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Re: Microsoft needs a help strategy

From: ZnU
Subject: Re: Microsoft needs a help strategy
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2009 02:42:23 -0500
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.5.3b2 (Intel Mac OS X)

In article <slrngnroul.pl2.jedi@nomad.mishnet>,
 JEDIDIAH <jedi@nomad.mishnet> wrote:


>     Linux is in wide use so no one has to worry about it "going anywhere".
> Furthermore, success in some non-desktop market might "spill over". This
> has already happened with one very prominent example: 
>      Apple
>      The success of Apple in an area that's NOT desktop computing basically
> helped bring them back from the brink of oblivion and has put them in the
> center of the technological universe. So fixating only on the information
> you find convenient is not only not logical, it is also contrary to the
> real world.

There are essentially two mechanisms behind the "iPod halo" effect.

The first mechanism is simply increased brand awareness. The iPod is a 
heavily branded product. Apple logos appear on the case, packaging, and 
in several places in the user interface. They're also quite prominent in 
iPod-related advertising, of which there is quite a large amount.

The second mechanism is through the use of the iPod as a showcase for 
Apple's technical and aesthetic strengths. An iPod is a solid little 
device that provides a great user experience from end to end: the 
packaging it comes in, the device's own interface, the high-end retail 
stores that sell and support it, the easy to use music service it 
integrates with, etc. People see all of this, and then think about their 
computing experience with Windows, and wonder if they wouldn't be better 
off if their computing experience was a bit more like what they got with 
the iPod.

Neither of these mechanisms really maps well to the situation that 
exists with embedded Linux.

In terms of branding, companies that happen to use Linux on their 
devices are typically far more interested in building up their own 
brands than the Linux brand. It's virtually impossible to own an iPod 
without knowing it's an Apple product, but how many TiVo owners actually 
know TiVo runs Linux? Very few. And the fact that Linux is popular on 
supercomputers and web servers is even more useless in terms of 
promoting Linux as a consumer brand, because those aren't consumer 
products at all.

In terms of showcasing Linux's strengths, yes, the fact that Linux is 
used in some high-end applications does imply it's capable of high 
performance and high reliability. But again, these high-end applications 
aren't things most consumers have any contact with, so they never get to 
see that. And embedded devices that run Linux don't really work in this 
context either. Users of Linux devices like music players and GPS 
navigation units typically only interact with proprietary shell 
interfaces, so they learn nothing about Linux desktop user experience. 
And few people are likely to say "Gee, my GPS device seems pretty 
stable; I should find out what OS it runs so I can run it on my desktop".

If, say, Ubuntu decided to release an Ubuntu-branded music player which 
implemented Ubuntu UI sensibilities and maybe played off of some common 
themes in the Linux world (by, for instance, being a more open platform 
than most players), *then* you might see the sort of halo effect Apple 
has benefited from. But as things stand now, there just isn't much of a 
halo effect with respect to embedded Linux.

>      Plus, this sort of "fatally low marketshare" hasn't hurt Linux yet.

I would say this is a rather... optimistic statement.

>      So it's obviously a meaningless metric.
>      The Linux in my PMP makes that PMP less hostile to Linux or a Mac
> or whatever else may come along. That embedded Linux even makes that 
> PMP more straightforward to work with in Windows.

A device that runs Linux can be just as "proprietary" in terms of its 
interaction with other devices as any device running a fully proprietary 
embedded OS. How open a device is basically determined by how open its 
developer wants it to be, not by what OS it happens to run.

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them
‹ that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer
apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too
small, but whether it works [...]"        -- Barack Obama, January 20th, 2008

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