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Too Many Linux Distros Make For Open Source Mess 554

Posted by samzenpus
from the 300-flavors dept.
AlexGr writes "Remember the 1980s worries about how the "forking" of Unix could hurt that operating system's chances for adoption? That was nothing compared to the mess we've got today with Linux, where upwards of 300 distributions vie for the attention of computer users seeking an alternative to Windows."
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Too Many Linux Distros Make For Open Source Mess

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  • Hrm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NaCh0 (6124) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:04AM (#19911269)
    Must be a really slow news day to bring back this ancient argument.

  • How many... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gunny01 (1022579) <niggerslol@NosPAM.nigs.us> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:05AM (#19911277) Homepage
    are actually in use though? Ubuntu, Fedora, SUSE, Redhat, Gentoo, Slackware, Debian? There are many distros, but most are specialized forks. Most people would use one of the listed ones.
  • by mrjb (547783) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:07AM (#19911293)
    You don't need to know all 300 distros to make a good choice. It is pretty clear which distros are mainstream and which ones are not. If you are looking for a general-purpose replacement for general-purpose Windows, you can go with Ubuntu, Suse, Redhat, Debian or Mandriva. Almost only if you're "hardcore", you will dive into special-purpose distros such as business card/feather linux, freesco, etc. That is from a user perspective. From developers perspective there is such a thing as LSB.
  • yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scapermoya (769847) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:08AM (#19911303) Homepage
    I have always kinda thought that this was at least one of the reasons why linux adoption is low among the 'mild computer user' crowd. It isn't easy to explain to them either, since there isn't a corollary in the "windows world" where nearly all of those users reside (with good reason).

    maybe with this recent gathering of support behind ubuntu there is the potential for more of a standard-bearer in the linux world, at least in the eyes of those who only use windows/osx.
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FyRE666 (263011) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:09AM (#19911311) Homepage
    It's not really a choice of 300 anyway for business; there are only two main distros: SuSE and Redhat. Sure, I've used others on production systems, but those two are focused on business users, and have the support systems in place that the overwhelming majority of the other distros don't. Personally I use Ubuntu and Gentoo at home, but wouldn't choose these for the company servers.

    BTW, where the hell is the option to respond to the original article?! I can only respond to an existing article now...
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by froggero1 (848930) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:13AM (#19911339)
    one of the good things about linux is that there's many five (give or take) spots that the marjority of the casual home based linux guy is going to choose. that said, there's these other 350+ distros competing for a peice of that action. competition = good... cathedral... bazaar... we've done this argument before.

    just because the top guy changes every once in a while, doesn't mean anything in respect to the quality of the guy sitting on top, they've still got to beat out the other plethora of distros.

    ps: the reply button is in the floaty box to the left now.
  • same old, same old (Score:4, Insightful)

    by l3v1 (787564) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:26AM (#19911415)
    Remember the 1980s worries about how the "forking" of Unix could hurt that operating system's chances for adoption?

    Yes, I remember. All of us can see now how "forking" hurt Linux's adoption. Not. Besides, wouldn't hurt to try figuring out what the difference between forks and distros are before next time.

  • Re:How many... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruising-slashdot@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:27AM (#19911421) Homepage Journal
    You forgot Mandriva (which is a great distro for people who want lots of shiny eye candy and the ability to use Red Hat packages - at least, I think it's still compatible with them - and it's relatively newcomer-friendly) and Knoppix (which almost nobody would install, but most Linux types and more then a few Windows users will have a copy of it somewhere). Mepis deserves mention as well, I'd say... its package selection could be better, but it's a great distro in terms of hardware support, pioneered the install-from-LiveCD approach Ubuntu uses, and uses KDE, which in its default layout is more comfortable to Windows users than GNOME (of course, there is always Kubuntu as well).

    I have never used RHEL, is it really that different from Fedora?
  • by jhoger (519683) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:39AM (#19911463) Homepage
    The striking thing about all of the distros I've seen is that barring incidental things like packaging systems, KDE or Gnome, etc. they are largely the same. The biggest change I've seen of late is an huge increase in quality of the free-as-in-freedom distros.

    But why would you want to invest a large %age of your time making something that well, is already done reasonably well by somebody else.

    What would be nice is if the smaller distros start to take a role of really experimenting and breaking the rules.

