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Why Linux Doesn't Spread - the Curse of Being Free

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-get-what-you-may-or-may-not-pay-for dept.

Linux Business 1243

Vlad Dolezal tips us to a philosophical take on why Linux hasn't grown to challenge Windows as the most popular operating system. According to the author, the reason is simple; Linux is free, and humans tend not to equate free things with being valuable. "Here's what Compy McNewb sees. He can get both OS's for free. But one of them is worth over three hundred dollars, while the other one is worth nothing. 'That's not true!' I hear you scream. 'Linux is worth a lot! It's just being offered for free!' I know it's not true that Linux is worth less than Windows. It's far more valuable to the end user in terms of getting things done. But that's not what Average Joe Computer Newbie sees. He sees a free product versus a three-hundred-dollar product he can get free. It's all about the perception!"

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Power of FP (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458398)

Convince him that it'll let him Frist Psot! more often and see what he thinks of the free one :)

Or it is not spreading (5, Insightful)

zonky (1153039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458402)

because it is relatively difficult to buy as a pre-installed system.

Re:Or it is not spreading (5, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458452)

Yeah, that has to be reason #1. Outside my professional acquaintances I know very few people who would ever attempt re-installing Windows without a pro technician, much less the great unknown Linux.

Re:Or it is not spreading (4, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458494)

My system is just so much easier to use in a general sense using free software. My computer used to feel like a wrestling ring with two dozen different companies and a few organized criminals duking it out while I tried to keep things from falling apart, with anti-spyware and anti-virus programs acting like my assistant referrees. That feeling is just gone. I don't think I could go back to the way things were before and be happy working that way now.

I'm sure I'll need to work with MS tech to make my living in the future, and I'm pragmatic about it, but it sure is nice to be free of their crap.

Re:Or it is not spreading (2, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458462)

In this vignette, Luke has been caught running Free Software.
He's been drug in front of the Judge from Caddyshack by the Captain and the Boss.

Boss: Bailiff
Captain, Road Prison 36 (CRP36): Prosecutor
Judge Smails (JS): Judge
Luke: Free Software User

CRP36: What we got here is... failure to communicate. You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice you got yourself two sets. You ain't gonna need no third set, 'cause you gonna get your mind right.
JS: Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.
B: Sorry, Luke. I'm just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that.
L: Nah - calling it your job don't make it right, Boss.
CRP36: What we've got here is... failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men.
JS: I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.
CRP36: You gonna get used to wearin' them chains afer a while, Luke. Don't you never stop listenin' to them clinking. 'Cause they gonna remind you of what I been saying. For your own good.
L: Wish you'd stop bein' so good to me, cap'n.

Re:vignette (4, Funny)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458720)

In this vignette, Luke has been caught running Free Software.
Luke is sitting alone at his computer. He nervously inserts a linux Live CD into the disk drive and reboots. His roommate, Chad, enters from the kitchen.

Chad: Whatcha doin', Luke?
Luke: [nervous] Nothing!
Chad: Looks like you're installing linux.
Luke: It's just a Live CD.
Chad: You know, I've been into linux for years now.
Luke: Really? I'm just ...
Chad: Yes?
Luke: God, I can't believe I'm saying this ... I'm ... I'm a little dual-boot curious.
Chad: Oh. Let me show you how to properly set the boot parameters on that Live CD you've got
[cue the "bow-chicka" music ...]

Re:Or it is not spreading (2, Interesting)

GodOfCode (878337) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458490)

I agree with you on this one. Most "mainstream" manufacturers have shown enormous reluctance in offering Linux as a pre-installed option in their products. Then you have the li'l problems when you buy some gadgets that come with only Windows versions of the software that runs/manages them. And, of course, the fact that most human beings avoid change if they can help it.

Re:Or it is not spreading (3, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458496)

Yeah, I mean, ordering a system from Dell is just so incredibly difficult. You call a 1-800 number and an actual human being will help you order a computer. I mean, almost nobody orders computers from Dell! No siree, Bob.

Re:Or it is not spreading (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458576)

Yeah, I mean, ordering a system from Dell is just so incredibly difficult. You call a 1-800 number and an actual human being will help you order a computer. I mean, almost nobody orders computers from Dell! No siree, Bob.

Oh, please. You need to actively search out linux configed machines on Dell's site. Yes they are available but they aren't promoted. Joe Blow isn't going to know to ask the operator at 1-800-buy-dell for a linux configured machine.

Re:Or it is not spreading (1)

sigzero (914876) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458670)

That is exactly right. I have been in and out with Dell for a few years and knew they were testing the waters every now and again but until I went to the Ubuntu site I didn't know they sold a desktop and 2 laptops pre-installed with Ubuntu!

Re:Or it is not spreading (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458570)

Or, it's not spreading because it's just not a very good general-purpose desktop system.

Re:Or it is not spreading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458692)

It wouldn't matter if a TV was free if I had to build the *ucker myself.

No investment != no reward? (4, Insightful)

neapolitan (1100101) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458408)

Nothing new, and basic psychology. This has been proposed before, even on Slashdot many times in many posts.

It is also the explanation behind fraternity rites / hazing and various initiation procedures to clubs. No pain == no value in many people's eyes.

You could almost look at defense of Microsoft as a form of the Stockholm syndrome. [wikipedia.org]

Re:No investment != no reward? (3, Interesting)

catwh0re (540371) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458600)

Computing is a boon to the consumer-based society.(Not entirely helpful while ploughing a field for example.)
In a consumer-based society products are propagated by sellers.(Computer stores in this case.)
When a product/service is good, the penetration of a product/service is directly proportional to number of sellers.(Think iPods)
The number of sellers is maximised and thus achieved by the ease of profitability of the good/service sold.
Items which can be sold as-is attract both small and large resellers who market and profit from the good/service directly.(It's easier to sell something as-is, then have to think of something to bundle it with to make it profitable.)
Remove the sale price and the result is instead of being the sold item, it merely becomes a tool to sell another kind of product/service.(Usually as a value themed bundle - such as services or hardware, think IBM or Walmart.)

