmission or take the car back? That doesn't make you lazy.

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by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to There's the lazy accusati ...

And ditto that.

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by jck In reply to There's the lazy accusati ...

However, most people just get a computer and don't take the time to look into things. They just boot it, click around, and if they don't understand something just go onto the next thing until they hear something about it.

Initiative to learn and pursuit of knowledge about a new PC is not the foremost drive to a PC user...playing their game or surfing the net is the biggest objective.

If you went to a car lot and saw a car you liked and wanted to drive, but then saw a manual tranmission and had never seen a car with one. Would you just move onto the next car and not ask and not get to try your dreamcar, or would you ask the salesman what it was in hopes you could drive it and get it?

Most computer users don't google UAC, the Vista performance analyzer, etc. They just click the OK and move on. If they did, they would have been the biggest searches on Google trends at Vista's release.

People are lazy by nature, especially in America where we take modern convenience and indulgences to a higher level. If we don't have to make the time or effort to go to 5 stores and can just go to one, that's what we do.

Hence, why Wal-Mart is so big: people like the convenience of being lazy.

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I think it does make consumers lazy

by Forum Surfer In reply to There's the lazy accusati ...

If I spend more tha $100 on anything, I make sure I know what I'm buying. If I buy a computer/laptop, I want to know who makes the chipset, the processor, the gfx card and what os is on it. If I buy a car, I research the motor, transmissio, recalls and alot of other factors. I still say it is consumers being too lazy to research what they spend their money on. Then they get all pi$$y when it isn't what they wanted. We live in a world where you can buy a product and return it because it doesn't do what you thought it could. If the consumer were misinformed enough to buy it, the consumer's fault not the reseller or manufacturer. I think we should hold people accountable to their purchases. Bought a netbook on a whim that won't run turbo tax? Oh with it and research the purchase next time! I think it makes the consumer uninformed and too lazy to make him/herself a informed consumer concious about where they are putting their money. But again, that would be their right and they should have to face stricter return policies other than "it doesn't do what I wanted it to do." If it does what the box says, it is property of the consumer and non returnable imo.

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by chris In reply to I think it does make cons ...

what's yer point?

might as well have said, the sun is bright.

I research the things I care about (computers, cars, motorcycle, insurance policies, etc) but I have never researched shoes. I just pick a pair that looks cool and try em on (like people do when they click a mouse at best buy).

If I get home and don't like em or they are uncomfortable I return them.

The ability to return them is why I am comfortable giving the store my money.

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by jck In reply to Not completely agreeing.

Consumers are lazy and uninformed in alot of areas, but that is their right to be lazy and uninformed.

True. And, it's my right to charge those people who are too lazy to read and too uninformed to do their own easy PC maintenance...$50 an hour to do it for them.

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