    OLPC is an example of what I'm talking about. They work from requirements, think outside the box and have come up with something truly amazing, something new.

    So those slaving away on their boutique distro that looks like the rest, please, find something better to do, like really innovating. That's the only way to make your distro a break-out success anyway.

    It's kind of like US presidential candidates. The field starts out pretty wide but you know early on most of them don't have a chance. The fringe candidates should at least make themselves useful, speak the truth and stir things up.

    -- John.
  • by OwlWhacker (758974) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:46AM (#19911503) Homepage Journal
    Too many Linux distros make for Open Source mess

    Isn't that the same as suggesting too many different brands of cellular telephone make for a communications mess?

    "Oh dear me, there are far too many different cell phones! How do I choose? What do I do? Oh, damn it, I'll just send letters instead."

    I think not.
  • Lol... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msimm (580077) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:48AM (#19911513) Homepage
    Most people don't know a thing about the throng of Linux based distros. It's more an insider joke. You're mild computer user knows one or two at best. If they know more they've been digging around and no longer fit the category.

    The truth is that the diversity is great. I don't want to see 1000's of distros pushed mainstream per-se, but there is often a reason for the variety. It suits someone anyway.

    What I would like to see is more collaboration. Why is Redhat/Fedora building the cludgy system-config* and Suse sticking with YAST while Mandrake (who seems to be losing favor but has committed all their development to the GPL) created DrakeConfig, which actually almost worked.
  • It doesn't matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by doyoulikeworms (1094003) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:51AM (#19911529)
    Because the average person that has even heard of Linux only knows of one distro: Ubuntu.
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SamSim (630795) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @04:06AM (#19911581) Homepage Journal
    Just because an argument's ancient doesn't mean it's not still valid. Plus, after all, the number of distributions has been rising for a long time. Maybe the argument carries more weight now than it used to.
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b1ufox (987621) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @04:13AM (#19911603) Homepage Journal
    The problem which author perhaps missed can summed up as -
      - lack of coherency of packages/package management and tools among distros.
      - lack of a common template or rules or standards over which distros can be made.

    But at the same time it does happen doesn't it? e.g for car there are a thousand varities out there. Anyway To protect this LSB(linux standards base) is formed.

    BTW linux kernel is still same and shared by all.Only versions used are different.

    So its just the userspace tools and programs which vary. And thats not bad as different people have different taste.
  • by simong (32944) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @04:21AM (#19911633) Homepage
    If this piece of pointless fluff is in the paper edition of Information Week, there are number of the more clue-free CTOs in this world reading it and going 'hmmm, maybe I shouldn't listen to the sysadmins and put this new application on Windows Server 2003 instead of Debian Linux'. Microsoft win another couple of licenses and the CTO gains a few more enemies. This sort of article has 'FNORD' overprinted on it in invisible ink. The answer, as always, is to be more prepared than the bosses.
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Asmodai (13932) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @04:57AM (#19911797) Homepage
    It has validity, the argument that more is better does not necessarily hold true. If you look at the uptake numbers you will see large clusters around projects like: Red Hat, Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian, Slackware, Gentoo, Red Flag and SuSE (and perhaps 1 or 2 others I forget now). The rest of the distributions leads a marginal existence unless they satisfy a very local need (Red Flag or one of those Indic-supporting ones).

    So what else do those distributions serve except egocentrical purposes, especially since the majority consists from taking a large well-known distribution and only tweaking it slightly and, tada, Monkey Nutsack Linux is born.

    Seriously, for most consumers, assuming Linux is still going after Windows and the desktop, more choice is not necessarily better, especially not when it numbers in the hundreds.
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @05:09AM (#19911845) Journal

    Surely you mean, those of us who failed to see it the first two hundred times. Or so.

  • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by giorgiofr (887762) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @05:18AM (#19911891)
    "Most consumers" do not care about Linux; those that do, only care because their geek friend is trying to make them switch. Said geek will choose a suitable distro and install it for them. And, for the intended market, any major distro is just as good.
    The fragmentation of Linux distros has nothing to do with it being slowly accepted as a mainstream OS; lack of specialized apps, shaky hardware support and the usual suspects are to blame for that. As well as the fact that for most people Windows and pirated Office Just Work(tm) (which they kinda do, come to think of it) so why change?
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lord sibn (649162) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @05:28AM (#19911947)
    Indeed. JoeLinux may be "competing" with the major distributions for attention, but there really are only a few major players out there. JoeLinux is going to have to be one awesome distribution if it is going to really come out of nowhere and get somebody's attention, something like Gentoo and Ubuntu did.

