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Businesses Debian GNU is Not Unix Linux Business Mandriva Operating Systems Red Hat Software SuSE Linux

Why Linux Vendors Need To Sell More Than Linux 290

jfruh writes "Mandriva, a venerable Linux distro, is on the verge of shutting down. One of its main problems is that it never grew into more than just an OS vendor. The big players in the commercial Linux space — Red Hat, SuSE, Canonical — all built Linux into their larger computing visions. Is there any room in the marketplace for just a straight-up Linux distro anymore?"
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Why Linux Vendors Need To Sell More Than Linux

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  • the one and only (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h2k1 ( 661151 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:01PM (#38883483)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:04PM (#38883541)


    The long answer:

    No. There is no viable desktop market for Linux currently, and probably never will be, and that is pretty much the ONLY market where a just OS approach may have even had a tiny amount of a possibility of succeeding.

  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:06PM (#38883561)
    Someone will clone the distro and everyone has the bandwidth to download it.
  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:07PM (#38883587)

    Is there any room in the marketplace for just a straight-up Linux distro anymore?

    That depends on what you mean by "marketplace". If this includes free, then sure -- we've still got Slackware, Debian, Mint, and I don't know what all else.

    But then, the question is loaded, and presumes that Mandriva's fall is solely due to the marketability of a Linux distro. But looking at the history, Mandriva was never that well run as an organization, with fits and starts and general policy confusion. For all its warts, Canonical's stewardship of Ubuntu at least has a direction. I suffered through many months with broken repo settings and no clear fixes as Mandrake/Mandriva went through a couple of its identity crises and infrastructure paroxysms, and these ultimately prompted me to leave them behind.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:09PM (#38883621)

    then its not worthwhile in the commercial space. SuSE marketshare is dropping and when did canonical every really have marketshare? Either you're big enough to do your own, have enough skills to maintain your own, or you buy RHEL.


  • OS's are... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:09PM (#38883625)

    ... the most boring part of the computer for 90% of the population. You have to have something your end customers actually care about. I look at things like steam and I don't know why Linux devs didn't think of creating a platform around linux to begin with. While power user computing is great for the power users, the great unwashed really just want something ridiculously simple and easy. There is really no real reason to use linux. If I were trying to sell linux, I'd create a plaform like steam and sell non-drm'd software. Open source really has to start 'charging' for it's software if it hopes to be sustainable in creating apps/things people want in the future. Money is not a dirty word. You can still make money with open computing. With all the copyright bullshit linux could have a good opening if they'd just get on the ball and create a business out of it.

    Linux suffers from being suffocated by geeks who really don't grasp that the user doesn't want to have to think, the user wants a magic box that adds value to their lives. This is why things like Steam took off and 'app stores'.

  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:12PM (#38883649) Homepage Journal

    Yup, Slackware. Still the best after all these years.

  • Re:OS's are... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:19PM (#38883735) Homepage

    > There is really no real reason to use linux.

    apt-get install xbmc
    apt-get install mythtv

    No dickering around with packages with names like "shark007".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:20PM (#38883745)

    Maybe it wasn't that good an OS

  • by vakuona ( 788200 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:20PM (#38883749)

    Most Linux distros lack a sustainable business model. They expect people to pay for something they can get for free.

  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:21PM (#38883759)

    RedHat and Suse are both a success because it's not just a distro. It's also a support structure for the OS, which is what businesses need.

    Many times, a technical person looks at it and does not care. "Let me use my favorite distro this week.". But what happens when that person leaves the company and a new guy comes in with experience in a different distro? Sure, we can catch on as techies.. it's what we do. But it's a gap to get there in time, which can cost a whole lot of money.

    I'm sure Redmond does not mind as many fragments as possible. Honestly it's hurt Linux much more than it's helped as far as business adaptation.

