[OT] A couple of links about Gnome and usability

Richard Gaskin ambassador at fourthworld.com
Sat Mar 24 18:13:26 EDT 2012

Alejandro Tejada wrote:

> What did I saw in Linux, that according to my opinion would make it
> a success? That all Developers were colaborating toward a common goal,
> instead of competing against each other... As simple like that.

I used to feel the same way, quite passionately so.  I think my early 
posts in the Ubuntu forums may reflect that.

But over the years, after spending more time at Linux conferences, IRCs, 
forums, etc., I've come to appreciate that one of the core values in 
that community is diversity:  everyone gets exactly what they want.

Sometimes what people want is to work on really big projects and that 
means tempering their own preferences in favor of the group's larger goals.

Other times it means just scratching an itch, making something you'd 
like for yourself.  That's what started all this with the utils rms 
made, and the same with Linus' post to Usenet when he started the kernel.

To have so many distros and desktop environments isn't competition per 
se, any more than users of all OSes enjoy having many different apps 
available to solve a given problem.

On the contrary, such diversity just gives us more choices.

Everyone gets exactly what they want.

Where Linux differs from single-company OSes is that with those your 
ability to make any choices about how you spend your day ends with 
applications; the design of the OS itself is decided by a small group of 
people under one roof far far away, and you either like it or you don't, 
but you can't change it.

With Linux, you can choose among hundreds of distros, and customize them 
with the desktop environment of your choice, and then add all manner of 
widgets and tweaks to ever further hone it to be exactly what you want 
it to be.

> At least from my humble point of view, this is the way how everything
> that is worth and perdurable in this life come to existence, grows and
> stays with us.

In the natural world evolution favors diversity.

Since FOSS projects tend to reflect organic systems more than projects 
driven by a single organization, it seems natural that diversity would 
flourish in the Linux world.

The diversity that characterizes the Linux world isn't what's holding it 

The only thing holding it back is the simple human nature of consumers:

People buy whole-product solutions.

Linux is an OS, and an OS isn't a complete solution; it needs a computer 
to run it on.

Very few people truly ever choose their OS per se.  What people buy is a 
computer, and it comes with an OS already installed.  It's a complete 
solution, hardware and software - just turn it on and enjoy.

It would never occur to the average person to replace the OS that came 
with their computer with something they downloaded off the Internet.

Sure, more than 60 million people have done so, but those are a rare breed.

Linux can only become mainstream when you can walk into your corner 
Walmart and buy a machine with Linux pre-installed.

Dell, Asus, Acer and others release new models nearly every quarter with 
Ubuntu pre-installed, but mostly in markets outside the US (Italy, 
China, Thailand, and Taiwan were the last batches I in late 2011).

But in general, PC vendors are working as hard as they can do destroy 
shareholder value by refusing to differentiate:

No matter how much they spend on R&D, no matter how many design meetings 
they have, no matter how much they spend on fabrication, all of it is a 
waste of money because as soon as the user turns on the machine the 
experience is identical across all computers from all of those vendors 
down to the pixel: Microsoft Windows.

This refusal to differentiate has limited their ability to compete to 
just one dimension: price. And they're paying for it dearly, with 
margins plummeting year after year, and even the heavyweights like HP 
and Dell are now wondering if they can remain in the PC game at all.

They seem to believe that the "Ultrabook" will raise their margins, but 
once again they're missing the mark: if everyone sells the same thing, 
the only leverage they have is on price. We can expect downward pressure 
on "Ultrabook" price points later this year, ultimately bringing them 
closer to traditional laptop prices, further eroding profits.

If there was ever a time for a major PC vendor to consider launching a 
global line of systems with Ubuntu preinstalled, it's now - before most 
of them go bankrupt.

As long as they all ship the same user experience in the OS, expect 
further consolidation with some of them dropping out entirely before 
2013 is done.

Here the clue train pulls into the station for PC vendors:

Differentiate or die.

Ubuntu is one opportunity available for that...

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World
  LiveCode training and consulting: http://www.fourthworld.com
  Webzine for LiveCode developers: http://www.LiveCodeJournal.com
  LiveCode Journal blog: http://LiveCodejournal.com/blog.irv

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