    Until that happens, JoeLinux may as well only exist for Joe and his nerd buddies; to complain about having "too many distributions" is (to me) kind of like complaining at having too many McDonalds (or whatever your preferred chain is). They are all similar. They all serve mostly the same food, with mostly the same flavour. So you should only need one or two, right?

    (Disclaimer: I checked for the existence of JoeLinux at distrowatch, but the closest match I found was "JoLinux," which is absolutely not the fictitious distribution to which I was referring)
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SnowZero (92219) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @05:33AM (#19911981)
    There are also too many flavors of ice cream. I mean, with the hundreds of flavors around, how can businesses buying ice cream for their employees ever narrow it to just a few flavors that their employees will likely approve of? The choice is just too difficult.
  • by linhux (104645) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @05:39AM (#19912017) Homepage
    I work with QA in a team that produces traditional closed-source software for Linux. The thing is, thanks do the fact that there are so many Linux distribution, our software quality automatically increases. This is how it works: we, of course, need to test on as many distros as possible. Naturally, we focus on the distros that customers use. But basically, we just shove in as many different Linux variants as possible into our testing systems (given our hardware constraints), and each night test the latest nightly builds on some 30+ different distribution/version/architecture combinations. This might seem like a lot of work, but it turns out we can find the most obscure bugs thanks to testing on such a diverse set of platforms. And in the end, this gives us an advantage in that it forces us to produce code that works well on pretty much all different kinds of Linux configurations out there. Usually, since the more specialised distributions tend to be based on one of the mainstream ones, we automatically cover most of them too. If a big customer starts using a customized Linux distribution, we're likely to add that to our automatic testing system, too, but usually the big names are enough.

    So while it may seem a hassle to test on a vast number of platform, it really makes you think about code robustness and quality in a different way. Of course, there is a long way to go in certain areas, not to mention universal third-party package management and desktop integration, but we're slowly getting there, too.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @05:43AM (#19912031) Journal
    It wasn't ever true. Linux distros were never like the great Unix fragmentation mess.

    What we have now are maybe 10% distros which pack a _slightly_ different mix of the same tools, or just different default tools, or sometimes just and maybe have a slightly different config tool. Or maybe they'll install one tool in /opt (e.g., SuSE) which others install in /usr. And about 90% which just download RedHat's RPM's and put their own name and logo on it, so basically they don't even really count as different distros.

    Either way, from an end-user point of view, whop-de-do, you run the same tools, with the same options and the same interface. That's especially important because for an end-user the OS doesn't even really matter. The computer is just a tool, and the OS is... well, I think Joe Average isn't even sure what the OS is, he just knows he has to have one to run the important part: the apps. What matters is what you can run on that computer. (See the endless "but it doesn't run MS Office" and "but I can't play the latest games on it" arguments.)

    Even if one distro skipped a tool you want, you know, there's nothing to stop you to download it yourself.

    The Unix fragmentation was a whole different issue. Each of the major vendors actually worked hard to lock their customers in. Unix got fuc^H^H^H forked so hard, it wasn't compatible even at source level any more.

    As I always remind people, people want interoperability and open standards when they're the underdog, and they want free access to the top dog's customers. When they're on top, even on a niche, they don't want that any more. Then they want walled gardens and penned captive customers that they can milk and shear regularly. Then they want you to think, "damn, if I get a mainframe to replace these aging Sun servers we have, we'll have to change all this mountain of source code, and for some we don't even have the devs any more and for some, well, we thought we're smart if we get it cheaper without sources... oh well, better buy the next servers from Sun too." And the difference in parameters and effects for the supplied tools, meant you got to retrain all your admins and rewrite your scripts too.

    When you're at the top of your own niche, it's all about trade barriers. You want to make it as hard as possible for a competitor to steal your customers. (And unsurprisingly, IBM for example was not only on the receiving end of an antitrust trial long before MS, but also the word FUD was originally used about IBM's practices.)

