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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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  • Diversification (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:14PM (#38883683)
    Oh, you mean like how Microsoft bundles Office with it's distro? You know, the one they call Windows.

    I can see an argument being made that people don't want an "operating system", they want a computer. And when most people say computer, they don't mean the box. That's what geeks say. When an average person says computer, they mean all the applications, peripherals, internet access, etc., that all gets packed into the magic box.

    Linux and its supporters have never quite managed to grasp the Magic Box school of thought. Until they do, they'll never be a competitor. This is a cultural problem, not a technological one. Look at Apple. First we ignored them, then we laughed at them, then somehow, overnight, OS X became a contender and Apple became a massive corporation. How did that happen?

    Hint: Apple doesn't sell 'operating systems' or 'ipads' or whatever. They are selling an experience. And if you ask the average person what the Linux experience is... they'll look at you, facepalm, and say flatly "I couldn't get the damn thing to work."

    Linux vendors need to sell an experience, not a product. It needs to be well-supported, preconfigured with everything the average person wants on a computer (or whoever their target demographic is... IT managers, server lackies, whatever...), so all they do is push the button and there it is. It. Just. F*cking. Works.

  • by torgis ( 840592 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:16PM (#38883711) Journal
    Not to mention market saturation. In all seriousness, how many linux distributions is "too many"?
  • Re:Diversification (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:36PM (#38883925)

    I have never seen Office bundled with Windows, not a full version anyway. If it comes with a prebuilt computer, it's usually a trial version that the user will have to pay for, or a copy that the user ordered with the computer. If it didn't come with it, it'll typically get installed after the fact.

    Contrast that with Ubuntu, Mint, or any number of distros. Most of them come with some form of OpenOffice, LibreOffice, etc. installed by default. In fact, they do come with nearly everything someone would want: office suite, web browser, email client, chat client, music player, video player, ad nauseum.

    Add to that, most people I've shown Ubuntu or Mint have marvelled at how everything "just works," moreso than Windows. The biggest hurdle I've seen is that nearly everyone I've talked to hasn't even heard of Linux, or they only have a vague idea of what it is.

    I agree with you on the "selling" part. People are bombarded with Apple and Windows ads everywhere they go. I can't recall the last time I saw a Linux distro ad.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:39PM (#38883953)

    You see that? That thing that just passed? It was the point - and you missed it. What is an apt-get? Why is it called that? Why is there a "get" and then an "install?" Where do I type that? Oh, in the console? It's not working. Why is it not working? Why does it tell me it can't "resolve the hostname" of the repository? Oh, the whitespace matters?

    Ubuntu Software Center et al mitigate these issues to a degree. Too little, too late though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:42PM (#38883999)


    Forced at current job to use RH for one of our boxes (we are a Debian shop). RH is inferior in EVERY way. Few packages (a few percent of what Debian packages), upgrade hell (RH recommends a clean install + migrate config + data; WTF?!!! Debian, apt-get dist-upgrade... done.)

    Really, can't see any reason to use RH other than when some commercial entity forces you to in order to have support on that 3rd party product.

    RH really is shite. Hell even AIX, the bastard child of commercial UNIX can at least handle an in-place upgrade.

  • Re:OS's are... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @07:48PM (#38884097)

    Wow. Sounds like you're still running a Linux distro from 1993.

    I liked the Windows update thingumy recently when I booted into Windows for the first time in ages. Even though I waited over ten minutes, Windows wouldn't connect to my Wireless LAN that Linux connects to in a few seconds, but it was bugging me to install upgrades, so I said yes because I assumed it must have previously downloaded them and I might as well do something useful while I was waiting... but once I told it to install them it tried to download them and then told me it couldn't download them, which should have been obvious because there was no network connection.

    What a horrible excuse for an operating system Windows is...

  • Mod Parent Up (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dead_cthulhu ( 1928542 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @08:18PM (#38884513)

    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.

  • by Richard_J_N ( 631241 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @08:19PM (#38884533)

    Indeed - Mandrake made stupid decision after stupid decision. For example, when they were doing really well at the dotcom boom, they wasted all their money on a failed diversification into e-learning.

    Then they asked the community for support, which many of us gave, by selling club membership and DVDs. The stupid thing was this though: I had to pay $60 for a DVD I didn't want (after downloading the release ISOs weeks earlier), and I suspect Mandrake only got about $10 of that. I would have been happy to give them $20 for every release, if I knew that the money would go to more than just production and shipping of DVDs, and the included "commercial apps" which I also didn't want.

    Another problem was lack of support of the released distro. For example, if you wanted to run the latest stable release (not cooker), but happened to purchase a printer with support in upstream CUPS, you couldn't always get it to work in the stable release. Bug fixes rarely got backported either, so the stable release that everyone was supposed to run always had bugs in it that were fixed (but only in the cooker release, which was frequently broken).

    It's a shame: Mandrake did some really good stuff, including excellent documentation, a good set of KDE and Gnome defaults (including a unified theme), they supported i586 while most Linuxes still optimised for i386, had a really outstanding graphical installer (back in 2001 and before), and were deservedly at the top of the list for newbies, with tools that provided help, rather than dumbing down.

    Mandrake also improved several defaults, for example in Debian/Ubuntu, the Webroot is "/var/www". In Mandrake, it's "/var/www/html". When serving a simple file, this means /var/www/myfile.html (Debian) vs. /var/www/html/myfile.html (Mdk) - but it puts the webapps in a sensible place: Mdv use /var/www/mediawiki, /var/www/bugzilla etc, whereas Debian have to put it into /var/lib/ iirc. (On the other hand, Mandrake's Postgres configuration is weirdly in /var/lib/pgsql/data/postgresql.conf, whereas Debian put it in /etc/postgresql, where one would expect it. )

    Hopefully Mageia can do something exciting; personally I've been running Mageia 1 for 8 months, and it's good, but not yet revolutionary.

