W. Chris Shank on 29 Jan 2006 20:16:53 -0000

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Re: [PLUG] Discusion on Linux4Austin Project

Well, it's nice to know that PCLinuxOS has good hardware support. I'm partial to Ubuntu personally.

My idea to promote desktop linux would be to combine the idea of an install fest with consumer hand holding services and support. I don't think the general public is going to go out of their way to buy a PC with Linux pre-installed. I made an attempt years ago to sell PCs with linux pre-installed and it was a nightmare. When someone purchases a new PC they expect the hardware and OS to be a complete package and they expect it all to work. There is no way that a small shop can make a reasonable profit selling Linux pre-installed unless they either target Linux enthusiasts only (they are more aware of what they are getting) or put a significant price margin on top of the hardware cost to cover the R&D and support that needs to go with new hardware. If you can move lots and lots of units, the upcharge margin can go way down - but you need to move thousands per month. So that idea definitely won't fly, in my opinion.

Also, let me pre-qualify what I'm about to say. I think Linux is an OK desktop from a standard consumer point of view. It's not perfect for them because of some of the difficulty integrating various software, application compatibility ("What do you mean my copy of Joe's Brochure Designer 2001 won't work on Linux?"), and the overall interface differences. What I do think it's good for is specialty uses, such as Email and Web Browsing (depending on the sites you frequent). Also, it may be good for young children to use as a gaming and learning tool (ie: childsplay). Even in this limited capacity for the general public, I suspect Linux could be appropriate for maybe 75% of the computer using public. The question is how many people would give up the ability to go to ANY website and running ANY windows program to run Linux? I think no reasonably intelligent user would choose to do this - at least not on their primary home computer. I do think that maybe they would be willing to allow Linux to breath new life into their old PCs. Many households have more than one PC and the second or third may be years old. So I think that consumers may be willing to spend a hundred or maybe two hundred dollars to make their older PCs more useful.

So what I think might work (that's a big "might") from the marketing standpoint has to go beyond just says on the radio, "Try Linux, go download it." There needs to be a way for people to get Linux on their computers and feel good about it being there. The way to make them feel good about is to support it after it's installed. Even simply answering their questions over the phone can go a long way. People want to talk to people. Regular people are not going to see newsgroups and chats and knowledge bases as an advantage. They are going to perceive it as haphazard and requiring more skill than they poses and more dedication than they are wiling to invest.

My idea is to install Linux on people's older PCs, support it for a limited time afterwards, and get paid for the trouble. I'm considering opening our retail location on Saturdays and advertising it as a Super Saturday event. Bring your old PC and we will install Linux on it and get it working. We will also provide 30 days of email, phone, and remote support. We will charge a small fee for installing and configuring the software.

If this were to get some traction then the installed base of Linux would increase. Manufacturers would start getting pressure from regular users. Developers and ISV's would start to see that there may be an installed base of Linux to target apps for as well. So if it gained traction, then it would slowly make for an industry around desktop Linux, particularly a service industry.

It's probably more pipe-dream than anything, but I can't see regular folks installing Linux on their primary home PC themselves.

Walt Frampus wrote:
On Sun, 2006-01-29 at 12:13 -0500, W. Chris Shank wrote:
The Linux4Austin project is a marketing effort for desktop Linux. 
Apparently they are going to buy about a month of drive time radio on an 
AM station and run a series of adverts for a Desktop Linux that people 
can download (or maybe get a free CD?). PCLinuxOS seems to be the one 
they are promoting for whatever reason. Helios of Lobby4Linux is behind 

I had read Helios' original hype for an upcoming announcement and when
he made it, read all the comments to his blog both Negative and
positive. I was wondering why he picked PCLinuxOS to push. I had used it
when Texstar first came out with it. I was using mandrake at the time. I
had since moved on from it and use Suse as my main distro. I downloaded
the latest PcLinuxos to see how it has come along and tried it on my
Averatec 5400 laptop. Averatec is one of the worst for trying linux on.
It has a vid card (S3 unichrome) that linux never works properly with.
The linux driver for it has to be compiled and then most likely it still
will not work. I normally just used the vesa driver and forgot about 3D.
I booted the PCLinuxos live CD and EVERYTHING was found on this laptop.
It even set the vid card! I installed it to the hard drive to see if it
was a fluke and am still using it. It isn't a bad distro. They don't
worry about propriety software tho so you can watch a DVD without having
to download libdvdcss. I have emailed back and forth with Helios and he
is using some of what we talked about in his promotions.

 I'm pretty sceptical of the idea for several reasons. I have an idea 
of how to take this idea a little farther and possibly make it 
successful. My measure of success isn't just getting people to try (and 
abandon) desktop Linux, but also to facilitate a market around it. In my 
opinion, desktop Linux has to have a capitalistic element before it will 
be a success. I don't think selling what can be had for free is the 
answer either.


One thing we need to do is get away from the "why pay if I can get it
for free attitude."  I have paid for Suse since 8.2 and feel it is
important to do so just to support GNU/Linux in general.

Anyway, I was just wonding if anyone here had any thoughts on this media 
marketing idea, positive or negative. If there is interest in exploring 
my idea on the subject, I'll share it here as well.

Would love to hear your project idea!


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W. Chris Shank
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Philadelphia Linux Users Group         --        http://www.phillylinux.org
Announcements - http://lists.phillylinux.org/mailman/listinfo/plug-announce
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