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3/25/2009
11:26 AM
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Does Linux Need A Desktop To Realize Its Potential?

Word from an open source conference this week is that some key Linux proponents don't see the need for a desktop product. I'm not certain how it realizes its full potential without one.

Word from an open source conference this week is that some key Linux proponents don't see the need for a desktop product. I'm not certain how it realizes its full potential without one.Two of the founding principles of effective branding are 1) give people what they want, and 2) make it simple. Linux has been terribly successful so far by applying these attributes to the thriving, if not enormous "makers community" of computer users (i.e. people who like to write code vs. consume it). You and I know that it has found a niche as an alternative to Microsoft products, especially in the server/ enterprise markets; one of the things it does best is that it does things while not being Microsoft (though its functionality, and adaptabily, are what also often make it a preferred medium for those code-aware folks).

So why would it ever need a desktop?

The CEO of RedHat, which has done more than most any business in monetizing the open source model, mused that few desktops are "mission critical," and that the very concept of a desktop might be irrelevant in the near future, thanks to cloud-based computing and the migration toward virtual everything.

I'm thinking the opposite might be true. Old habits die hard, and people are going to expect to see and use desktops on their computer screens for a long time to come. It's an interface entry point and home and, as such, provides another core component for brand preference: routine. I know that such utility requires lots of difficult programming and integration for mail, calendars, etc.

But I wonder whether Linux can be truly exploited for its value (which I think is very real, and very large) if it forever lurks in the background of general consumer consciousness.

What do you think?

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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