    So, anyway, that's what they did there: each took their own fork of Unix and ran in their own direction with it, as far from everyone else as they could and could afford to. AIX and Solarix, for example, weren't just different distros, they were almost different operating systems. "Portability" was only a buzzword everyone used only in marketing, but tried to keep it to a minimum otherwise. It meant little more than that they all had a C compiler (but even then with subtle "improvements" of their own), and they had to have the same standard C library (but again, each felt free to make their own subtle "improvements" to it.)

    What I'm getting at is: in a way the plethora of distros is even a good thing in that aspect. Noone is that secure at the top, or even king of the hill at all. (Not to mention they're all underdogs in the shadow of the 800 pound gorilla called Microsoft.) Noone is in a position to fork their version of Linux and try to lock customers in it.

    Lock-in doesn't work when you're the underdog. The same fence that keeps your customers from escaping, also keeps you from reaching everyone else's customers. So noone does it when they have 10% of the market. At that point, you want open standards.

    And with the current Linux market structure, we're pretty safe and secure that everyone will want open standards for the next decade straight. Unless MS manages to implode, anyway.
  • by rbanffy (584143) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @06:50AM (#19912237) Homepage Journal
    When we saw the Unix fragmentation, we saw a bunch of different flavors that ran each on some kind of proprietary hardware (or a bit less proprietary, when it used an industry standard bus like VME) that were actively marketed by the makers of such hardware and were deliberately incompatible with each other in order to provide some measure of lock-in and differentiation on a largely common software platform.

    If we ignore the vanity Linuxes (the ones someone did to claim they made one) and the specific-purpose ones (router-on-a-floppy, rescue, media-box) and the opportunistic ones ("let's nail some OEM deal to make some cash" kind) we are left with only a handful of very serious vendors pitching what amounts to be the same product plus some limited bells and whistles, that run on mostly any computer you happen to have, and making money out of supporting it rather than selling you disks (or tapes, if we account for those ancient times) and servers/workstations.

    The difference is that I could not run the same binaries on my DG Aviion systems and on my IBM AIX boxes. I can install a Red Hat package on my Ubuntu notebook any time I feel like it (I usually don't)
  • Ecosystem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @07:04AM (#19912275) Homepage
    Earth has 1,250,000 species of animal. This is obviously a bad thing, and we should limit this to just 1 or 2 for the greater good!

    Yes some Linux distros are a bit pointless, a fair few are redundant and some serve a niche that doesn't exist. But we actually need a large number of distros suited for different environments and in each niche the needs to be some competition to ensure quality.

    A small list of niches off the top of my head:
    Ideological (Debian)
    Source based (Gentoo)
    Business Server (RHEL, SUSE Server)
    Business Desktop (RedHat, SUSE Desktop)
    Home (Ubuntu, Linspire)
    LiveCD (Knoppix, Morphix)
    Router (LEAF, FREESCO)
    Specialist (Musix, GNUstep)
    Localised (Red Flag, this is really a whole extra dimension with server/desktop distros etc. needed for each local).

    And that doesn't take into accounts preferences like Gnome/KDE, architecture, stable/bleading edge, security/easy of use etc, all of which can effect distro choice in any of the categories above.
  • by garfi5h (1130099) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @07:14AM (#19912313)

    Then again, when you wait for a new version of your OS for five years or more, it is understandable that you want to upgrade immediately;
    Then again, for a lowly small-sized company, they would want to have their Windows Millennium Edition supported for a millennium because they couldn't afford another costly upgrade that would surely break their budget.
  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @07:31AM (#19912379)
    "Precisely how many distros there are is probably unknown"
        How is that important, and who really cares?
        It's a lot better than being roped into something you have no
        way out of. At least with Open Source, you have options to
        do things differently if they're not working.

    "Ubuntu, which is clearly the flavor of the month "
        Debian has been a favorite for a long time. It may be one
        of the oldest distros. Ubuntu is merely icing on top of a
        Debian based system. If you remove all the init 5 stuff, you
        basically have a command line Debian system ready to be anything
        you want it to be. As well as a robust update system and all
        the great free stuff that makes linux so great.

        Other distros follow this same paradigm. Centos, Fedora, Red Hat.
        The underpinnings (since you are in an arcane mood) are the same,
        It's the name that changes.

    "Ah, so Linux is like a religion."
        If you mean Linux is based on on the idea of something that works and
        has a large following of people that understand it's advantages,
        then yes.