  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @08:43PM (#38884811)

    I think you are totally misunderstanding the OP and me... breaking it down, it is that simple:

    1. Mandriva wants to sell a desktop version of Linux with various minor support features no one cares about.
    2. People (probably you included) decide that's really not worthwhile to pay 50 euros for it, and instead download it for free.
    3. Mandriva now has no revenvue to pay the developers, etc. and goes out of business.
    4. As you said, developers leave to a derivative distro they work on as *volunteers* (and probably go find another, possibly unrelated job to pay the bills).

    In the end, without significant value add that can't easily be copied, it's not going to work out. Net result: commercial Linux desktop venture ist kaput...

  • by quixote9 ( 999874 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @08:45PM (#38884865) Homepage
    Google, Amazon, the majority of servers, the list could go on forever, all wouldn't exist without linux. Apple strapped on the rocket engine known as BSD, but I'd be surprised if BSD is being paid by them. That doesn't seem like Apple's style.

    Linux is adding unmeasurable value. All it needs is a different model of how creativity is rewarded.

    We should be censusing usage and paying creators. The more your product was used or enjoyed, the more you'd get paid. In that world, linux wouldn't have a thing to worry about. (And, yeah, I know the nitty gritty of censusing and paying out is really complicated and it could never work perfectly. But it could work well enough to funnel a lot more of the rewards to the actual coders, writers, artists, musicians, than the few measly percent the current system does.)
  • Re:the one and only (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @09:41PM (#38885509)

    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. ... Either tell me what I gain from using Linux, or I'm not even going to try it.

    Actually Slack is never intended for the entry level user.

    Ubuntu is. 98% of the time anyone who has ever used Windows or Mac can install Ubuntu and have it fully functional out of the box, or bittorrent.
    They do market themselves, and have done well with that over the years.

    Ubuntu is the Gateway Drug for Linux. It might not be where you end up, but its where most new users start out.
    Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of others that install and run fine out of the box or the download. But Ubuntu you have heard of. The others, maybe not.

    Further, Ubuntu, SuSE, Red Hat have a business plan, a way to make money. Even the most die-hard fan gets tired of working for nothing, and gets tired
    of doing everything the hard way.

    As to what you are going to gain, its an easy sell for the home user who has ever even once lost his entire computer drive to malware or viruses.
    If everything works the same, no learning curve and the malware risk is virtually gone, you'd be surprised how many will use it, if someone else
    installs it. (Which, by the way, is exactly the same as windows. Most Windows users never install their own OS).

  • Re:Mod Parent Up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by unrtst ( 777550 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @01:32AM (#38887475)

    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.

    I honestly thought that was the start of a list of things you could say in favor of a linux desktop, but, by the end of your paragraph, I'm starting to think you actually meant Windows just works right out of the box. Is that what you meant? And, if so, have you setup either Ubuntu or Windows from near scratch recently (near scratch, as in, bought a new pc even)?

    Anecdotal story, but I recently setup a netbook for the girlfriend... took me weeks (prodding it here and there and letting it churn). Took me two days just to get Windows updates caught up (for the first time)... the download was plenty fast, but all the reboots and suddenly there's more to update were just crazy. Removing the bloatware... more time (and it was an asus, which supposedly doesn't ship with too much bloatware in comparison to most). Adding bog standard programs she'd need... tons more time (B&N reader; itunes; vlc; firefox; chrome; thundirbird; nero; sims3; PvZ; etc). And most of those have some silly updates that, for some reason, didn't come with it to begin with. Importing the music and video collection... holy crap that took a long time. Setting up backups... uh, WTH? why isn't there something easy to use for that shit yet? Tried tweaking Windows 7 start menu so she could find the handful of apps she'll actually end up using... near impossible (I ended up following a suggestion from MS and creating a folder/drawer thing on the start bar that listed shortcuts I put there - what a hack). Then many hours poking at the bluetooth a2dp support, and I just gave up on that one (so she could wirelessly stream to the receiver... and, fwiw, that worked plug-n-play from my linux desktop).

    And, I know this isn't really MS's fault, but to top it off... I bought Sims 3 for her (she love it); It installed, updated, and ran fine (a tad slow, but fine). A week later, and every time you start it, it freezes on the "update" screen and won't let you even click cancel! Found a work-around... disable the network, and it'll start up and run. You can feel free to say that would happen on other OS's, but I can't recall any software I got from freebsd ports, gentoo portage, debian apt repos, ubuntu repos, fedora/redhat rpm repos, etc that ended up in that situation. Even proprietary stuff like Quake 3 for Linux that I bought way back in the day... community came out with patches to keep it working.

    "The ability to buy almost any software title and have it work on Windows...", I totally agree that's a huge selling point.

    The ability to use the software you have as long as you like an however you want... well, that seems like a pretty damn good thing too.

    Being able to search/browse in one software interface (ex. synaptic), select some stuff, and click go and they'll all be installed AND UP TO DATE WHEN INSTALLED is a HUGE selling point. And debian-based distro's update - "sudo apt-get update && sudo reboot", go to sleep (or just get coffee... doesn't take that long), and it's done.

    Don't get me wrong... I'm not entirely knocking Windows. There's a reason they have so much market share, and it's not entirely due to their monopoly practices. I bought the damn thing knowing what it was, and it's what I wanted for this situation. It's the first copy of windows I've bought or used in about a decade (besides a corporate copy or two for occasional use on a vm), but the experience cemented my belief that, even though Ubuntu is jacking the shit out of what I want, it's still far more appropriate for my usage than Windows, and I can always distro hop again.

BLISS is ignorance.