Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why haven't you heard of Linux.

Majority of people have heard of Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS. Everywhere you go these two companies are advertising extensively. They are always in your face. On the Internet or in the real world there are plenty of marketing projects that these two companies finance. Lately, Apple has been spending a lot of money on advertising their products. They have billboards, ads in metro stations, physical stores etc. Both Apple and Microsoft are very good at marketing their products to companies and individuals. The crucial importance is that both Microsoft and Apple have millions of dollars to spend on large marketing campaigns.

Linux on the other hand is a totally different story. If you ask random people on the street about Linux they will say that they have never heard of the company or the project. Then, if you do explain something short about this great project then they ask how come Linux does not advertise. Linux is free for the most part and there is very little money to fund the development of GNU/Linux and its software. Majority of people who are working on open source software are volunteers or part time. However, some do get paid to work on GNU/Linux and its software full time but there are very few of them. The sad truth is that because GNU/Linux does not have a lot of money to advertise to the masses most people have never heard of it. It is not a brand like Apple or Windows. Nevertheless, even though GNU/Linux does not have as much advertising as other projects, it is still a great operating system for servers, desktops, laptops and other gadgets. The marketing and promotion of GNU/Linux works a little differently than the other corporate brands. GNU/Linux has enthusiastic people who promote it through word of mouth, events, videos, Blogs, stickers, graffiti and many other low budget but creative ways. Slowly but surely, even GNU/Linux is being recognized by some. Nothing easy is done over night but will come in incremental steps. The more people talk and debate about GNU/Linux, the more it is embeded in peoples minds, and it is more likely that they will try it out. Many individuals that do try out GNU/Linux are impressed by its ease of use, functionality, free software, great eyecandy and customization.


  1. Just some of my thoughts about marketing.

    Marketing is not about why you should buy my PRODUCT. It's about why you should buy MY product.

    In other words, I am establishing a relationship with you, the buyer. I have to get you to buy me, and to do that, I have to convince you to trust me.

    Take Apple as a case study. What are people really buying? The iPod? iMac? iWhatever?
    No it's not iPod or the iMac or iWhatever. People buy Apple. They don't buy Apple products.
    Apple is the 'me'. When people buy an iPod, you may also overhear them say, "Gee I like Apple. I think they're neat." or something like that. People equate Apple with the products Apple sells. If they've bought an iPod, chances are good they already have a Mac.

    So what's the 'me' in OSS?

    There is a problem, I see. OSS / FOSS / GNU/Linux is faceless. How do you convince someone to buy something when you are faceless. Apple has a face - the Apple logo. GNU/Linux has a mascot. How do you turn that mascot into a personality that represents the 'me'? How do you capitalize on it?

    It's the same with job interviews. If you got the job and you were number one on your employer's list, you most likely sold yourself to the interviewer or panel, not so much your skills.

    I know of someone who was really f*&@ed up technically, but was really good at selling himself. He landed himself a $100K a year job, but to keep that job he had to work his butt off. I don't know if he still works at the same place.

    And that's the other edge of the sword. Once you've sold yourself someone, you have to keep the steam going, to keep the trust, or you will lose it.

    Apple has achieved spectacular results, and they don't pay people to publicly sing out "I love you, Apple", like Small Flaccid does. Apple doesn't need to. Because they maintain the quality and experience of their products.

    So what's the 'me' in OSS? I think that is the crux of marketing OSS, and that may be a vast problem in pinning down.

  2. I believe rather firmly that this is the number one reason why even large projects like OLPC are cut off at the pass. OLPC in particular was a brilliant idea, but countries backed out of the deals because they weren't familiar enough with the functioning of the system itself; politicians have no idea what GNU/Linux or Open Source is/are. It's really quite unfortunate. I really think that there's a lot that can be done to improve on it. We all know that monetization is a challenge for Open Source coding. But a lack of money-producing product doesn't stop organizations like AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. People are willing and able to volunteer their time, as is amply evidenced by the already-vast library of Free-as-in-freedom code out there now. I eagerly await the day when enough people know about it and can contribute just a little bit of their time - a little bit of a million people's time - to make the rapidly-growing digital world a safer, better, freer place. [/rant]

  3. While Microsoft owns much of the blame, I daresay that GNU/Linux zealotry can negate much of the goodwill from the community. See, a story about a young woman in Wisconsin who had to drop out of an online college because her laptop was running Ubuntu. She did get a few messages offering help, and eventually I think even her ISP (Verizon?) offered to stick with her until she could get on the Internet. However, Linux fanboyz pilloried her, and even harassed her on her Facebook (?) page. Way to go, boyz, you could'a helped a newbie get started with Ubuntu, but instead you turned her off. Like, who would want to be in the same community as those jerks? Fortunately, she had enough help from the *true* GNU/Linux users, and she's gotten her Ubuntu working with her ISP and if I'm not mistaken with the online college as well. Not thanks to the zealots.

    Point is, *all* GNU/Linux users are in marketing, and we do that by being helpful to those who need help getting started. Yeah, even those who should RTFM.

  4. I think you underestimate the fame of Linux. Don't know about the street, but at the uni most people have had at least some contact with Linux - due to the fact the programming class used Debian exclusively.

    Though in many cases, Linux is portrayed - even by the popular culture - as an OS for "hackers"; and if you ask people, most answers will likely be, "Linux? I heard it's a horror to set up." The problem is, most people don't realise nowadays you can simply stick a CD into your machine and it will install just as easily as (or easier than) Windows, or even run without any installation at all - and with a graphical distro such as Debian or Ubuntu, you'll get a system that is ready to use practically right away; they don't know that on Linux you can also have Firefox, Chromium, Thunderbird, GIMP, MPlayer, OpenOffice, as well as many other great and easy to use apps - all you need is a quick Google search.

    In fact, I think another turn-off might be the ridiculous amount of googling required; for non-power users such as myself, most of the time things will work without problems - but in the few cases where they won't and if you aren't a forum creature, Google is your only hope.

    I google stuff mostly for fun - to check if something is possible, and to find interesting programs - but I remember three cases where googling was absolutely neccessary, and a lot of it; those being the setup of printer, setup of tablet, and installation of SCIM+Anthy... reading through dozens of user-submitted, fragmented and frequently inconsistent tutorials is not for everyone.

    Fortunately, the amount of IRL handbooks on Linux is increasing, and while they are still a little pricey - and no book can be expected to cover all of the problems into which one might run - I think this might be the right direction to take, as well as further introduction of Linux to schools and institutions... it's crisis after all, and the government is supposed to save up cash. ;)