Additionally, selling it cheaply doesn't solve the problem either, as there needs to be significant profit for sellers to be bothered.(Why you will find windows and not linux in the local computer store.)

Free items are rarely marketed to consumers for these reasons, marketing costs money, marketing is mostly to generate sales uplift. Marketing is paid for by revenue. The end result is that there is limited mass-market penetration, and it's propagated almost entirely by skilled persons or word of mouth.

Re:No investment != no reward? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458650)

No pain == no value in many people's eyes.

Oh that's why Linux geeks hate Windows so much! Because it is so painless to get stuff working, hence it has no value.

Whereas struggling for hours to find a working Linux driver for your particular brandX hardware, discovering that there isn't one, then being told to write it and share it with the community because it'd be helpful to have a working driver for brandX is so much more painful that it has value beyond belief.

OK to be serious now, Windows and Linux both have their own strong points and weaknesses. People should use whichever suits them. I prefer Windows myself these days, but in my younger days when I loved to endlessly tinker with assembly and C code I'd have preferred Linux. Nowadays my slothful old self prefers gaming and web browsing and since most of the shiny new games I like run on Windows that in large part dictates the OS I use.

Re:No investment != no reward? (5, Insightful)

plierhead (570797) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458726)

Most people don't like free for many reasons. People need to know how you're making a buck before they want to deal with you. After all, "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

If you come around and offer to clean my windows for free, I naturally assume its some kind of scam. Perhaps my windows are coated with a rare gold dust which you intend to scrape off and re-sell? Who knows?

If you offer - nay, push on me - a free piece of computer system, I have to wonder why. Especially if you have the appearance and demeanour of some kind of zealot, with an almost religious fervor in trying to push me to use this software.

At least with MS I know they have a naked interest in gouging me for money via unnecessary upgrades and vendor lock-in. I can almost put a number on it - something in the mid-100s perhaps over the next few years. Something I guess I can grudgingly live with.

Big deal. (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458410)

This is just another story about perceived value vs. actual value ... whoop-de-do. It's funny too, because the music industry would take the exact opposite position: people see "free" as being more "valuable".

Gagh. The human psyche is fundamentally twisted.

Average Joe user is unqualified (5, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458412)

A computer nowadays is an appliance, that plays games, downloads porn, and gets you onto Myspace. Whether its a Mac or PC is based on what other s/w you can steal from your friends, or whether you're rich and/or trendy. You have to buy a computer, and it "comes with" the OS - why would you even waste your time farking around with something else?

Re:Average Joe user is unqualified (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458518)

Sheer intellectual curiosity? Contempt for grossly manipulative treatment from vendors?
Distros have solved a lot of the problem with configuration management and device drivers.
OTOH, if you're trying to run bleeding edge stuff, things like wireless can be out of reach. If I want wireless to work, it's back to the old 'Doze partition.
However, I can't complain, as that wound is largely self-inflicted, and left as an exercise for the geek to fix.
Oh, wait, this is /., so I'm aloud to say "Waaaaah, this software is poo and it no worky-worky1!!!1!!!"

Re:Average Joe user is unqualified (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458566)

The points you bring up do not apply to "Average Joe User" - who was the fictional consumer in the article. Slashdotters know Linux, we may even know that we need it. The rest just buy a Dell, dude.

Re:Average Joe user is unqualified (2, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458664)

You asked the question:

why would you even waste your time farking around with something else?
And then I transitioned to some personal gripes with OTOH.
Proprietary software gives you a fish every time you boot up.
Free Software offers a spectrum from the same fish, to a kit and destructions for building your own fishing pole, along with a few Mb of usenet postings on where to fish.
Nothing is intrinsically wrong with accepting the fish, but the point is that the opportunity to get out there and catch your own should be advertised and encouraged in a gentle way.
Many do not think past taking the fish, simply because the possibility of catching their own has never been spoken to them.
Might hurt someone's profits, you know.

i did buy a dell ... (1)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458728)

... with ubuntu on it. i mentioned it to some guy i knew - several month later i was positively surprised he had chosen the same laptop.

I call BS (5, Insightful)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458420)

But that's not what Average Joe Computer Newbie sees. He sees a free product versus a three-hundred-dollar product he can get free. It's all about the perception!"
It's not perception. Windows is already "free". It either comes with your computer or you borrow a disc from a friend and install it. How many of Microsoft sales depend on users buying a copy in the store?

Who wants to use Linux when there always seems to be one damn thing that doesn't work? How many of the cheap Walmart cd's will run on a linux box? The killer still seems to be accounting programs. When Quicken, Quick Books and Simply Accounting work, then there will be real in-roads to business.

Home users may never sign on. Shit far too many home users already shouldn't have a computer. You want Linux to work and be accepted by the masses? Make it look and work like windows. Any learning curve is too large. We've had the same basic windows functions and menus (until Vista) since 95. How the hell are we going to train legions of AOL users to use Ubuntu? Good luck with that.

I hate Microsoft as a company. Their business practices have been highly suspect, but their software (XP Pro anyway) does work and lets me do stuff without having to read man pages, or tweak files or find special drivers or find a replacement program, or run in a sandbox. After 8 years, countless distros, way too much time and actually failed hardware (how does ubuntu kill a previously working drive), I personally have jumped off the linux soapbox for the last time. Linux is awesome on servers but I don't think it will ever even challange even Apple for desktop market share.


Re:I call BS (2, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458492)

"When Quicken, Quick Books and Simply Accounting work, then there will be real in-roads to business."

I would suggest the Sage products are more vital to businesses.

http://www.sage.co.uk/productsandservices/home.aspx?tid=131865&stid=131870&pid=132037 [sage.co.uk].