    "It is indeed true that the kernel hasn't forked in any significant way"
        Other than XFree86, I haven't had any other forks impact me in the least.
        And the xorg fork was a necessity. I think forking is good to the extent
        that it drives people to come up with new ideas. The duplicating effort
        argument I dont agree with. If we hadn't re-invented the wheel at least
        once, we'd still be riding on round stones.

    "There's no other way to put it: Linux is a forking mess."
        And not under the control of a forking monopoly. Just because you find
        duplicated effort in many different distros doesn't mean that's automatically
        bad. You need to understand that people need to experiment. Distrowatch
        is evidence of the experimenting people are doing. You should be glad
        these people are putting alternatives out there for you. When you go to
        write your column in Vista someday and you DRM key says your running a
        pirated version and shuts you out, you'll consider it Linux again.

    "So I'll grant readers that, if there's anything amiss with my argument"
        Oh, there's plenty amiss. I think you got up on the wrong side of the
        bed this morning. Everyone has bad days, it sounds like this is your's.
       
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spike1 (675478) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @07:33AM (#19912391)
    2 major ones with the huge split?
    FFS, if you're talking about redhat's RPM and debian's DEB packaging systems, there isn't a "split". A split implies they both forked from the same distro. Those two formed independently in the distant past and now exist quite happily together. RPM and DEB users can even install software from the other side if they deem it neccesary, although it's better to stick with the repositories setup by the distro in question.

    So no, there IS no problem. Any more than there's a problem that both manual and automatic geared automobiles exist.
    The packaging system has only a miniscule affect on how the system operates anyway and most of the time the user won't even notice.

    In what way is the driver model a compromise? Where is there a superior driver model?
    Come on, if you're going to troll, you may as well try to back it up with some facts.

    X11 is not worthless. If you want to claim it is you'll have to back it up with some words, rather than just insinuation.
    Both gnome and KDE are valid desktops, dunno where in hell you got the "thin client" thing from, you've got no idea what a thin client is if you think that.

    And finally, the GPL. Like it or not there's no way linux is dropping the GPL, so don't even bother dreaming about it. It's here to stay and any company that decided they were going to WITHDRAW linux support would only be shooting themselves in the foot considering its populariry. 10 years ago, they might've thought "no point supporting it" but now... It'd be a VERY stupid mistake for them to make.
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NickFortune (613926) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @07:44AM (#19912421) Homepage Journal

    It has validity, the argument that more is better does not necessarily hold true.

    That doesn't follow. More is not necessarily better, but neither is it necessarily worse. Nor is less automatically better for that matter.

    So what else do those distributions serve except egocentrical purposes, especially since the majority consists from taking a large well-known distribution and only tweaking it slightly

    You mean like Knoppix, which I believe invented the LiveCD, and is still the recovery disc of choice for a great many of us? Or maybe DamnSmallLinux, which packs into 50MB and will run on just about anything? Then there's Smoothwall which vainly flatters the egos of its developers by providing a dedicated, hardened distribution capable of converting an old computer into a firewall router?

    That's to name but a few. There are a lot of specialist distros out there supporting a specific activitity, interest or region.

    Seriously, for most consumers, assuming Linux is still going after Windows and the desktop, more choice is not necessarily better, especially not when it numbers in the hundreds.

    If you're worried about users migrating from windows, then we have enough trouble drawing people's attention to the big names like Ubunbtu and RedHat. I doubt the existence of tomsrtbt or Astrumi are even going to impinge upon their awareness, let alone sow the seeds of confusion

  • Re:Like evolution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rick17JJ (744063) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @07:53AM (#19912473)

    That may apply even more so to the various Linux Software packages that are available. In most cases there are several similar projects that do almost the same thing being developed at the same time. For example in the case of Linux word processors, the choices include OpenOffice Writer, Abiword, and KWord and desktop publishing software such as Scribus and LyX. If any software project experiences problems the Linux users can move on to one of the other better choices. Either that, or with GPL licensed software the project can easily be forked by someone wanting to create a better or different version of the project. In that sense it is sort of like evolution and "survival of the fittest." Presumably open source is much more of a dynamic, flowing, evolving process with various alternatives than proprietary software created by a one company monopoly such as Microsoft.

