Can 50,000 Brazilians be wrong?

by Matt Asay

That's the number of Brazilian government workers that will be moving to a Linux desktop soon, as reported by eWeek.
Estimated monthly deployment is about 10,000 desktops, with 50,000 desktops already delivered, EnabledPeople, a Linux development company, said. The company did not indicate the total number of desktops that are to be deployed in the course of the project.

The Computers for All project is part of the Brazilian federal government's "Program of Digital Inclusion," initiated in 2003. The project's objective is to provide low-cost computers to the population and to boost technological development, EnabledPeople said.
This news follows on the heels of the Peugeot Citroen Linux desktop news of earlier this month. Both are significant, but I think the Brazilian experience poses more of a threat to Microsoft.

Why? Because I don't believe the Linux desktop will ever go mainstream in the "developed" nations of North America and Western Europe. We just have too much experience with Windows. The benefits of moving off Windows (or, in my case, the Mac) are outweighed by the costs. Not dollars-and-cents costs, but productivity costs. It's not worth $400 to me to switch to an experience that doesn't work nearly as well (especially since I can get my applications as open source, like OpenOffice, Handbrake, Adium, etc.).

Established users are not the market for a Linux desktop. New users are. While this may come from consumers in established markets, I suspect the real growth is in markets that can evaluate the Linux desktop on its own merits, not on how it compares to Windows. (And I believe that most established markets will move online, if anything.)

This is why projects like One Laptop Per Child are the true battleground for the desktop in the future. Microsoft will continue to mint money in established desktop markets, but it has to earn its keep in emerging markets. It should be grateful - Microsoft does its best work when facing real competition. I don't think it has much to worry about from Linux in its established desktop markets.

But everywhere else? Game on.

3 Comments

Mac Beach
2007-02-14 20:46:50
If you are using Open Source applications you should have MORE incentive to switch to Linux not less. That is in fact the path many people take: switch both their Windows and a separate Linux system (maybe by dual-boot) to Open Source applications first, then use Linux until you get stuck on something that isn't immediately working for you (scanners and camera interfaces used to be a problem) and jump back to Windows just for those sticking points. As my knowledge of Linux grew (and as the distributions got better) I found I was jumping back to Windows less and less, and finally not at all.


Now in my case I may not be the typical home user as I have no interest in games, nor the thousands of "shareware" applications that people tend to download to do one specific thing (even though Linux has a fair number of these too). On the other hand MOST office environments try very hard to PROHIBIT such activities, and for these I think Linux is going to show itself to be a cost savings in long term support costs, virus infestations, etc.


Also in the long run I think countries that introduce the kids to Linux sooner will develop a more resourceful crop of computer scientist than we will as they will not have everything handed to them via drag and drop development interfaces. While there are such things for Linux, Linux also makes it easy to just do simple command line utilities (a feature missing or hard to find on most Windows GDIs).


In twenty years, we here in the US will be a third world country in technology, with almost all of us being consumers and not producers of anything, staring in wide eyed amazement at the hi-tech from the Pacific Rim and wondering when some of it will get over here (already the case with cell-phones etc, and I'm sure the pattern will go up the line to general purpose computing devices as well.)

tm
2007-02-15 00:49:20
I thought that the Linux-better-than-Windows-because-it-doesn't-cost-anything argument has been dropped some time ago. Current Gnome or KDE desktop, ignoring some quirks here and there, in it's usability and overall inter-application integration is superior to Windows. And that's why i think there will be more and more switches.


OLPC is not a linux project. It's teaching and learning project. It sure will show us the possibilities and opportunities of linux on pre-known hardware, but so will OpenMoko (http://www.openmoko.org/)

Mike Schinkel
2007-02-15 19:43:46
I have been a Microsoft fan for well over a decade and a half. I simply couldn't envision myself using Linux, or even a Mac. However, over the past year I decided to look outside the box and you know, I'm liking what I see more and more. It seems that the open-source world has finally established a level of maturity that makes it viable, and the trend seems to be accellerating.


On the flip side I recently considered both a MacBook and Dell 1405 for my latest laptop. I got the Dell because of the better battery life and because it was 20% cheaper for equivalent hardware and service agreement (I found a 20% off coupon!) The Dell arrived this past Monday and it was loaded with Windows Vista. This was my first experience with Vista and, unlike my universally positive experiences with prior new versions of Windows, my opinion thus far is that it Vista doesn't offer me anything I really need yet makes me deal with less usable user interface and a lot of needless complexity. So I buy your argument as long as people are not upgrading, but this upgrade to Vista as left me extremely non-plussed and wishing for alternatives. I might even install Windows XP on it.


Something tells me that this will be my last Windows-based laptop. Unless of course if decide to return it before my 21 days are up in order to get that MacBook after all. If so, then my prior laptop will have been my last...