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Net Radio Exec Says "Don't Mention Linux" 442

Posted by kdawson
from the choosing-words-carefully dept.
Barence writes "It might be reliable enough to power their device, but it seems some companies are still a bit reluctant to use the 'L word' when talking about their products. Speaking at the launch of the touchscreen Pure Sensia digital radio, director of marketing Colin Crawford was pressed for specifics of the new device's software. But after his CEO reminded him that the new radio was based on a Linux OS, Crawford remarked: 'I don't like the using the word "Linux" on a radio.'" Of course the presence of (possibly embedded) Linux may not have any relevance to consumers in some products; but does the word itself carry a commercial stigma?
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Net Radio Exec Says "Don't Mention Linux"

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  • On the other hand... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seanadams.com (463190) * on Monday September 21, 2009 @09:07PM (#29499401) Homepage

    Squeezebox Touch is Linux-based, and imminently hackable. Although not emphasized as a consumer selling point, it is certainly no secret and there is a very active developer community around the products.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday September 21, 2009 @09:15PM (#29499447) Homepage

    That includes [especially] me. We already have our own perceptions of Linux and what it means. We, at times desperately, want others to see Linux the way we do. But they don't.

    Frankly, I don't really know or understand how others see Linux. I could venture to guess though... Linux is weird. Linux is not normal. Linux is what "different" people use.

    I know that people put a lot of associative value in identity. People want to think of themselves and everything they identify themselves with as good and normal and hopefully even cool. Linux is only cool to a limited number of people... to everyone else, Linux is an associative reflection of all the weirdos who use Linux. Most of use are geeks and not socially ordinary. What does that say about how others might see Linux?

  • Stigma (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Monday September 21, 2009 @09:22PM (#29499513) Homepage Journal
    "Free" have a commercial stigma, specially if you put all meanings in that word.
  • Fighting "The Man" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daveofnf (766994) on Monday September 21, 2009 @09:50PM (#29499739)

    If you are a normal consumer and you see a penguin on a product, you probably won't know what it's all about. The same person will almost certainly know the Windows logo. That's enough to make people gravitate towards what they know. People are afraid of the unknown.

    Linux has hundreds of flavors (or spins or whatever) and no body advertising how great it is. So the popularity of Linux and related devices will be up to large marketing departments (mostly in Redmond). As much as I hate to say it, Linux doesn't stand a chance against that.

    Linux needs a real commercial champion for the everyday consumer market. Just think of the server market. Maybe Google would fit the bill, or maybe they will do the same as Apple. Time will tell.

  • by stephanruby (542433) on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:31PM (#29499975)

    Because using linux as an embedded OS was such a keenly revolutionary idea that no one else in the marketplace would ever consider the possibility on their own.

    The VCs, the shareholders, and/or the media may not know. Most companies want to appear unique (even if they're not). So they'd prefer to generate an air of mystique around their software (than to admit, that the only thing they had to do was customize, or tweak some existing piece of well-known software).

    This doesn't just happen to Linux. For instance, some companies may be reluctant to say they're using Visual Basic for Applications for instance. So they'll package their app in a binary, remove the splash screen, and do all sorts of things to hide the true origin of their app. Diebold was one such example, but there are many more others... Even Microsoft does that. Hell, even some open source projects do it to other open source projects. As long as the license allows it, and without necessarily explicitly saying it (but may be at least implying it), most companies/people will try to get the credit for other people's work, and try to appear as if they had some specialized knowledge/software that few other people have.

  • by Sarusa (104047) on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:38PM (#29500013)

    Okay, I know it doesn't really mean the device is hard to use, but there is certainly that perception for a consumer. The last embedded commercial product I worked on was Linux based (on a little ARM system) and it was just great. But we didn't tell people it was Linux unless they specifically asked or bothered to dig through the manual.