These guys are deep in every core industry and are global. A product like SageTimberline is used beginning to end in the commercial construction industry including by the owners and property managers who commissioned the construction.

It is kinda insane how powerful Sage is getting through acquisitions, they could open doors for Linux overnight.

Re:I call BS (1)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458526)

Maybe. I haven't heard of them on this side of the pond. Every business I've seen is running one of those 3 programs I mentioned earlier.

Re:I call BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458690)

Surely you mean small to medium business right? Large and enterprise business generally uses finance one, SAP or Oracle

Re:I call BS (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458734)

I'm with you except for the hardware support dis. I bought a super cheap pc online for my college brother that needed a simple pc. I could not after hours of trying get windows to work perfectly with it. The driver installation crashed, windows didn't recognize any of the drivers on the mobo cd as belonging to the sound chip. Ubuntu worked with out a hassle. So thats what he has now. And he likes it.

It's the applications, stupid! (5, Insightful)

QCompson (675963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458428)

One can come up with all sorts of complicated theories on why linux hasn't gained significant ground on windows, but it's very simple. Applications, applications, applications. If linux was running word, photoshop, quickbooks, and a host of other business software (not to mention games), we wouldn't be reading these endless pontifications about why linux hasn't been overtaken windows on the desktop.

Re:It's the applications, stupid! (0, Redundant)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458460)

I don't know about quickbooks, but I have never had any trouble using Gimpshop and OpenOffice in lieu of MS or Adobe offerings... and neither has anyone else I've exposed to it.

Re:It's the applications, stupid! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458538)

I have to deal with .xls files that have lots of built in macros that only work in Excel, along with Word documents that are filled with all kinds of formatting that gets slightly tweaked when I open it in open office, edit it, save it, and then open it in Word. Open Office absolutely will not replace MS Office for me or for any of the other people I work with. It would probably be a good MS Office alternative for my retired mother though.

Gimpshop is a decent alternative to Photoshop for me. But that might not be the case if I used Photoshop professionally in an environment where everyone else was also using Photoshop.

Re:It's the applications, stupid! (1)

QCompson (675963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458540)

I don't know about quickbooks, but I have never had any trouble using Gimpshop and OpenOffice in lieu of MS or Adobe offerings... and neither has anyone else I've exposed to it.
In a work environment? Gimp and Openoffice are great for home use, but they just don't cut it in the workforce. Perhaps it's a critical mass problem, but they're a bit rough around the edges as well.

Re:It's the applications, stupid! (2, Funny)

cjb658 (1235986) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458500)

Maybe now that their programs don't work on Vista either, people will give Linux a shot.

Re:It's the applications, stupid! (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458598)

i agree with you, and this is illustrated by the market in china where both linux and ms oses are ~free. Even though they are ~equal cost, they still choose microsoft and (imo) because of the applications (which are also generally ~free).

Re:It's the applications, stupid! (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458686)

on the other hand, most web chinese web sites only work with ie...but i guess that's an application too, in a way.

King's New Robes Effect (3, Interesting)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458430)

I call this the "King's New Robes" effect, which is the same logic by which "boutique" products are sold - you can take the same crap, repackage it in a pretty way, and charge 10X as much, and people will flock to buy it by the hundred.

In the past year I've had a lot of success converting frustrated Windows users into Linux people... and simply convincing both Windows and Mac users that Linux was a legitimate operating system. However, I've also frequently run into a scenario where I would be showing somebody my Dell laptop running Ubuntu, and they'd be REALLY excited about the features, the intuitive UI, the eye candy... and then they'd ask me how much it was... and when I told them it was free, they'd be disappointed!

Re:King's New Robes Effect (5, Insightful)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458666)

... and then they'd ask me how much it was... and when I told them it was free, they'd be disappointed!

http://www.ubuntu.com/support/paid [ubuntu.com]
Then tell them it's $250 with a years support package, but because you're a licenced distributor, you can install it for nothing, just for them. Then it has percieved value, it's a good deal and they're getting it because they know an insider! While people don't want to get something of no value, they love getting something of value for nothing and they love "knowing the right person". Either that or tell them the price of a Dell with Ubuntu preinstalled [dell.com], which is not nothing and definitely has credibility as "value".

Uhhh... (2)

doctor_nation (924358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458432)

I'm guessing it has a lot more to do with Windows being pre-installed on everyone's computer. Once it's there and average joe is used to it, he's not going to bother changing to something else. There's no estimation of value, explicit or implicit there. And honestly, Linux would "cost" the average person more than $300 to start using in terms of time and effort. It's cost me way more than that, and I have some idea of what I'm doing.

I don't buy it (4, Insightful)

_merlin (160982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458436)

I don't think the n00b sees it this way at all. To them, the OS/window manager is part of the computer. That's what they see when they turn it on, and that's all that matters. As they don't see Windows as separate from the computer, they won't see it as extra value. Linux may be ready for the masses at last, but until it's marketed as such in the stores they visit, they'll never know. I was at Harvey Norman the other day buying a new Wacom tablet. There was not one Linux PC in the building. Same goes for just about any other computer store. If your lucky, there might be one or two in a corner. Linux is a build-to-order option from Dell, but Joe n00b won't choose that - he'll just take what's recommended. Right now, you have to actively seek out Linux if you want it; that's perfect for techs, but no use for n00bs.

Re:I don't buy it (2, Insightful)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458584)

Exactly. Most computers these days are in the hands of people who do not understand that the hardware and the OS are separate items. Which is why the average computer user doesn't see the cost of Windows - it's built into their purchase price. They might choose Linux over Windows if they were forced to buy the OS separately from the hardware.

That said, there are moves into the retail market by Linux computers. They have the advantage of being significantly cheaper than the equivalent Windows versions. I've found that if you give most people the choice between computers, they'll take the cheap one every time. If it can browse the web, check their e-mail, play their music, and so on, they're happy.

Free love? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458438)

Is that why free love didn't catch on?

Maybe we should use a modified version of the "freedom isn't free" slogan.

