The missing link in mainstream desktop Linux adoption

  • March 6, 2007
  • Avatar for peter

Well, in fact, there isn't one missing link. But in this FOSSwire article, I'm going to look at one major issue standing in the way of getting desktop Linux any serious market share. And that is OEMs.

Wikipedia defines Original Equipment Manafacturer (OEM) as:

When a company purchases products or components from another company and resells the products or components with the purchasing company's name or logo on them (usually, but not always as part of a product), the company that resells the product is called the original equipment manufacturer (frequently abbreviated OEM).

In this article, an OEM is a company who sells PCs (whether big, like Dell for example, or small, like a local computer shop who build computers).
OEMs, are understandably, reluctant to offer desktop Linux pre-installed on their computers. They don't know how well computers like this will sell, they are heavily pressurised by Microsoft and no major OEM has done anything like this before.

The average computer user doesn't know about desktop Linux. Most people don't even have the vaguest idea that anything like an alternative OS actually exists. They see Computer == Windows. Even if OEMs did offer Linux, without a lot of marketing, the average person would probably just pick a Windows machine for familiarity reasons. People are lazy and don't want to relearn.

So if computer manufacturers aren't offering Linux on their computers and the average computer user has no idea Linux exists, then how do we get desktop Linux more mind and market share?

Well, if we're going to get anywhere, we have to break this cycle. Enough people don't demand Linux on their PCs because they don't know about it, so OEMs don't offer it. What we really need is a major vendor, like Dell for example, to do a pilot scheme pre-installing Linux on desktop PCs and notebooks.

Taking the Dell example further - recently Dell opened a website called IdeaStorm. In case you're not aware, it's a place for people to submit suggestions about how to make Dell products better.

At the moment, the number one suggestion/request is Pre-Installed Linux | Ubuntu | Fedora | OpenSUSE | Multi-Boot. This obviously isn't the average user talking, it's the geek. But, still, it shows a little bit of hope that enough people might tip the balance such that Dell might try it out.

And if they do, other OEMs might follow.

But there's a snag. I mentioned earlier about pressure. Microsoft would be extremely angry with Dell if they did even think about trialling pre-installing Linux on their computers. Microsoft's relationships with OEMs (and vice versa) are highly valued and highly important by both companies. But in a sense, Microsoft are bullying OEMs - big and small, to not give the consumer a choice, by threatening them. If I was being really cynical, I could say it's blackmail.

If we can get just one big OEM to start doing this, then desktop Linux might have a chance. And now is the time to try and do it. With Vista just released, the average computer user will have to re-learn how to use their computer anyway. They may as well take the opportunity to learn Linux. Judging by XP to Vista, we might not have another good opportunity like this for five years.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold

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