Now before you fire up your trusty keyboard to shoot me down in flames for suggesting this. I want you to think about the continuing challenges that Ubuntu (and Linux in general) face as they compete against Microsoft for a share of the desktop OS market.
A good place to start is here, at a Slashdot article entitled ‘Why Linux Doesn’t Spread – the Curse of Being Free’.
You see people just don’t trust things that are free. They have been conditioned to believe that ‘you get what you pay for’ and hence find it hard to see the value of free software. As the article rightly points out, as far as Joe Newbie is concerned both Windows and Linux are free to him, so he will have the one worth $300 thank you very much…
If you read through the comments of the article you come to another observation. Lets assume that Joe Newbie has got Ubuntu installed on his laptop. He opens up his favourite .mp3 album on the PC and gets a prompt for a codec. Now although Joe is a newbie, he knows that .mp3’s work fine out of the box on Windows so why not on Ubuntu? Uh-oh! His mistrust of Ubuntu increases.
OK, so what can we do about it?
Well, if you’re observant, you will have noticed that we now have an all free software version of Ubuntu. Every single piece and parcel of it is comprised of free software. Great eh?
Why not also create an Ubuntu variant which includes (out of the box) support for things like .mp3, dvd, wmv et al and charge for it? Canonical could license the technologies needed to legally create such a piece of software and sell it to the customer.
As long as the price was kept reasonable, Canonical could sell a ready to rock, fully spec’d up operating system to OEMs. It could also sell a boxed retail version to the public (although of course these sales wouldn’t be as large) through distribution channels such as PC World or Amazon. Chuck in six months technical support helpline access for a few quid and you provide a support channel for the punters too!
I think that if Canonical could do this, Ubuntu would become more credible in the eyes of the ignorant computer user and we just may be able to entice him across…
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