Re:Free love? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458616)

Is that why free love didn't catch on?

No, it means we should have just paid hookers right off the bat, rather than waste time taking girls out to dinners and movies in vain attempts to get laid.

Or because people don't know about it (1)

Gumbercules!! (1158841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458440)

You're talking about "joe newbie"... he can't install Linux if he's never heard of it. To most non-IT, non-geek people, it's Windows or Apple. Linux isn't even on the radar.

Consumers Hate Change (3, Insightful)

stevestrike (695817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458442)

I've tried to setup several small offices with OpenOffice. Within a week or two, they are screaming for their Excel and Word. It's not that they hate free, they hate change! If it doesn't look and behave exactly like they are used to, they won't invest the time to learn a new product.

Re:Consumers Hate Change (2, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458506)

Moreover, if you have 99% compatibility, enough users will hit that 1% often enough in meaningful enough situations that they will shrug and go back.

Re:Consumers Hate Change (5, Informative)

JoshHeitzman (1122379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458556)

Why should anyone invest the time to learn a new product that doesn't do more for them then the product they are currently using? Personally, I'm still using Office 2000. I've used both Office XP and Office 2003 extensively at my prior job, but I really didn't notice the difference between 2000, XP, and 2003. I've also given OpenOffice a try. The thing that really annoyed me to no end with OpenOffice was that I could not grab the edge of my current selection in it's Excel equivalent and drag it in order do the equivalent of a cut and paste of the selection (i.e. move the selection to a new location on the spreadsheet). Apparently I do this a lot, but hadn't really noticed how frequently until I tried OpenOffice and couldn't do it. I use FireFox and Thunderbird for web and mail there so no problem there.

OP is wrong (4, Insightful)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458446)

It's not because Linux is free, it's because businesses don't put Linux on their desktops.

For a really large number of people, their main experience with computers is at work--that's what they learn on, that's what they come to understand. Deviation from what they know is a barrier to entry.

Couple that with virtually no vendors selling computers with Linux pre-installed, and you have a huge barrier to entry. The vast majority of users use what's put in front of them, either by their employer or Dell or Walmart, and see little to no incentive to switch.

Yes, Here is how to make Linux valuable (2, Interesting)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458560)

1) IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Sun...along with small businesses and individuals across the country (via the Ron Paul *Money Bomb* line of fund raising), do a flat-out hostile takeover of Intuit.
2) Quickbooks and TurboTax are ported to Unix/Linux under the GPL.
3) IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Sun, etc., build a Linux application server tuned especially to offer up Quickbooks in a Remote Desktop style.
4) Offer said server on an easy to install LiveCD that lets everyone try it out and easily install it.
5) IBM, Sun, etc., make a huge amount of money selling enterprise ready QuickBooks servers.
6) Novell, Red Hat, etc., make a huge amount of money selling QuickBooks support.
7) All the small businesses save a ton of money not having to deal with QuickBooks forced upgrades and other shenanigans.
8) MS certainly isn't going to disappear, but they certainly feel a disturbance in the force -- as if a million people suddenly cried out Freedom!

one of the best... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458740)

...ideas I have heard lately. Just checked, trading at around 30, market cap 11 billion.

Hmm, kinda expensive. Probably a lot cheaper to just develop a very good set of financial apps.

Linux biz apps, you hear this all the time, it needs photoshop, autocad, and tax/business software and the mythical "exchange killer". Now there exist open source alternatives there, but none of them have even some million$ being thrown at them, let alone billions. I think for this idea maybe start a little smaller and see how it does, try the money bomb on one of the above first, see if something could be built that was even better than the original-not equivalent, but *better*.

Re:OP is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458582)

Ever wondered why "businesses don't put Linux on their machines"?
. ...
Didn't RTFA, the summary didn't suggest the article to contain anything besides that trivial insight.

Re:OP is wrong (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458756)

Businesses buy Windows because that's what you run Excel on. It was true fifteen years ago, and it's true today because it was true fifteen years ago. The barriers to entry that prevent Joe Sixpack from switching also exist for business owners and VPs making purchasing decisions.

Duh. (4, Insightful)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458450)

Thanks for the profound knowledge, Einstein.

I noticed this a long time ago, when I first started my business. According to economics, there is more demand if you lower your price. But in reality, this is not always the case. In fact, I would go so far as to say that almost as often as it does, price does not affect demand at all.

I've been saying for a long time that someone should package a Linux distro in a box, and sell it for $100. People will buy it. Anybody could do it, developer or not. It is perfectly legal, as long as you follow the license for all of the programs, which can usually be done by including a source CD along with the package. I haven't done it myself because I'm not familiar with retail setup, and would probably just end up spending my money on a business venture that I can't complete.

Red Hat does something similar. They sell their package for $15. They should increase the price.

Re:Duh. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458524)

And that's how I got started in Linux, back before broadband was common. I went to a computer store, looked around and bought RedHat in a box.

Re:Duh. (1)

Tom9729 (1134127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458574)

According to economics, there is more demand if you lower your price.
According to economics, price does not affect demand, only quantity demanded.

I've been saying for a long time that someone should package a Linux distro in a box, and sell it for $100
They do sell packaged versions [amazon.com] of Linux distros, and have for quite awhile. Just because you can download it for free doesn't mean they don't also want to make a little profit. In the end it doesn't matter, because the "Average Joe" doesn't buy an OS unless it comes with a computer.

Re:Duh. (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458636)

According to economics, price does not affect demand, only quantity demanded.

What does this even mean?

Re:Duh. (2, Interesting)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458618)

Uhhh...they already do this. Here's the first one that came up on Amazon [amazon.com], but they have more and less expensive of boxed Linux available at just about any computer-related retail store.

Of all the methods of getting people to adopt Linux, I just don't think "it needs to cost more" is one of them.