    It took Microsoft a couple of tries and about 5 years to come out with Vista, and even after all that, it is only moderately popular with Windows users. If that had been a Linux project, either the project would have been forked or some other distro would have moved ahead and left them behind. For example, when Debian took too long to come out with new releases, Ubuntu (which is derived from Debian) managed to come out with new versions every 6 months and gained popularity. In a sense, that could be compared to the greater productivity that free market economies had over centrally planned economies such as communism. In this case, I am comparing Linux to a free market economy and Windows to a centrally planned communist economy.

  • by mrb000gus (696332) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @07:57AM (#19912495)
    The thing about all the different cars, cellphones, etc out there is that they still work in a similar way to each other.

    The cellphones that don't have buttons laid out in familiar ways (eg the Nokia that had all the buttons in a circle like a dial, etc) never become mainstream, even if they may be better than the others.

    Similarly, if you got into a car and instead of the ignition key there was a touchscreen on the dashboard, and the gears were shortcut keys built into the back of the steering wheel, then even tho this may be more efficient than the mechanical interface we're used to, it would be difficult to catch on.

    In short:
    - Any mac user can navigate their way around any other Mac desktop with ease.
    - Any Windows user can navigate their way around any other Windows desktop with ease.
    - The boon and curse of Linux is how configurable the interface is, and hence how different 2 desktops can be from each other.

    (Unless you're the girl from Jurassic Park who can recognise "Unix" from a 3D file explorer).
  • by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:00AM (#19912519) Journal

    Oh, I'm so sorry.

    Guess I forgot you could upgrade your Windows installation from 3.x to 9x to XP to Vista through Windows Update.

    My bad.

  • Re:Hrm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jez9999 (618189) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:00AM (#19912525) Homepage Journal
    As well as the fact that for most people Windows and pirated Office Just Work(tm) (which they kinda do, come to think of it) so why change?

    Because they want to become legal?
  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:19AM (#19913165) Journal
    The problem is not actual complexity, but rather perceived complexity. Joe User decides he doesn't want to pay $600 to upgrade to Vista, so he decides to look at Linux. What does he see: Red Hat, SuSE/Novell, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, Fedora, Slackware, etc.

    What should he pick? Which is right for him? If they are all Linux then what is the differences? Is one as good as the next?

    The problem is not that there is choice, but that there is too much choice. Most average users would rather just fork over the money and get Vista rather than spend hours, days, or even weeks trying to figure out what distribution of Linux to get, then installing it, then learning how to do actually use it.

    What you and so many other people forget is that people are willing pay for familiarity and ease of use rather than accept strange, confusing and a learning curve for free.
  • Re:Lol... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dionysus (12737) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:25AM (#19913967) Homepage

    why do we even want more people using linux anyway, aside from some high-and-mighty "it could be so much better!!!" mentality? it's not like the support that matters (developers) is going to give out, and it all seems very healthy lately.
    Hardware support. The more Linux users, the less likely we get hardware that only supports Windows. Or do you think Intel or Nvidia would make sure that their newest hardware had linux drivers if Linux didn't have the number of users it had.
  • What Linux needs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by realdodgeman (1113225) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:36AM (#19914945) Homepage
    I have been reading through most of the comments, and I have come to a conclusion. Linux needs:
    - Games. You know, those expensive, crappy based-on-a-movie things...
    - Polished software. Less bugs, cleaner, easier interfaces.
    - IDEs. A fully functional IDEs with GUI constructor, syntax check (like Eclipse), and support for C, C++, C# (don't shoot), Python and more.
    - Less dependencies. If you need some weird functions, bundle them. I hate .debs that do not install!
    - Video editing. Give Kino support for importing more codecs or complete PiTiVi.
    - "A new Apache". A better reason for people to change.
    - Give away Linux CDs in shops.
    - Sell machines with Linux, like Dell do.
    - Special hardware should work out of the box. Especially webcams.

    I hate to say it, but most of these need to be fixed before Linux outgrows even Mac.
    Linux is great, but remember, a Windows user will try to think of any excuse to change back and avoid learning something new.

    (Excuse my English. I am Norwegian.)
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @12:20PM (#19915553) Journal
    The problem with this reasoning is that there are already ten thousand begware, nagware, freeware, shareware, postcardware, download for $5.95, shrinkwrap for $19.95, heavily advertised for $695, and dongle-protected for $4995 products in your software market for XP.

    If you can support just three distros (or just one, even) and do the absolute best job out of ten companies selling in your market to Linux customers, you can really clean up on that 2%.

