I have tried to create something of a comprehensive list to see why people abandon Linux. This is my second thread that I have started here. I wrote this one for one reason: to promote discussion, thought, and to exchange ideas. This is partly copied from my own posting from the OpenSUSE forums:
This is my first time using Linux by myself. I just installed Linux this month for the first time in my life by myself, so this is very interesting for me. I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable at using Windows and as such, I am continuing and am experiencing troubles. Speaking as somebody who is currently transitioning to Linux right now:
1. Most people expect things to be very close to Windows. Perhaps an operating system that looks like the one below with an automatic Wine function built in is the solution. (Most likely, the MS Messenger would be Wined of course). This is because people are inherently averse to change and because they actually have to learn it again.
2. People have a now, now mentality. They get frustrated when things do not go the way that they want. They don't understand how big a transition they are making and as such are completely unprepared for it. Not to mention, their now now mentality makes them unwilling to learn anything new or to spend time learning something new.
3. Lack of technical expertise. Like it or not, most people do not know what a kernel, file system, etc. are. They don't understand that each time they click a mouse, there is a lot of code being executed. They just know that it "works". You think that they have ever heard of X Window, or DOS?
4. Poor tech support or because few other people around them use it. When there is trouble with Windows, you can ask somebody around to help. Mac, with its growing market share, is starting to be like that as well. Linux? Not as easy. (That said, I am a student right now going to the University of Waterloo, and 6% of students here now have a distro of Linux installed; dual booting is common). Much has been said here of the attitude of people in the forums, many of whom hang to their useless traditions. Who cares about showing the code? Replace it with a splash screen already! It looks much friendlier. Also, you "paid" for Microsoft tech support - they are obligated to provide it. It's in the cost of most PCs on the market. Furthermore, in Linux, new users may not be used to asking for help on a forum.
5. Poor hardware and vendor support. I myself right now am going through quite a bit of trouble getting my ATI Radeon 4890 installed. Many hardware vendors right now don't support Linux. I anticipate that this will change as Linux gets more market share. Look at servers right now, there is plenty of Linux support. Steve Ballmer has declared that 60% of servers run Linux, about 40% run Windows. Link [url="http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/151568/ballmer_still_searching_for_an_answer_to_google.html"]here[/url]. In desktops, what is Linux? Most likely under 2%. That number is even lower in the Western world. In the developed world, Linux being low cost is probably much more attractive, because people are also not switching from Windows.
6. Still user unfriendly. Face it - most users aren't willing to use a console or do things that people here are. Linux has gone a long way in the past few years, but it hasn't reached the point of Windows yet.
7. Buggy still. Linux distros still have many bugs and crashes are not uncommon. Some distros like Fedora or Ubuntu have really short release cycles that leads to too little time to iron out all bugs. After doing my research, I have learned that Mint is one of the more stable distros. A problem because Linux is often advertised as more stable and safer than Windows.
8. The fact that there are distros probably repels people, especially do to cosmetic differences and incompatibilities in things like tar files with the different distros. Seriously though, there needs to be some sort of open standard. I recommend for tarballs a common directory system already to minimize confusion.
9. Short release cycles for some distros that mean that people have to upgrade a lot. Well, you don't have to upgrade, but there are benefits in doing so. Most people are willing to tolerate switching to a new Windows or Mac every few years, but a new update every few months? Some people just don't have the time.
10. They actually have to download it. Face it - people are lazy. Some don't even know how to burn a disk with an ISO. No hope there unless they have a geek that knows Linux already. Contrast with Windows or Mac which already comes with the computer.
11. Cosmetically, one could hope to make Linux look like Windows or introduce something like the Aero interface (see below). However, there is no way to hide the massive differences under the table like the fact that software repositories are needed.
12. Their favourite apps don't work on Linux or cannot be Wined (or they have never heard of Wine). Furthermore, no Linux equivalent exists. This is especially a problem in the professional world. Solving this could go a long way to getting profit motivated corporations to adopt Linux more as the costs of running Linux are cheaper (despite what Microsoft claims).