Re:Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458742)

Both Suse and Red Hat were sold for $75-100 in Best Buy. No one purchased it because:

1. If you knew what it was, you could get it cheaper
2. If you didn't know what it was, why buy something to replace Windows?

While good in theory, it has been proven to not work in the market.

Apples & Oranges (3, Insightful)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458470)

The author is off base, Linux isnt free when presented with the same features as Windows ie codecs. Thats why we have $$$ distributions that sort all that out for the consumer. What is an issue are people downloading free versions of Linux then being stupidly surprised that the $$$ bits are missing.

Free != worthless (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458482)

The air you breath is free, but I doubt Joe Sixpack considers it worthless.

"None sing hymns to breath, but oh, to be without it!"

Re:Free != worthless (1)

CriminalNerd (882826) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458654)

But air is a necessity. Plus, it's been paid for by your taxes, corporations (they paid for the coal to burn the carbon dioxide and gasoline), and government (ie: infrastructure and military).

And even throwing that ridiculous thought aside, air is too valuable to have a value. There's a difference between "free" and "no value expressible as a real number".

Re:Free != worthless (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458722)

The air you breath is free, but I doubt Joe Sixpack considers it worthless.
I just spoke to Joe Sixpack, and he *does* consider the air you breathe to be worthless.

My father, the concrete mixer driver turned jeweller used to say "If you can't move a piece, raise the price until it does. Always works."

Bigger Picture (1)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458484)

  I'm not sure who's counting, over what time and using what metrics, but the Age Of Information is just starting, and Linux is just the tip of a much large iceberg. MS will be just another player in a much larger world as time goes by. The free alternatives to any product are DIY constructions using parts available and common knowledge. FOSS exists because the "parts" are digital and there's (relatively) no effort in duplicating them.

  Check your trends on a decade basis.

Or cause MS has a monopoly... (3, Informative)

thedragon4453 (1236484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458486)

I think the reason doesn't spread is because of the virtual monopoly windows has on the OS market. Linux is difficult to get on a system pre-installed, and its difficult to get a lot of mainstream software on Linux. Games are almost non-existent in any real way because developers just aren't producing for Linux. At the moment, it will take quite a bit for Linux to take hold of the OS market just because Windows has made it so hard to get in.

Don't forget the extra work you have to put in it. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458488)

Freedom is Slavery!

Hurr? (1)

Matt867 (1184557) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458508)

I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that almost every computer average Joe has ever seen had windows on it.

Simple marketing! why make it more complicated? (4, Interesting)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458514)

I have a minor in marketing and economics, woohoo. Anyway...

This is the best example I can think of. There was a small watch company (can't think of the name off my head without getting out a textbook) who sold fairly high-end watches for about $500-$800 and sales were poor to flat. The company raised the price to around $1500 and sales went crazy. The higher price has a perceived higher quality, even if it doesn't.

Cars work that way, computers work that way. Of course price doesn't always equal quality, but it can and that is a that point is stronger in peoples minds.

it is true (3, Interesting)

Aeron65432 (805385) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458522)

It is true. One of the most common examples of expensive products being valued more, despite the difference, is wine. Caltech released [bbc.co.uk] a study about a month ago that showed people constantly rated wine better if they were told it was more expensive, and vice versa for cheap. And it wasn't just preference, it was cerebrally measured.

People associate more expensive products with being superior. Stupid, I know. But it's true.

too late for PC, not for other things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458532)

Linux hasn't and won't spread because by the time it became (or will become, depending on your viewpoint) ready for prime time, the desktop was already a well established and developed product (by Microsoft and Apple). Since Linux has always seemed to play catch up in terms of user interface, it is only relegated to the tech savvy and those who are interested in customization/maximum useability (a.k.a. the knowledgeable few).

There are fields where Linux made an inroads early on (servers, mobile devices, etc) and where it has spread.

Re:too late for PC, not for other things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458628)

Ack, I meant to say "Linux [as a personal computer product] hasn't and won't spread..."

Here's why.. (5, Informative)

Computershack (1143409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458544)

I've just installed Ubuntu on my laptop. Installing it was the easy part. I then had to go off and search how to add MP3 support, multimedia streaming and DVD playback. 3/4 hour later of enable this repository, apt-get this and a fair bit of sudo this and that and it's all done. OK, got MP3 support in Rythmbox and VLC is doing a tremendous job of playing DVDs. Firefox seems to be OK although Realplayer streaming on the BBC News website only works in standalone player.
Fonts look crap so lets see how to install some decent ones..a quick google and after reading several different ways to do it, I'm copying them over from my Windows installation - another 20 minutes. Now, lets set up a shared folder so I can access it from my Vista desktop. Right click on folder, select Share Folder. Goes off and gets another raft of files. Refresh Windows and my laptop shows..all good. Click on the icon for the laptop, user/pass prompt. Try several including guest and the logon for ubuntu and no go. Off we go to Google again and there's a Howto. Only problem is it misses out a few IMPORTANT steps (like saying I have to add a SMB user WTF???) In the end, a post directs me to a Youtube link which shows exactly how to do it. Try to let it share without user/pass and in the end I give up. There's another 45 minutes wasted.

So it's taken me 2 hours just to install BASIC multimedia functionality, some decent fonts and figure out how to share files over a windows network. What makes it worse is there's not just one way to do something but several ranging from completely ridiculous strings of CLI commands to a simple solution but you can bet which one tops the search results. OK, I know how to do it for next time but do you honestly think Average Joe on their first venture into Linux is going to persist as much as I did? Not a chance. Windows "Just works" so that's what they'll go back to. It'll be "Yeah I tried it once but it was just too damned complicated to do anything so I gave up."

And that's why Linux isn't cutting it on the desktop.

Re:Here's why.. (0, Troll)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458736)

Now you have a choice!

I then had to go off and search how to add MP3 support, multimedia streaming and DVD playback. 3/4 hour later of enable this repository, apt-get this and a fair bit of sudo this and that and it's all done. OK, got MP3 support in Rythmbox and VLC is doing a tremendous job of playing DVDs. Firefox seems to be OK although Realplayer streaming on the BBC News website only works in standalone player.