    Lets face facts: Execs want numbers, not quirks. Show them how much money they can save by going with RedHat, response time on support issues, security information for SOX and E&Y auditors, etc.. and that's your ticket in. "My Gnome tool bar roxxors in Favlinux 6.0zers" is not something businesses want, need, or look at.

    Frags are fine for the geeks that want to play. I'm sure there are some good things that come out of those and get added back in to the stream for Business Linux. I can't count any, but I'm sure someone has some. Just keep it out of the VP's office, and get them a supported version of Linux.

  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:22PM (#38883767) Homepage
    It is not about "cloning the distro". Anyone can download the tree in its current state. The value added is in the talent that maintains the codebase, makes improvements, applies the latest security updates, implements bugfixes, and helps the product evolve. In the case of Mandriva, there is Mageia [], which is made up of many of the maintainers from Mandriva who have anticipated trouble and decided to break away from Mandriva. In other words, Mandriva the company can die, and Mandriva the product essentially lives on as Mageia.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:23PM (#38883787) Homepage

    > Theres a reason that after 20+ years Windows has won.

    Yes. The market was already dominated by MS-DOS.

    All of these "helpful suggestions" are just total nonsense that tend to ignore the actual facts.

    The differences between the various flavors of Linux are mostly overblown. They all use the same basic core components. Although some are better at "packaging" than others, libfoo is still libfoo whether it's Ubuntu or Mandrake.

  • Re:Diversification (Score:5, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:30PM (#38883859)
    Apple don't sell computers, operating systems, ipads, iphones or experiences, they sell social status.
  • Re:OS's are... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:41PM (#38883981) Homepage

    This is why things like Steam took off and 'app stores'.

    This is why Linux has has "app stores" for over ten years. Users didn't like package managers until they had to pay money to use them.

  • by xzvf ( 924443 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:48PM (#38884093)
    RedHat, Suse and Canonical all sell support, not Linux and other Open Source software. You pay for RedHat (the most successful FOSS vendor) to have access to RHN for package updates, someone to call for support, training and certification, and a conduit back into the FOSS community. Suse is similar. Canonical still has a way to go in the enterprise space but has a solid financial backer, and is making money using FOSS to provide services. In fact you can include Amazon, Google and a host of others as successful companies that leverage FOSS to provide services.
  • by stevenfuzz ( 2510476 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:53PM (#38884159)
    And every major version update still fucks up all my video card configurations (not to mention a bunch of other stuff). Try explaining to your wife over the phone: "Sorry baby, you shouldn't have hit update while I was at work. It's simple, just open up the terminal on the desktop, SSH to the laptop and replace xorg.conf with xorg.conf-backup". Her responding being, "This computer is stupid. Why can't we use windows like normal people?".
  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:58PM (#38884255)

    Your reply really reinforced the GP, not contradicted it.

    He's right, there isn't a market for a *commercial vendor* selling a desktop Linux distro only (which was the question), because people can just copy it for free.

    Your example just explains how you can not only copy the resulting distro, but the source as a new project. It's yet another reason a commercial desktop Linux vendor is doomed - any derivatives get the aggregate efforts of the original without paying for those efforts, meaning they can distribute it for less with only as much additional effort as they want to put in (down to zero in both cases if they choose). The original vendor makes no money for their "value added", and doesn't survive.

    That may sound like a knock against open source projects, but it's not. It's a knock against people who naively think they can make money selling the open source software itself, rather than support, training, enterprise integration, etc that a company like Red Hat does to earn their income...

  • by WhiteK ( 2564633 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @08:06PM (#38884353)
    No please. I fully understand that it may please some "I'm so good" geek, but it's not nice for people. This is the problem with Linux in general. It is fully done by people who cannot market themselves or their products. As much as geeks hate marketing, it is needed. Not only for products, but also to other people. You want to know why geeks lack with women? Because they cannot market themselves. And no, that doesn't mean only pushing yourself. Bad marketers do that. It is about making yourself more likeable and subtly noting what user gains (be that either from using Linux, or being your girlfriend). Yes, you may think it sucks. But people in general are just for thinking for themselves. Sooner you realize this the sooner you enjoy living. People are self centerous. That does not mean it's bad - it just means they're human.

