The End-User Perception Of The Market
From where I, and many others stand, we seem to have a picture of the market like this: RedHat and Suse are business-centric distributions, and Corel and Mandrake are more desktop/client-centric. That is a fair enough breakdown I guess, even though we all know that for the most part, all of the major Linux distributions are very capable in business environments. I've used RedHat and find it to be pretty decent, but when I first installed Corel Linux on a machine right next to it, I was completely floored.
Granted, I'm a Windows user. Well, most of the civilized world has had Windows shoved down our throats, so are also Windows users. Windows is not all bad by any means, and in fact, is pretty easy to get around in and get some things done in. It's not the same has slapping VMware on your RedHat and developing for multiple platforms, but for many, Windows gets the job done.
Anyway, as a Windows user, I felt more "at home" with Corel Linux than I had with any other distribution I had tried. It seemed more accessible and more user-friendly. In fact, it became very popular. According to articles from Wired, at its peak Corel sold some 25% of Linux distributions in the pipeline, second only to Red Hat. Why did it become so popular? Are there lessons that other distributions could learn from Corel Linux? Perhaps, but more on that later.
Suffice it to say that for the majority of non-Linux folks out there, Linux seems kind of reserved for 'geeks' or command-line experts. They think it is a completely fragmented effort, with no real direction and a collection of rag-tag applications slapped onto a CD and mailed out the door. It seems intimidating and difficult to work with. As many of us know, this is not really the case at all. It is just that the Windows users have gotten used to things being a certain way, and the unfamiliarity of Linux can cause a bit of trepidation.
I believe that it is this trepidation, this current end-user perception, that in part holds Linux back and prevents it from really making a bigger impact in the corporate and particularly the consumer markets. In the coming pages, I will discuss some of the ideas I have seen and heard in the marketplace and some of the thoughts I have come up with based upon my own Linux experiences. Hopefully, this discussion will help spark some constructive feedback and debate from users in the Linux community. If not, well, I tried.