  • Would you like to register/buy Roxio CD burner?
  • Would you like to register/buy your Windows Media Player?
  • Would you like to register/buy (whatever DVD player comes with Windows)
  • Would you like to sign up for AOL?
  • Register your MSN Messenger now!
  • etc.

The right computer will sell with Linux (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458550)

The local 'The Source' can't keep the Eee on the shelves. The minute they get them in, they sell out. Walmart had the same experience with its latest Linux box. For cheap computers, where the cost of Windows is significant, Linux has a measurable advantage. The advantage is amplified by the fact that Vista wants more expensive hardware than either Linux or XP.

Re:The right computer will sell with Linux (1)

Computershack (1143409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458620)

And the first thing that happened to the Walmart boxes was that most of them ended up with Windows on. Likewise the Eee, Asus got so many requests for Windows drivers that they released some. I wonder how many Eee PCs are still running Linux.

OS X filled the gap here. (2, Interesting)

jakecdouglas (1199545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458552)

About 6 years ago during my introduction to Linux and subsequent zealotry phase, I stubbornly ran Linux as a desktop environment despite all its shortcomings at the time. Once I got over that part, I slowly found myself drifting back to...Windows. Linux was clunky in that area and really didn't have the support it needed. It has come leaps and bounds since then, but I believe still has some to go. After being introduced to OS X, I would never go back to either. Linux has its place in my life as a spectacular server operating system and I wouldn't consider using anything else. Windows...doesn't have place in my life. OS X bridges the gap for me by combining the flexibility and integration potential of Linux while retaining the familiarity and ease-of-use of Windows (go ahead, laugh,) and bringing to the table a _killer_ GUI that is intuitive and as simple or as tricked out as I want it to be. I can sit my Windows-only Mom down in front of my Macbook and she can figure it out just fine. But it can still run all the fun Linux stuff and more! Woohoo.

Windows is Free (3, Insightful)

Mazin07 (999269) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458564)

How many people pay for Windows? These scenarios are common:

"When I need Windows, I just grab my friend's Windows disc with a volume license."
"When I need Windows, I just buy it for $5 with my University ID."
"When I need Windows, I just borrow my friend's bootleg copy that he got in Asia."
"When I need Windows, I get the pre-cracked version from The Pirate Bay."

How many people really know the real cost of a full license of the various versions of Windows Vista?

Re:Windows is Free (1)

Almahtar (991773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458688)

Your scenarios are not common in the least. Most people don't install windows themselves, so they don't buy it except when included as an OEM license. In that case, the price is bundled with the cost of the machine, so it's hidden. I'd go as far as to say 90% of Windows installations are paid for because corporations won't risk license raids and non-nerds don't know there's a choice or a cost involved.

It's because it needs a power player to back it... (1)

FreeKill (1020271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458594)

I think that the cost has very little to do with it. I think the reason Linux doesn't really contend with Windows for the OS crown is that the main backers of Linux are relative nobodies to the general PC using masses. Sure, everyone who reads slashdot knows about RedHat, Ubuntu, Suse et al. but your average PC user has probably never heard of any of those companies. What Linux needs to make a real run at mainstream is a major player with a lot of non-enthusiast brand recognition to take the torch and run with it. Not that I advocate any of these companies but someone like Google or Adobe or Sony or Mozilla, etc etc. If someone along those lines was willing to jump on board and actually help make deals to have it installed at purchase time, you'd see Linux jump in market share...I honestly don't believe there is as much "brand loyalty" as Microsoft would like us all to believe. You give consumers a real option with real brand recognition, and I think you'd be pleasantly surprised by the result...

I disagree (3, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458596)

This was news years ago but this view is slowly changing.

1) Open Source is gaining more and more penetration in the workplace. It starts out small with free stuff like wiki's, gimp, open office, etc. Eventually the ethos will spread to the OS as well. OSS isn't just abstract theory anymore, there are real apps that non-geeks can appreciate.
2) There's more and more frustration with Microsoft.

I'm hearing people in userland start to talk about going open source. Case in point, a parent I know found out the cheap computer they got did not come with Office. They need it for school. Well, you can fork over $125 for Office or $0 for Open Office. Assuming they just need basic word processing, free is fine. Said parent was highly receptive to the idea. Five years ago, I can just about guarantee the answer would have been "Open what? No, no, I want the Microsoft brand, what everybody's using."

More than "free must = crap," I think the dominant corporate meme is still "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." If Microsoft drops a steamer in your lap, you just shrug and look at the boss like "Hey, what can I do, the market leader is dropping steamers on everyone." You go with a product no one has ever heard of and it fails, the boss looks at you like "We're the only outfit in the industry with a steamer in our laps and gee, we're also the only one using that Foosoft app. Got any excuses, flitboy?"

I disagree (1)

Dracolytch (714699) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458602)

Honestly I think it has more to do with being less user-friendly, and people not having any experience with the OS than just "Good things cost more".


My unbiased opinion... (5, Insightful)

FoolsGold (1139759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458604)

...for what it's worth, as to the reasons Linux isn't spreading as quickly as was hoped:

(1) Crap-all marketing. Windows has posters, flyers, tv spots, and general awareness by most computers users. Apple has poster, tv spots, attractive retail stores, and in most cases a general awareness by most computer users. What does Linux have? At best, word of mouth.

(2) Lack of commercial apps. Don't give me crap about being able to use GIMP for free - armature and profession photographers want professional-level tools like Photoshop. They WILL pirate the damn thing if necessary.

(3) Path of least resistance. Moving from one operating system to another is generally an exercise in trading one set of hassles for another. It's not often that it's a painless experience. Moving to a Mac though is much more realistic for someone fed-up with Windows than moving to Linux however, due to points (1) and (2).