    So what the hell does "Slackware, still the best after all these years" tells me? Nothing at all. Why is it best? What do I gain by using Slackware? How would it be better for me than using OSX? Steve Jobs understood this. He cared about user experience and clearly told people why it is good. Even Ubuntu fails to do this. And no, people aren't going to spend time trying to research such things unless there is absolutely need. I enjoyed tinkering with these things as teen. Now I have better stuff to do. Either tell me what I gain from using Linux, or I'm not even going to try it.
  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @08:17PM (#38884501)

    RedHat can (mostly) handle an in-place upgrade. Sufficient numbers of RH users *cannot* when something 'weird' happens, therefore it is simpler for them to tell everyone to clean install since RH actually has to answer the phone and handhold all the users and can't tell them to go away when they lack the resources to sort it out on their own.

    Debian can (mostly) handle an in-place upgrade. When a debian user can't figure out how to make it work again after dist-upgrade breaks it, well tough. Google and forum around, and no one *has* to deal with it, even though usually someone does. If debian were forced to hold the hands of some of the users I've seen, they'd stop talking about dist-upgrade too.

    AIX is extermely conservative, moreso than *any* linux distro will ever get away with. Given the scope, conservative development, the expected customer skill level, and the resources behind it, of course they can achieve *both* commercial support *and* robustness of in-place upgrades.

  • by quixote9 ( 999874 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @08:33PM (#38884679) Homepage
    It's called user control and privacy. 99.95% of people don't care about that too much, but every Megaupload that happens inches people a bit closer to realizing that no control is maybe not all that free.

    It's interesting that the Department of Defense in the US is using more and more open source software, even while lots of people are saying "My data? Who cares?" Once control is worth something to you, there's no real alternative, ultimately, to FOSS. Or writing your own custom software.
  • Re:OS's are... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @09:04PM (#38885119)

    Users didn't like package managers until a couple companies had the bright idea to make versions that were more than a glorified command line.

    Steam and the Apple App Store are to dpkg (and similar tools) what an office suite is to notepad. Things like visual previews, robust searches and categories, and comprehensive descriptions are more than cosmetic improvements. They are the difference between a good idea and a mature implementation.

  • Re:Mod Parent Up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @12:40AM (#38887083)

    I'd have done it myself if my mod points didn't vanish yesterday. I've certainly been the sort of geek who hasn't done well in communicating with others when it comes to technical matters. Despite years of bugging friends and family members to "just get a Mac" every time I had to give out free tech support, no one ever did because I didn't/couldn't articulate the reasons why this would be a good idea. I think I've learnt my lesson, and have been able to get people to at least start playing with *nix by actually *showing* how it's not so scary to use and how easy it is to run plenty of Windows software through WINE.

    But showing users that it's (almost) as easy to use as Windows isn't good enough. You have to convince them that it's enough *better* for *their particular use case* than Windows and MacOS.

    For most users, the fact that a whole bunch of stuff works right out of the box with little or no effort to bring it up is a huge selling point. The ability to buy almost any software title and have it work on Windows is a huge selling point. What's a few hours of lost work (or play) time worth to you? To the average user, it's worth more than the price of a commercial OS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @01:08AM (#38887267)

    ... to go for full-out evolution, those same people immediately reject it. So it goes...

    Because it's not their idea of evolution.. Some would want third hand instead of second pair of ears for example ;)

  • by mSparks43 ( 757109 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @03:29AM (#38888261) Homepage Journal

    Most female geeks I know take home 6 figure salaries..
    Most Male geeks I have met struggle to make rent.

    imho, the reason most male geeks don't meet female geeks is women on 6 figure salaries don't mingle with guys who struggle to make rent.

    How the world has changed.

VMS must die!