    Think about it. How many PCs are there, even just in the US? There are about 300 million people. Conservatively, let's say 100 million PCs, because 100 is a nice number to work with. So you say Linux is 2%. Fine, 2 million PCs. Let's say you go for a 25% distribution (or one that is part of a branch of distros similar enough to share the software easily). That's 500,000 potential users. Now, let's say your software is applicable to a quarter of the users. That's 125,000 systems. Now, let's say you get 20% market share. That's 25,000 copies.

    So, yeah, those aren't Microsoft Windows numbers. They're not even Adobe Photoshop numbers. But how many Windows programs do you know of that sell 25,000 copies? Aside from that, if your three or five person company can get $20 25,000 times on one product (or $100, or $5, or $300, depending on what your product does), do you really mind if you're targeting a niche?

    I hate to break this to some of you, but nearly universal usership like MS, Pepsi, Coke, Tylenol, McDonald's and Budweiser is not what builds companies. Those were positioned at the right place at the right time by some very bright people who took advantage of markets very slyly, who used network effects to their advantage, and who were quite frankly willing not to perfect their products because they'd rather have volume than drive up their prices and cut back demand.

    Nearly noone calls Budweiser their favorite beer. You wanna know an open secret? It's not meant to be your favorite. The tour guides at the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour in St. Louis will tell you that. Brewing the absolute best beer is always expensive. There are too many opinions on what makes the best beer to please everyone that any beer is best. Most of those esoteric flavors and textures that convince one group a beer is best turn off other people. Budweiser wasn't meant to get into those debates. It was meant to be the beer that sold well. It sells well because despite not being the very best, it's very non-confrontational. Anheuser-Busch has done a very good job at making sure that although Budweiser is not #1 on many lists, it's the beer that's safe to buy when you know your guests drink beer.

    Pizza Hut isn't the best pizza. Coke isn't the best soda. McDonald's isn't the best burger. Ikea isn't the best furniture. JC Penney doesn't sell the best clothes. What these companies do is to be good enough, cheap enough, and known widely enough that you'd rather play it safe with them than to either go high-end and risk that you've overspent or go low-end and get truly crap products. They trade being the best for being the best value. They do this in consistency, quality, and trust.

    I'd trust my local pizza places to have the best pizza in town. If I see another with the same name a few hundred miles away, I might take a shot at trying it. If I just want to know I'm getting pretty good pizza at a pretty good price, I'd probably find a chain like Imo's, Mazzio's, Pizzeria Uno, Gino's or Cassano's. If I'm further from home and none of the regional chains are around, I'd likely fall back to a national chain like Pizza Hut. I also fall back to Pizza Hut sometimes when they run a special or when they have a buffet, so I can get in and out quickly.

    Microsoft is the same way. Yes, Microsoft probably has the resources at this point to make the world's best operating system for some person's definition of best. Their goals, though, are market share and profit. They get market share and keep it by being good enough, by serving the most popular needs, by foregoing any co
  • Re:Hrm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Endo13 (1000782) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @12:40PM (#19915899)
    That's all well and good, except it doesn't really apply in this debate. Home PCs are all about interoperability - no typical home user wants to have to buy 10 different home PCs to do 10 different things. To run with your beverage analogy, it's like your type of refrigerator determines what beverages you can use. So then the beverage manufacturers have to try to weigh the costs of manufacturing for this or that refrigerator company, and try to decide which is most likely to be the most profitable for them. Most of the ones who care about profit will choose the refrigerator brand with the biggest installed user-base because it offers the biggest potential market, regardless of how much competition already exists in that sector. And remember, just because someone drinks Budweiser and Coke doesn't mean they won't also drink Coors and Pepsi. There's always room for another kid in the block, and with 75% of the potential market in that block, it's just waiting for you to step in and claim it.

    But regardless, your whole post is moot because you're talking to the wrong person. I'm not the developer. I'm the consumer. And right now, the developers are not offering what I'd like to buy so I'm just trying to postulate why that might be. You can disagree with me all you like, but until the software I want/need is available for Linux, your argument means nothing.

    I'm all for supporting the small guy in the niche market (I'll always take the local pizza over Pizza Hut) but when the niche market offers only sushi and I'm looking for hot dogs, then I begrudgingly have to take the hot dogs from the big guys.

Wherever you go...There you are. - Buckaroo Banzai

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