Finally, the biggest reason of all - why change? Windows just isn't that bad if you know how to use a computer. Most people have more important things to do in life than worry about operating systems, or at least they do once they get to a certain age when priorities become clearer.

Wrong (4, Insightful)

kmac06 (608921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458608)

It's far more valuable to the end user in terms of getting things done.
That's wrong. For the vast majority of users, it doesn't matter much what OS they use. Inasmuch as it does matter for those users, "getting things done" is tipped in Windows favor just because of compatibility issues such as Word vs OpenOffice. Many users (such as myself) use specialized software that only works under Windows, or simply play games. I know you can do some virtual environment or dual boot, but neither of those is better "in terms of getting things done". There is of course a small base of users than can get more done with Linux, but they are a small minority.

I'm not bashing Linux or open source software in general, but the simple fact is that Windows is Just Fine for most people. Add to that fact that people don't see the hidden cost of Windows, and you have the current situations.

People think music is free ... (1)

bkaul (1235970) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458612)

It's not free that's the issue. It's user interface. Microsoft spends millions on market research and UI design to develop an intuitive user interface, and besides that has the head start of software compatibility. Those issues will ensure Microsoft's dominance as a desktop operating system.

The free issue could be valid when comparing to other *nix operating systems, except that the major server operating systems such as Solaris and HPUX are typically packaged with large server hardware, while Linux is designed for desktop PC processors.

Linux is no where near windows in ease of use yet (2, Interesting)

SipM (1241278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458622)

Anyone tried getting a java applets to work in firefox on a 64-bit AMD linux platform? Or how about sending audio to a TV over an HDMI connection? How about video overlay on an ATI x1250 video card (on a motherboard with the AMD 690 chipset)? Can you tell it just took me over 1 week at over 8 hours a night of getting my new HTPC set up with linux? And I tought very long and hard between whether to go with linux or windows xp. It has decent new hardware but still performance is horrible mainly due to lack of proper driver support (even though this hardware has been out for more than a year). Anyway ... if you have the ability to patch source code, (re)compile kernel modules, and sort through 100's of pages of forum threads telling you to change one config setting after another, then sure, you can make a really great platform working for free. But is the average PC user really able or willing to put the necessary time to figure all this out? At the same time, you can't blame manufacturers in not putting the resources to support the relatively small linux userbase. So it's a chicken and the egg problem. Whether chicken/egg or not, the FACT remains though that overall, installing, maintaining, and using linux is still far more complicated for the average user (who has no clue what a daemon or python script is) than windows.

Re:Linux is no where near windows in ease of use y (1)

FreeKill (1020271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458642)

It's almost a shame that Linux doesn't charge a fee for the Operating System in that if they did, they might actually be able to afford to hire the developers to work on all the hardware and software compatibility issues on a much wider scale...

Re:Linux is no where near windows in ease of use y (1)

arodland (127775) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458714)

Anyone tried getting a java applets to work in firefox on a 64-bit AMD linux platform?
Yes, it's called "go to a page that uses java, and when the little box comes up that asks if you want to install Java, say yes. Wait a few minutes, and then it works".

Or how about sending audio to a TV over an HDMI connection?
How about it? It just looks like another soundcard.

How about video overlay on an ATI x1250 video card (on a motherboard with the AMD 690 chipset)?
Has worked in general for countless years. If ATi/AMD broke it with their newest card, perhaps you should take it up with them. :)

Please slashdot... (0, Troll)

byteframe (924916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458634)

...stop linking to stupid blog posts or cnet articles that attempt to figure out why GNU/Linux isn't 'mainstream'. I've been using Linux since I was 14, and I can tell you all right now -- without a shred of doubt -- that the monopolist WILL fail, and the GNU platform will be the standard OS for the entirety of the human race and worlds beyond. It's only a matter of time before the dunce bag that blogged this crap experiences enlightenment. Free software is a commodity. It's done.

So logically.. (1)

NNOP (1162249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458644)

.. all Linux has to do to become the worldwide dominant operating system is to charge a million dollars a license and turn the other way when people 'pirate' it? I think theres a little more to it than that.. //does Linux float on water?

simple answer: lock-in (2, Interesting)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458656)

It's lock-in, hardware and software lock-in.

Hardware: Linux is pretty good at working with MOST of the hardware, but there are wireless cards and scanners and of course other devices that don't work out of the box with Linux

Software: yes there are replacements and most of the people probably need only a browser, but if 100% of Windows programs would work on Linux I'm sure we'd not have this discussion.

All the rest of "reasons": ease of use, resistance to change, lack of perceived values they are there but they are minor issues, most of the people I know won't even be able to tell the difference between KDE and Windows, most of the people I know don't care about the "value" of their OS either.

And of course, why says that Linux is not growing? It's growing pretty fast considering these issues. What do people expect?

There are anumber of reasons (1)

Gman1968 (1241274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458674)

Yes some people do see FREE as something of less value. If you goto the grocery store and see steaks half off , the first thought is going to be they must be getting old and about to go out of date. But there are other reasons as well. Ive only had 1 experience with Linux (years ago) and I remember it being a major pain in the neck to get the drivers for my DVD Burner. If I cant find the driver for the DVD Burner obviously I didn't end up downloading the software to burn the DVDs with. I know that now it is much easyer to get the drivers for various pieces of hardware , but that image I have of Linux is still there. It will still be there until 1 day I install Linux onto something and get it up and running without much trouble. Linux being installed onto the EEEPC is going to be a huge help for the OS. Its a fairly pain free way of introducing people to Linux. (See its OK the penguin doesn't bite) I would like to see Linux installed on small ready to use Gizmos. Stuff like hand held electronic games or media players. After awhile people wont be so hesitant about maybe trying linux out. There are quite a few reasons its not spreading as fast as some would like. Including the Fanboy attitude some linux users have. Its a good thing to have something like Linux. Something you can build a skill and a community around. Its something to be proud of.But the talking down about windows and down to windows users isn't going to help people to switch over. Perhaps maybe an approach like... Sure windows is fine for a generic operating system. If you want to just install it and run simple things...ect ect..But Linux can be just as simple. and as you grow into it and learn more about it you get much better control over your computer. PS im not a big computer expert so take my opinoin with a grain of salt (but then again nether are most people who use computers.)