    'It runs Linux' means:

        - Apple people sneer, but they'd buy an iPod anyhow so it's not a huge loss.
        - My dad sees 'Linux' and thinks 'Oh my god, Linux was so confusing I guess I'll just get an iPod instead'.
        - Normal people see 'Linux' and think they'll need to crack the password in 72-bit font like mad haxxors every time they want to use it.
        - Nerds go 'ooooooooh.' This is the one group for which it is a good thing. But also a small group.
        - GNU people think 'Why doesn't this just boot into root shell? Corporate evil!' Seriously, we had one guy who pestered tech support for months claiming GPL meant we had to tell him the root password. Why did we stop giving everyone root? Because they screw it up and RMA the thing.

    And honestly I have bad UI associations with Linux too, the same way I do with Windows CE. Just the thought of my MP3 player booting into Gnome or something like Gimp is enough to give me the hives, even though rationally I know an embedded device is more likely to be running something like PegUI or Qt Embedded. Or even totally custom, but that usually also means bad, because people who build their own UIs from scratch almost never have any idea what they're doing.

    The bottom line is that even though I love embedded Linux I just don't see that there's a commercial advantage (and there is plenty of disadvantage) to letting people know it runs Linux unless being a cheap open device is one of your primary selling points. If they did their job right you will never know what OS the thing is running. The nerds will find out anyhow (see the Kindle). Only the crusaders crave the validation.

  • LINUX INSIDE! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Morgaine (4316) on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:43PM (#29500039)

    You have to remember how product marketting works in companies. It's not a rational process, but involves someone tabling an idea that catches the imagination of a bunch of droids who quite literally know almost nothing and aren't capable of producing anything themselves --- that's why they're in Marketting after all.

    As a result, technical issues don't matter, but identifiable feature points and catchy slogans do. Factual details of Linux are totally off the agenda, while "Linux Inside" might work, and a cute penguin on the box might too. In contrast, actually talking about Linux or open source is as horrifying as talking about the voltage levels on a USB connector -- it becomes "technical" rather than just a feature point or icon on a box. It's not their world.

    Give the marketeers something that matches their M.O.. A few slogans would be a good start.

  • by crazybilly (947714) on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:46PM (#29500053) Homepage Journal
    I'd ask the same questions. But in my day job in marketing, I know the OP is right--the marketing guy is trying to keep the conversation focused on the message for the AVERAGE consumer, not the nonaverage consumers like you and me. He's trying to communicate the product's core benefits to the customer, not features or specs, or what you're asking for: fringe benefits that may or may not be...er...beneficial.

    His job is to brand this thing as a lets-you-do-cool-stuff-and-makes-you-feel-good box or whatever, not to convince the fringe audience (ie. me and you) that we could hack the thing. Anything that distracts from that feel-good message (including Linux) takes up too much of his valuable 3 minutes on the radio. He's just trying to keep his CEO on track, not trying to dodge/cover up Linux.

  • Re:Linux. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Monday September 21, 2009 @11:21PM (#29500323) Journal

    It means "unknown" and "strange" to anyone who hasn't heard of it or isn't very computer savvy.

    Exactly as "unknown" and "strange" as any other technical spec, or any other marketing slogan. It's not as though TiVo is any less unknown or strange.

    It means "complex" and "difficult" to anyone who has heard of it that is moderately computer savvy.

    You'd have to be just the right combination of "moderately computer savvy" to not also understand that Linux powers Google, TiVos, and many HDTVs. Embedded Linux is not now difficult, nor has it ever been.

    It means "shut the hell up and stop asking me stupid f'ing Linux questions every time I sit down at my desk!" to those of us who have used it and work with any one in the previous two categories.

    Erm... I can't ever remember being constantly interrupted with Linux questions. I did get occasional stupid questions, but users tended to either be mostly self-sufficient with actually using Linux, or they didn't want anything to do with it. Notice I said "mostly".

    All Linux really does is advertise that I know what I'm doing, or that I'm using something weird.

