Can 50,000 Brazilians be wrong?
by Matt Asay
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.