13. Possibly the most ridiculous reason, and I don't think that this a problem at this forum - unfriendly people. I have noticed that Linux users by and large feel that they have a better OS (and not without justification) than Windows or Mac. Unfortunately for somebody who is new at Linux, that is not going to be so. For them, the fact remains that until proven otherwise, Windows is the best OS for them. Add onto the fact that most people at most Linux forums (and I have been to a few) are firmly convinced that they have the best Linux distro around (and one that may not always be compatible with a new user's hardware), and you have a recipe for a newcomer interpreting Linux users as arrogant and unwelcoming. In some other distros, you may be called "dumb" for not understanding how this concept or that concept works, because it is so huge a migration from Windows.
14. For migrating desktop users, the fact that Linux is FOSS is not a big selling point. They already paid for Windows in their hardware costs when they bought a new PC (save for system builders like myself). Windows is already "free" in a sense to them. It's just buried in the price of purchase. For programming and possibly security reasons (more programmers obviously want to fix Linux than screw it up), open source is great, but it is of no consequence for the typical end user.
I speak as somebody who is currently trying to learn Linux for the first time in my life. I have only been with Linux this month of February 2010. I have quite a bit of patience that most people I feel don't have. I have worked now with Windows since I was 5 years old; this is my 14th year with Windows. I don't pretend to know everything with Windows, although my friends often ask me for help with their Windows woes. I know perfectly well that learning Linux is an ongoing process that will take years. Getting the basics down is likely to take months, which many people are not willing to do. As such, they will abandon Linux rather rapidly until changes are made. Indeed, I was warned at the OpenSUSE forums that my Windows knowledge may be a detriment. I am only starting to learn Linux. For example, I have discovered to my dismay that there is no direct equal to the Windows registry system, that there is no direct equal to the .exe or .msi formats (.deb and .rpm are not the same thing), etc.
I dislike Microsoft, and knew that I was not getting an ideal product with Windows. That is why I am trying out various distros now. Many people in this world are sick with Microsoft, its business practices, the bloat of Windows, etc. but not to the point that they are willing to change. However, the fact remains that there is a large potential user base for a stable and widely compatible operating system that is FOSS. Linux has advanced a lot, but it still has a wide distance to go before the general public can use it. There are many reasons why people may not like Linux. I have attempted to create something of a comprehensive list. The real question remains - how to improve upon this?
Why do I think that Linux needs a bigger market share? The reason why Linux has many problems like poor hardware support would largely be mitigated with greater market share. Suddenly, like Mac, there would be more software and better vendor support. This of course leads to an interesting question - how much market share is enough to catch the attention of vendors? My estimate: 5-10% of the desktop market share. That is enough to justify the effort for vendors and because there is the possibility that the Linux OS may have even wider adoption. Companies like AMD (which makes the ATI drivers) will suddenly see justification for better drivers. Linux will end up with a better out of the box experience for everyone using Linux.
Who should Linux target to expand? That is an interesting question. First of all, anybody with a high degree of knowledge in computing who does not have any experience with Linux. And there are a surprising number of programmers, system administrators, or just plan geeks (like myself), who have never bothered to try Linux, even armed with the knowledge that Microsoft Windows is far from ideal. To target these people, like myself, there is a challenge, and I did state it above as one of my reasons why people abandon Linux. When you migrate from say, Windows Server 2003 to 2008 or Xp to Vista/7, your knowledge in Windows is still very useful. But for many people, they will be unable to use their knowledge in many cases. They will have to learn from ground up ... like I am. As a person from Generation Y, I first used a computer when I was 5 years old (and watched others when I was younger, if my memory serves me correctly). I was born in 1990 and that operating system was Windows 95. I remember that well. It was an Intel Pentium CPU at 100 MHz, made by NEC. I am sure that I am not alone. There are many people who learned Windows and nothing else from childhood or the first time they used a computer. However, these are the sorts of people who have a good grasp of hardware, computer architecture, and what an operating system is and does. That makes a world of difference. I think that the mentality of targeting the average person to use Linux should probably stop. Ultimately, for the reasons stating above, the most probable outcome is that they will abandon Linux. This is also bad, because they will have a bad impression of Linux and may share their experiences with others. Recall what I said about 5-10%? The 5-10% should be the most technologically proficient. (Not to mention, for gamers, software companies will be more willing to consider supporting Linux, which should hopefully draw some more gamers here. I admit that I am a gamer myself, and there are many others like me who would be interested. This in turn will of course give hardware companies an even bigger incentive to support Linux as gamers and geeks are most likely to buy cutting edge (and high margin) hardware). The objective here is to create a virtuous circle for Linux. For this reason, all system builders, A+ certified technicians, and people who work for computer stores (who may be able to sell custom-made Linux PCs), should also be added to the list. Many may have heard of Linux, but may not have tried it.