    Oh, and in bringing my laptop to work, to school, to coffee shops, really anywhere, I haven't had a single person walk up to me and ask me what I was using. KDE just doesn't look different enough. So I kind of have to call BS here.

    Seriously...I started using a Mac so I could get my nice unixy and open source goodness without having to play 20 questions every time I booted my damned laptop.

    You're either lying, stupid, or you found a really cheap Mac.

    Otherwise, seriously, you're willing to pay that much of a premium on hardware, and use a mostly-proprietary OS, in order to have people leave you alone? I mean, if that was ever an issue, how hard is it to put a Windows-like theme on any Linux WM/toolkit?

    Or maybe there was some other reason?

    Now they just look and say "oh, its a Mac, those are expensive" and walk away.

    When I had a Mac, I got way more questions about that, especially because people already knew me to be reasonably knowledgeable. This was everything from people wanting to know if it was better than Windows, or worth the price, to people wanting to know why I'd sold out Linux and Open Source.

    But I've certainly never let people asking for advice dictate what I use. If it ever becomes a problem, there's a shirt for that [thinkgeek.com].

    This was somewhat insightful, but I'm confused that it got to +5. No one thought it was a troll?

  • Re:Stigma to Linux (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) on Monday September 21, 2009 @11:53PM (#29500527)
    You forgot WMP and Media Center, which are kind of a big deal for people who use their computer for entertainment. Also, OEMs can install flash (even the Dell specific Ubuntu builds to this), so that is a big chunk of internet entertainment browsing as well.
    So, basically, an out of the box experience for Windows allows leisure activities. Can the same be said of Ubuntu? I count this as a tie. Windows can do basic entertainment out of the box. Linux can do productivity.
  • Re:Linux. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by the_womble (580291) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @01:44AM (#29501069) Homepage Journal

    I started using a Mac so I could get my nice unixy and open source goodness without having to play 20 questions every time I booted my damned laptop.

    What on earth are you talking about? I answer precisely too questions to boot my laptopm: my LUKS passphrase and my password. You can obviously avoid both if you do not care about security.

    Now they just look and say "oh, its a Mac, those are expensive" and walk away.

    Walking away from Mac users is a good idea.

  • Re:LINUX INSIDE! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lesrahpem (687242) <.moc.egnuolknilpu. .ta. .handai.> on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @02:44AM (#29501285) Homepage
    So, what you're basically saying is marketers are usurpers and users, right? How do we deal with those again? Apparently that's THE RIGHT WAY TO BE in today's world. Too bad you're whole fucking world is built on the shoulders of giants. Why is that a problem you ask? Well, let me see here. You know nothing of the knowledge, science, and technology which are the pillars of your bright new world. They were built by people whose minds are so arcane and alien to you that you will never be able to comprehend exactly how much you rely on the hobbies of dead legends. The problem? We've come back to reclaim our throne.
  • by DangerFace (1315417) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @03:04AM (#29501385) Journal

    Seriously, this is not how it works. For a quick anecdote, when people ask me how I have all these rotating workspaces and crazy ass widgets and stuff, I reply 'Linux'. Most people look blank at this point. Then I say 'It's an operating system, like Windows but not'. Usually, still blank looks. Remember, these are people who've never installed an OS in their lives, who's points of comparison between XP and Vista were 'It's gone shiny and see-through, look!', and who don't know what you mean when you say that their computer is slow because they wanted their printer to work and installed the drivers for it.

    'Normal' folks don't know what Windows is, what Microsoft do, or the difference between a PS/2 port and a TCP port. These things are all irrelevant to them, or at least they think they are. It's frickin' marketing, you said it in your own post - people recognise that little wavy window thing, and don't know that there is an alternative. Unfortunately, people don't yet recognise Tux, or the Ubuntu blobby thing, or any of the myriad mascots and logos of the FOSS community.

