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Hi. I'm a Unix Administrator, mathematics enthusiast, and amateur philosopher. This is where I rant about that which upsets me, laugh about that which amuses me, and jabber about that which holds my interest most: Unix.
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The Mythical Desktop Percentage Point

Posted 01-19-2009 at 03:37 PM by rocket357

My apologies to Fred Brooks for creating this blog entry title in the likeness of his work "The Mythical Man-Month". Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery =)

It appears to me there is a growing concern among newer users in the Linux community over "desktop penetration rates" and "adoption rates". "If we don't get past 5% desktop usage, Linux will never go anywhere!" they say.

Now, I've only heard one argument for increasing desktop market share that didn't suck. That argument is that more market share tends to give better hardware support. That's fine...I can agree with that.

The big problem with "Desktop percentages crusades" is that most people *don't care* about tweaking their desktop until it is a pristine mirror image of their ideal computer. Just because you do, doesn't mean others do. Most users crack when given a choice between A and B because they don't know the difference between choice A and choice B, let alone care. I'm horrible about assuming people care about some arcane little tid-bit I just found, but in reality most people just don't give a crap! My wife looks at me with complete boredom when I attempt to tell her a programming joke that I just heard. Doesn't matter that the joke had me in stitches for 3 my wife, it's nothing to concern herself with.

I view desktop percentages like capitalist market controls. The capitalist market concept is self-correcting...if one vendor offers their wares too expensively, they won't sell anything and they'll be forced to drop their prices. If no one wants to buy whatchahoozits, then manufacturers of whatchahoozits need to find a different market to serve. Businesses that thrive in a capitalist model are ones that adapt. The beauty of it (that apparently the U.S. government hasn't seen yet...Bailouts FTL) is that the market *adjusts* to economic forces and trends by itself. In other words, there is no spoon!

Such is the desktop market. People are going to use what they see is the least hassle operating system that meets their needs. Sadly, this means that 90% or more will use Windows, *not because Linux sucks for newbies*, but because 90% of the people in the market have no reason to switch. 90% of the users out there have spent time learning Windows and have no reason to relearn their computer. The other 5-10% are composed of people who, for one reason or another, have branched out beyond Windows and found Mac, or Linux, or Berkeley Unix, or whatever. Typically these people migrate because they *want* to...they are curious what else is out there and they're looking because Windows does not meet their needs. Maybe they are drawn to see how computers work, and Windows doesn't offer enough visibility into the core workings. Maybe they are rebels and feel they must be different from the crowd. Maybe they're cheap bastards (like me) and don't want to pay a dime for something they can get for free.

The only real way to "undo" all of that is to invent a time machine, go back to 1982 and release Linux. Get the 90%'ers hooked on Linux prior to Windows making it's splash. Wait, that's crazy talk, you say?

Demanding desktop penetration is crazy talk, I say. If you want to make a difference, shut up about desktop market share and start coding something that'll make a difference. Write that next big killer app that users can't do without. You may not increase Linux desktop market share, but you'll make a difference to millions of Linux users worldwide.

THAT is what matters, not some silly statistic.
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  1. Old Comment
    Oh yeah. I especially like the mention of bailouts. true true true. I've now read through all the posts of personal interest to me, and I've only disagreed once. Impressive, given that I am also a strongly-opinioned ranter. (Which of course means that we must be smarter than everyone else...ummm, yeah... :P)
    Posted 11-04-2009 at 09:50 PM by ofaring ofaring is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Indeed. Proof that great minds think alike =D


    Now that I've gotten the BS out of the way, I'll just agree that it's quite ironic that we agree on 3 of 4 topics, given that we're both very opinionated.

    Oh, and I never said that user-friendliness destroying the expectation of users accomplishing tasks on their own was a bad thing...I simply stated that it wasn't MY thing.
    Posted 11-04-2009 at 11:29 PM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline


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