Government // Enterprise Architecture
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4/21/2008
01:03 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Shuttleworth's Case For Linux

When mention of Ubuntu -- or Linux in general -- makes it into mainstream media, it's always worth reading about, if only to see how badly they mangle it.  The latest bit of blurbage from the BBC (or "Beeb", as some are wont to call it), a thumbnail rundown of Mark Shuttleworth's work with Ubuntu and the progress of that particular Linux distro, won't be earth-shattering news to the existing open source faithful.  But it's yet another sign that Linux is finally out of the tech-geek c

When mention of Ubuntu -- or Linux in general -- makes it into mainstream media, it's always worth reading about, if only to see how badly they mangle it.  The latest bit of blurbage from the BBC (or "Beeb", as some are wont to call it), a thumbnail rundown of Mark Shuttleworth's work with Ubuntu and the progress of that particular Linux distro, won't be earth-shattering news to the existing open source faithful.  But it's yet another sign that Linux is finally out of the tech-geek closet and making strong inroads towards becoming a brand name of sorts.

In the article (also check out an accompanying BBC blog post), Shuttleworth hinted that people who do most of their work with a computer through a Web browser will be on even footing with Linux:

"If people think of computing as going to a PC, sitting down and starting Word, then the traditional view, of using Windows and Office, will persist.

"But if people think of their daily experience as a sit down on the Web, we know that people can have a very compelling experience on Linux."

Whether or not the age of replacing desktop apps with Web apps is upon us seems to depend on which group of users you're talking to.  Those who have lived with a fairly traditional view -- the Windows-and-Office view, as Shuttleworth puts it -- are going to balk a bit at the idea of substituting any of that for a Web-centric view of getting things done, but already may be more accustomed to a Web-based (and usually cheap or free) way of doing things than they might realize. I'm still quite attached to Word and Outlook myself, but I'm getting that much more accomplished through my Web browser (Firefox) with each passing month.

All this tells me that the "sweet spot" for Linux adoption with the masses will be amongst people who a) aren't particularly attached to Windows applications as a way to get things done, b) are stuck with older hardware and can't afford a forklift upgrade, and c) are looking to buy a new machine but can't drop more than a few hundred dollars, but still want something reasonably functional.

The last one in particular puts a great deal of pressure on Microsoft -- especially since low-end machines are turning into the Next Big Thing in hardware, and new hardware is how many people acquire a new OS to begin with.  All of Microsoft's actions in this realm (e.g., extending XP's lifetime, cutting XP down to size, kicking off a free albeit ad-funded edition of MS Works) are, in the long run, finger-in-the-dam measures.  I'm sure there will always be a market for what they offer, but it's not going to be remotely the same kind of market before long -- especially not for individual users who may not ever have needed to tie themselves to Microsoft in the first place.

What I like about Shuttleworth's talk, though, is that he makes his case for Linux with a minimum of spite and mudslinging.  Yes, there are the obligatory lines about Linux not being susceptible to viruses or spyware -- something that will really be put to the test when and if Linux becomes a domestic attack target -- but this kind of attention is incremental evidence that Linux is finding real ways to shine in the public eye on its own merits.

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