September 24, 2009

LinuxCon: Linux Success In the Key of Desktop

distros.jpgLinux has been a big success in a lot of areas, but there are still some things that need to be fixed, according to openSUSE Community Manager Joe Brockmeier.

Brockmeier's LinuxCon keynote "A Musical Guide to the Future of Linux," used his extensive knowledge of music to entertain and inform the audience about how Linux can be perceived through the lens of rock and roll.

"Music is a way of bringing people together, because a lot of people get excited about it," he told the crowd. Brockmier wanted to take this approach because he believes the car analogy breaks down, especially when talking about Linux's future.

Brockmeier first launched into a humorous tour of distros and how they compare to rock bands.

Fedora: Frank Zappa. "Brilliant, experimental, and not going to crack the top 40."
Ubuntu: Duran Duran. "Insanely popular."
Slackware: Grateful Dead. "So happy to see Patrick is still trucking."
SUSE Linux: The Who. "Listened to by many, understood by few."
Debian: Velvet Underground. "Everyone who has bought a Velvet Underground album started their own band."

Brockmeier went on to compare Linux as a whole to The Ramones. "They were good but never broke out." This is where he thinks Linux is now.

"I want Linux to be The Beatles. Not just in the server, but on the desktop," Brockmeier explained to attendees. "We're not capitalizing on the opportunities we have."

This is an issue about which Brockmeier feels strongly. Recent comments from fellow LinuxCon keynoter Robert Sutor from IBM on how Linux on the desktop may not be viable prompted Brockmeier to specifically challenge that notion. "Linux on the desktop," he explained, "is the only way we are going to see real success for Linux."

Continuing his music analogy, Brockmeier highlighted some additional areas of concern. Distribution is a key issue, because right now physically getting Linux in the hands of potential users is hard. Downloading, he added, is not something a lot of potential Linux users are too comfortable doing.

Marketing is another area Brockmeier sees a need to improve. "I'm asking OEMs to put some of their marketing muscle behind Linux."

It's not all bad news. Brockmeier believes Linux is poised at the edge of success. "I think we are actually in pretty good shape. I just want to point out some things so we don't get complacent," he concluded.

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