    When marketing a product, you can say 'Powered by Windows' or 'Intel inside' and people just recognise the terms, making them feel a bit techy, but have no idea what it actually means. If you say 'Powered by Linux' then the majority of people may as well have heard 'Powered by Snarblax' - They still have no idea what it means, but this time they know they don't know what it means, and that makes them feel stupid, and that makes them dislike whatever they associate with that stupid feeling. In conclusion, you, Anonymous Coward, are a moron.

  • by dbcad7 (771464) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @03:11AM (#29501415)
    Actually in this case, we are talking about a device that has a touch screen UI and connects to the internet for internet raido.. it's not exactly the toaster scenario. I think it's a relevant question to ask and poorly handled by the marketing director. In marketing any device that has some technology behind it, you have choices.. You can supply specs when asked, or treat everyone like morons and say "it's magic".. to downplay a technology used in your device when asked, doesn't come across as confident in your design choices. If he wasn't capable of being able to answer the questions all in a positive way, he should not have been in a question and answer scenario.. It would be the same if he had a similar question on bluetooth.. bluetooth ? .. not everyone knows or understands what it is or does.. But if your marketing a device that has the technology, then you should, and you should be able to explain why it's good, and why it's on your device.
  • by IANAAC (692242) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @06:35AM (#29502207)

    'Normal' folks don't know what Windows is

    I don't know what your "normal" is but in my world, yes, normal people do indeed know what Windows is. They know because they use a PC or laptop and occasionally have trouble with their OS and therefore need tp fix something. Hell, if they have automatic updates turned on, they know it's to update the OS, usually because of some security flaw.

    And most "normal" Windows users I know also know of the other options available to them. They tend to like Windows.

    It's amusing to see how often "normal" users are made to look less intelligent than your average Slashdot reader here. It's done a lot. And in my real world experience, it's just not the case.

  • by BVis (267028) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @06:52AM (#29502271)

    It's amusing to see how often "normal" users are made to look less intelligent than your average Slashdot reader here. It's done a lot. And in my real world experience, it's just not the case.

    Clearly you've never done desktop support. The average "normal" user is so thick, one wonders how they find their way out of bed in the morning. Of course, you could substitute "person" for "normal user" in that sentence and it would retain its meaning, so YMMV. After all, at least where Americans are concerned, Iraq had something to do with 9/11, shopping at Walmart is a good idea, electing George W Bush twice was Just Fine.

    How do you think Windows captured the OS market in the first place? Microsoft counted on the average user to say "HURR DURR It came with my $shittyPCBrandNameComputer so I just use it HURR DURR".

  • by cenc (1310167) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @12:19PM (#29506189) Homepage

    Yea, I used this in my company to go all linux desktops. None of my employees where even clear on what windows was or what it did, even though they had been exposed only to windows software their entire life and I listed just the ability to be able to type on a computer as a skill.

    They came in, I gave them mas o menos 5 mins of training as to what pretty little icons to look for to do certain tasks, and they where all productively working away an hour later. Now new employees come in, and those employees quickly take care of the linux orientation of the new guys. 4 solid years without a problem with either the computers or the employees learning how to use them.

    Once about a year ago however I happened to have a copy of windows booted on one computer (happens about once every 5 years with me) to convert a file. The girl who normally used that computer sat down, and immediately freaked out because she thought she had broken the computer.

  • by PachmanP (881352) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @01:10PM (#29506837)

    Remember: while people asking for your help seem stupid, think how you sound when you talk to your mechanic (or doctor).

    Like someone who understands the basic mechanical or biological principles and is perfectly capable of having an intelligent conversation on the topic? Oh you mean, how it would sound if I didn't and thought everything was "magic". So what you're really asking is, how do I think I would sound if I was in fact stupid.

    I realize that these people aren't really stupid per se, but one of the things I think that makes you "not stupid" (tm) is the interest in and the attempt to understand the world around you. This doesn't mean you can boot strap gentoo, but you should understand a computer needs an operating system to run software and the differences between the steps...

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