Programmer to Programmer ( Long Story Of A GUI )
I am a developer and a part time Linux activist. I am a proud member of Linux Pakistan whose job is to spread the awareness of this highly competitive alternative to Microsoft Windows and MacOS X, which are very popular here in this region. Our software house decided to make a slight transition from its usual routines, and that was to at least inform the user that the application or system that we developed for him can be deployed on freely available Linux and he can avoid spending thousands of dollars buying multi-user licenses for Windows. Some users really liked the idea, while some plainly refused to do so because they were willing to pay for licenses than to "risk" their business on some alien technology. But the category that interested me the most was those who listened to our demos with attention asked for some time to make decisions and then rejected the penguin. They interested me because I knew those were the people who could bring change as they had the courage to at least consider new options. I started studying their behaviors and finally found out why 90% of them could not digest Linux. The reason my fellows is a reasonable Graphical User Interface.
Long gone was the time when Linux was supposed to be for so-called "enthusiasts" and servers. Its time to enter the market where maximum revenues come from; the SOHOs and SMEs. They need to be comfortable with the environment they work in, and believe me no businessman will mimic console commands or read manuals to figure out how to configure his modem. They need things done quickly and readily, and they cant tolerate delays. How do we developers imagine them even launching console dialogs is beyond my imagination. New Linux flavors have done a lot to improve the situation (especially credit goes to Suse, the king of the hill), but still a lot needs to be done by Linux application developers. Our demos typically went like "What application is available for Linux for this task?", then "Put a shortcut to it on my desktop", then "Why cant you? And what is this Konsole thing you are telling me about" and finally "Thanks for your time, I am outta here".
We played our part by considering this problem seriously. We looked at various approaches to solve this issue and finally we did what most developers are doing today. Like LimeWire, Azureus, Oxygen XML, Poseidon for UML and millions of others, we shifted to Java. We started developing user-friendly, self-explaining and intuitive GUIs using Swing and deploying them on of course, Linux, and delivering them to our customers. The result is that we became the only developers in our city which guaranteed from the scratch computerization of offices and enterprises with lowest TCOs. By saving money of our customers, we started making money ourselves due to popularity. One decision, a reasonable GUI, was all it took to take us from a normal software house to a nation-wide busiest tech consultant centre.