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Thoughts about Linux marketing #1 : Linux and Netbooks

Here is a long series of articles about things that i think which could be improved concerning Mandriva PR. If possible, I will take a subject or some articles and show how Mandriva could have react or communicate about this. Today i will take about the netbook market and Mandriva situation.

As most people I think that Linux have failed concerning the Netbook market. Whereas people may consider that when Microsoft claims about the ownership of 96% of the netbook market as FUD, I still think that Linux failed to create the necessary turn-around. What’s interesting is the fact that a late player in the netbook market, Ubuntu, try to defend Linux positions on Netbook market. What can I say about all of this ?

  1. Linux marketing : in fact it’s more … Linux lack of marketing. Ever see a linux ads on TV or press magazine or in the street ? Everyday, and eventually everywhere I can see adds about Microsoft Windows or Office, or Mac products. Linux ? Nothing. At the same time we have so many « small » actors using the same product that they don’t know how to sell themselves and sell Linux.
  2. Choice : sorry, but when I’m going in the retail shop, I may have … 1 Linux netbook for 9 Windows ones. So there’s no choices. We should ask why … How do we deal with after-sales services ? The retail shops call centers don’t have the competences to debug a Linux issue, and except if this is done by the hardware manufacturer with help from the distribution, you will have a hard time. What about the documentation or quick start guide for the users ?
  3. Do we provide value-add ? free or paying games designed to run on the netbook, applications, others services, documentations or quick start guide, peripheral/accessories designed for the netbook ( webcam, DVD player/writer, DVB-T USB adapter, bluetooth adapters, … )

I looked at the arguments of Ubuntu concerning Linux vs Windows. In short we have : no virus, Firefox+OpenOffice.org, Linux reactivity and stability … Sorry but this is shit ! No virus ? Frankly most users don’t really care about this argument : they just live with it. Firefox and OpenOffice.org ? They are available under Windows, and sometimes they perform better under Windows and it’s easy to install them and have the latest version. Linux stability ? Again this is not an argument. Users have friends who are going to use CCleaner, TuneUp utilities to resurrect their computer, they will have Avira AntiVir or Avast to mostly protect their computer, and they will be able to use most of their preferred application, use skype or MSN with webcam chat, play all flash games and some little games that will work on their computers. When doing a presentation and willing to use clone mode display, this will work out of the box, and wireless connection will be most of the time reliable. In short, a Netbook running Windows XP, with a friends who know how to cure your computer, is top notch and all that most users may want. So what can a Linux netbook could provide ?

  • App Store : Do people know the Apple App Store ? You know, the famous : For whatever you will want to do in your life, there will have an application in Apple App Store. What a brilliant and simple marketing idea. Do you know that Linux have « Apple App Store » like features since years ? Yeah, just start Yast/Synaptics/rpmdrake/yourpreferredpackagemanager, and you will have access to thousands of applications. Now look at the differences between linux and Apple. Apple use icons and screenshots for the applications, mix free and paying application, sort them by categories, rate them and eventually show by default the preferred application. Now look at Linux, application are sorted in sometimes obscure categories, everything is text, no image, no screenshots, and no applications are recommended. You only have Free applications, and you don’t have paying applications or demo and ability to buy them directly. One is for end user, the other one is for technical users. Linux is using ugly and obscure names like package, media, repositories, dependencies, conflict. Why can’t we have commercial paying applications shown in Linux applications list ? This channel/media could be disabled by default, but this could be interesting. Why can’t we pay directly for the application from the Linux package manager ? Mandriva have http://store.mandriva.com/, so part of the infrastructure is available. A user open an account on https://my.mandriva.com/. The user could provide all needed informations to allow payments, and then when installing a paying application, he could just confirm the payment directly from the application, or by starting a browser on the corresponding store.mandriva.com page. Do you know that we have already something like this ? look at the Hercules eCafe, a netbook running Mandriva Linux and Windows. You have a dedicated site where you can find tutorials and documentation, but also you have access to some games specifically designed for the netbook ! With this netbook you can even have online storage
  • Ecology/GreenIT : How is Linux concerning this ? If linux based Netbooks use less power than Windows based ones, why don’t we talk about Linux as being green-friendly ? Can Linux help fighting global warming ? does Linux allow to use less boxes/packages as you download most of the stuff from internet ? What’s the advantages of intensive internet usage ? What about the development model based mostly on people working at home ( less transport usage, lower power consumption in office building ). Even for OEM they could communicate about the fact they are using a « green » OS. Is Linux a new capitalism ?
  • A new model : Windows is a whole world of compatible hardwares and softwares. Apple tell you to think different. And what about Linux ? We need serious marketing in Linux landscape … technicians/programmers are bad at marketing and without proper marketing, an unknown product can’t work and have success. Even the biggest keep doing marketing ( L’Oreal, Nike, Adidas, Coca Cola, IBM, HP, Microsoft ).
  • ARM based-netbook : really, I don’t think that ARM based netbook could be successful. I have the same kind of skepticism concerning Google Androïd. However what piss me off is the fact that when talking about ARM based netbooks, we talk about future and not yet released netbooks running Xandros or Ubuntu, and what about Mandriva Gdium. Ok, it is not ARM based, but instead MIPS based, but it is running Linux only, allow to share your documents with the USB key, and have accessories designed to run with it.
  • Windows 7 won’t be an opportunity : at the time Windows 7 will be out, Netbook will be powerful enough to make it run … As more time pass, Netbook are more expensive and more powerful. Linux price is no longer an argument, Linux need to provide values.

I guess that Mandriva needs a vision about what they want to do, what they want to show and how they want you to feel …

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