The Curse of Ignoring the User (1)

grumpygrodyguy (603716) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458680)

Why Linux Doesn't Spread - the Curse of Being Free

More like "the curse of ignoring the user".

Noone, and I mean noone, needs to know how to use a command line to install windows.

It spread here (2, Interesting)

flerchin (179012) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458702)

I just installed Ubuntu 7.10 this weekend on my thinkpad. The process was seamless. Ubuntu is ready for grandmas. I got it at a good price too! However, I don't know how I can convince my non-geek friends that it really is that good, and it really is that easy.

Inertia (3, Insightful)

JesterXXV (680142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458712)

It's got NOTHING to do with Linux being free and EVERYTHING to do with inertia. Linux is used by jillions of companies every day for all kinds of shit BESIDES desktop apps, so it's not like there's widespread distrust of Linux, and certainly not due to its price tag. The reason it hasn't reached that tipping point is circular: nobody is using Linux on the desktop because nobody is using Linux on the desktop.

Windows is well-known and it's Good Enough for the masses, so they have no reason to go through the unknowns of switching. That the "something else" is Linux has nothing to do with it.

Lnux is getting there, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458748)

I've been using Linux for 5 months now and it's been great, but Linux is still the OS for the geek-minded.
What will your sister do when after an automatic (and apparently inoffensive) system upgrade, her computer doesn't work anymore?
You say: "Let me see, I think the new video driver config screwed up xorg."
Hey, root filesystem can't be found! "Let's update grub and what about uuid?" and on and on and on... IT'S FUN :P
But it's your sister!!!

ps. On the other hand, my sister wouldn't mess (and screw up) with Linux as much as I do.


javajeff (73413) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458754)

All the games are on Windows. I have used Linux in the past, but have no reason to install it today since Windows does everything. I have my favorite games and Adobe apps. Office suite, I dont really care and would be fine with Openoffice.org. I think games are keeping the newegg builders on Windows.

Corporate America needs Microsoft Office, so that is why they do not switch. Outlook is the key to success for the office suite...not the word processor.

Yawn, another why story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22458758)

Please stop whining about why Linux doesn't spread. If any Microsoft product had half the problems of the typical Linux distribution, the Open Source community would spend weeks slapping each other on the back and predicting the end of Microsoft. How old is GFTP? And it's still not stable. Every distribution upgrade drops dozens of perfectly fine applications and replaces them with new just-barely-beta applications based on some perceived notion of them having greater long term potential (never realized because those apps soon get replaced too).

Instead of yet more excuses, the Linux community should focus on creating a fully marketable product.

No need to lie (1)

Selanit (192811) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458760)

It's an interesting experiment, but as I said in the comments on his blog post, there's one thing I would change. He says "I'll say I managed to get an illegal copy off a Polish guy I know over the internet." (Emphasis added.)

Why bother lying about it? Just say "I managed to get a copy off a Polish guy I know over the internet." Don't say anything at all about its legal status and allow the listener to assume that it is illegal. There is no need to tell an explicit lie in this case.

And doing so could potentially have adverse consequences. For one thing, the listener may actually have heard about Linux before, and call him on the lie.

For another, it might have personal consequences. It sounds like this a completely informal experiment, and that the guy will be trying it out on his friends. If I was his friend, and I discovered later that he lied to get me to try something, I'd probably be upset with him. Even if the lie meant that I had actually not committed a crime at his suggestion.

Even if telling the lie doesn't have either of those consequences, it explicitly gives them the false idea that Linux cannot legally be copied. So does misdirection of the kind I have proposed, of course; but I tend to think it's easier to correct a mis-impression than an outright lie.

As for the price, I think there probably are people selling Linux for $500 in the States. Certainly there are small vendors selling pre-installed Linux systems [tuxmobil.org] for that or more. So that part's not a lie.

huh? (1)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458762)

So, slashdot was running out of Linux articles and so decided to post an article containing what's mostly a wrong, "oversaid" cliche as news. Great!

The reasons are far more simple (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22458772)

1. It doesn't run "Word", "Outlook", "Photoshop" and all that people are used to
2. The flaws, difficulty and learning curve are very different from the flaws, difficulty and learning curves the people are already accustomed to under Windows. (It's important to note that Windows isn't perceived to be 'better' than Linux or even MacOS, it's that the users are accustomed to the problems with Windows and are reluctant to learn to deal with a new set of problems associated with alternatives.)

Most Windows users will not give you any argument about the expectedly poor performance, stability, reliability or security of MS Windows. If you told them it was unsafe, you wouldn't be telling them they don't already know. The reality of the user psychology that most people seem to be missing is that people are accustomed to Windows and its shortcomings.

The reality is that there's a LOT of psychology to overcome when it comes to getting users to try alternatives... even alternatives such as MacOSX. And getting beyond the psychology still isn't enough -- there has to be a comprehensive set of answers to handle the questions surrounding migrating their data to a new OS and running needed applications or their acceptable substitutes. And most significantly, the answers to those issues are not one-size-fits-all! The comprehensive solutions need to be tuned to the user being converted.

I don't have a clue how to get beyond the psychological barriers to change. But taking a lesson from Microsoft when they were busy converting users from Word Perfect to MS Word, they were ALL ABOUT providing massive guidance and assistance for Word Perfect users. Microsoft's efforts won users over. It would seem to me that if there were sufficiently effective documents and "wizards" to guide Windows users in using Linux, it might prove to be helpful... do a degree. (If I were to estimate how effective such an effort might be, I'd guess about 5% effective. It's not a big estimation, but it's not 0.)
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