Linux is likely to remain something of an exclusive club. While true that mobile versions such as Android may succeed, Microsoft with its sheer power is likely to remain dominant for the foreseeable future, something that will make many Linux fans dislike me for saying. I would love to be proven wrong. Yet, people have been saying for years that Microsoft will die in a few years, and it has not happened. In a way, this is not unlike Macs. While the iPhone OS may succeed (although Symbian, which is now OS, remains dominant) and Apple is gaining market share, I don't see Apple becoming potent. Not to mention, the fact that they do bind their OS to their hardware is repulsive for certain hardware vendors. Likewise, some of their business practices, such for the iPhone as giving AT&T exclusive rights in the US or rejecting wonderful apps from their App Store brings resentment to consumers and developers alike. I, like most people here fundamentally disagree with the idea of binding an operating system to its hardware. Of course, the average consumer does not care and for this reason, Windows might as well be bound to its PCs, the way that Mac OS is bound to Macs. (Indeed, effectively, it is, although it is possible to get a "Windows refund"</A> sometimes). (Hopefully, you learned something here. Microsoft tries hard to keep this one quiet, which it has succeeded, even with many Linux users. Be sure to contact companies like Dell, Hp, Acer, etc. about the possibility of getting a refund. if you are buying a computer and spread the word to fellow Linux users, especially those who don't dual boot with Windows.) Do check these out:http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2008/08/lenovo-wont-refund-the-windows-tax-without-an-nda.arshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_refund
I had the opportunity to talk to an Dell representative about this. He insisted that we never had this conversation. Apparently, one of the reasons why hardware companies comply (apart from not wanting to give back the money of course), is that Microsoft in some cases has threatened the special corporate volume licenses that it offers to its partners. Several other large vendors were too, but they are keeping their mouths shut. Interesting fact: This is one of the reasons why the netbook was killed off. As much as I hate to say it, even if a widespread used distro like Mint, Ubuntu, or Debian had been used, the netbook would have likely met a similar fate. Now Microsoft can call them an ultra-portable laptop, sell the higher margin Windows 7 Starter, and make quite a margin, while squeezing the already low margins of the manufacturers of netbooks.
Back on topic. Linux, until it makes some considerable improvements, is not yet ready for everyone. True, learnt from ground up, Linux is as easy to learn as Windows True, Windows Aero is a KDE wannabe. However, Linux is not going to be ready for them. My goal is to try and make Linux the best OS that it can be for those who wish to use it. I think that most people here share that goal. For those who are so within the Microsoft box that they cannot see the 4 sides or the roof (just the floor of Windows), I firmly feel that it is a waste of time to target them. They may never have heard of the GNU (despite using software licensed under it) or the CCL (even though websites as common as Wikipedia may use it), or even know what open source software is. The only thing such an end consumer knows is that when they click download, it downloads rather than directs them to a credit card/Paypal or other method of payment page (or adds to their virtual shopping cart).
What are your thoughts? Should Linux be for an exclusive group, or as many people as possible regardless of technological knowledge/proficiency? If option b, should we aim for 5-10% or be happy at 1-2%, while knowing that Linux dominates the server and supercomputer market and powers our world (think of everything that runs Linux now and make the web possible)? Why else do you feel that Linux is often abandoned?