Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

Trying to figure our why people still use Windows.

Despite the riotous cheerleading occuring among Democrats in Boston this week and that soon to occur among Republicans in New York, it's the summer doldrums in a still flat technology market. At times like this, you can imagine tumbleweeds rolling by as the saloon doors flap and creek to stillness.

Can we imagine that GNU/Linux adoption patterns are analogous to the adoption model of other systems, biological or even political ones? No matter what kind of system you want to talk about, shoving out the dominant species takes some reckoning.

The public soon will see that the major party conventions in Boston and New York have less to do with love for their respective candidates than they do with dislike for the opponents. As much as each party wants to quiet the anti-opponent rhetoric, it won't work. A vocal and visual minority on each end of the political spectrum dislikes the other end's candidates. The media continuously reminds us of that fact.

Unfortunately for the election, passion doesn't unseat incumbent office-holders. So, each party is attempting to work the adoption model for the challengers. They are looking for acceptance for their candidates. They are discovering their inability to reach into the installed base of incumbents to get their candidates' message accepted. Sociologists and marketing people understand the adoption model: the incumbents do not have enough blemishes to make an alternative candidate attractive enough. Even the political vulnerabilities around Bill Clinton failed to unseat him as an incumbent.

Radical innovators make up about only 3% of the US population. That can't win you an election. The early adopters make up around 10% of the population, and this segment consists of young, conservative business types. They drive opinion leadership in this country. Even media bias doesn't move the opinion leaders enough to take an anti-incumbent stance.

To reach the early and late majority of Americans--those that make up to 70% of the US population--you need the opinion leaders on your side. Opinion leadership comes to the majority through younger, conservative, straight and narrow people in our population with an eye out for innovation. That eye sees innovation strictly as a business advantage. Although the early adopters can tolerate innovators, they don't share the same values. They don't demonstrate in the streets, carry signs, wear slogan tee shirts, seek visibility, nor do they have the same passion as innovators.

So, without a significant enough complaint, the 70% will go for the status quo. The majority of American people hold conservative values. When it comes time to vote, they won't go with unproven operators.

Another segment of adopters exists in the US. Known as laggards, they make up about 16% of the population. You can reach them with an anti-incumbent campaign, especially if you scare them with slogans about security. What's the problem with this segment? They don't vote, and they do not own computers.

So, most marketeers will say you won't unseat the majority of incumbents and you won't unseat Microsoft this year.

What Does This Have to Do with Microsoft?

In our analogy here, Microsoft is the incumbent. Although Microsoft has plenty of vulnerabilities, it hasn't created enough pain yet to make the Linux desktop the pollsters' choice. But, Microsoft's vulnerabilities have begun to multiply, and those young, conservative opinion leaders are beginning to hear the message. Once that occurs, you can fancy a case for unseating an incumbent.

Innovators exist in every population. Most sociologists put their number at 1-3% of a population. Innovators tend to criticize the status quo, resist norms, have broad social networks and tend to let their feelings be known. Passion also characterizes the innovator. An innovator's visibility tends to make people think the innovator reflects majority opinion.

Today's innovators dislike Microsoft. At a time when the personal computer represented innovation in itself, our young, conservative opinion leaders wanted to break away from IBM mainframe's repressive hold on the enterprise. Microsoft owned the operating system that helped shift the computer model. Writing programs for the text-based Microsoft DOS system attracted an innovative crowd. Although serious technologists preferred the UNIX operating system, the path of adoption did not pass through those doors. Instead, Microsoft teamed up with IBM's PC group and began to replace minicomputers and mainframes. With Microsoft, innovation began to flourish, and a robust market for applications developed around the personal computer.

By the end of the first decade of the personal computer, IBM owned 97% of the PC hardware market. Part of IBM's dominance resulted from using open standards when it came to hardware. Then, in a miscalculated move, IBM changed to a closed architecture called Microchannel. IBM wanted clone manufacturers, such as Tandy, to license IBM's Microchannel design and once again dominate competition.

The market rejected IBM's Microchannel architecture, and a group of computer manufacturers led by Compaq began to grab large market share away from IBM. Within a short period, IBM's 97% share of the PC hardware market shrunk to approximately 4%.

Microsoft escaped the disdain for Microchannel. Instead of breaking bread with IBM, Gates & Co. chose to embrace Compaq, Digital Equipment Corporation, Dell, Gateway, Packard Bell and HP. They also broke Apple Computer's hold on the market by releasing Windows and helping port desktop publishing products from the Mac to the PC.

By the time Intel's 386 processor began shipping, Microsoft Windows had become the dominate graphical-based operating system in the PC market. The election ended and a new leader took over from IBM and Apple. Some called the new administration Wintel; others called it by other names. By 1995, Intel became the corporate standard for hardware and Win32 became the corporate standard for software.

______________________

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

Anonymous's picture

I use Linux on all of my machines, though I don't use the BSOD evidence to prompt people to switch. The reasons are simple;
# Windows 98 crashes often.
# Windows 2000 and XP crash rarely.
There are good reasons to use Linux, including security as the article points out.
BSOD is not one of them and promoting it will make you look bad -- not because Windows (any version) doesn't crash -- but because most people see "Windows" = "the computer". Promoting Linux as the cure for BSODs will fail with the first person who has used a farily stable version of Windows (sometimes that's Windows 98).
A simple "I don't use Windows" often enough will break that chain, and get the questions "what do you use?" and "why?".
Treat Windows as an application not as an operating system.

Your comment lives in a different context and perhaps rebooting is an issue.

Saying Windows 2000 and XP crash rarely is only true for the first 60 days or so: Less for Windows 2000. Windows crashes because of vulnerabilities, bugs, security wholes and dll conflicts.

Linux, UNIX -- it doesn't matter much which you choose, the design is such that the systems are more stable. To some people that's very important.

To people who shrug and reboot, as the author says, there's no accounting for denial.

Some people do not change automakers when the wheels fall off...

Anonymous's picture

I was a computer teacher last year. One day, I was alone in the lab when a bright young teacher came in, booted up Lose98 and got down to work. Within a couple of minutes, it crashed. I saw "the blue screen of death" and visited him while he rebooted. I asked him if that ticked him off. He said, "No.". I asked him if he bought a car and the wheels came off while driving hourly, would he buy a different make? He laughed. I offered to let him use Linux on the same machine. Even though we ran all winter without a crash of Linux, he declined. From the whole teaching staff, only two regularly used Linux.

I used Linux in the lab and all my students never had a crash. In the office computers, a techie used to come by every month and de-louse them. In spite of the demonstrated reliability of Linux, the whole organisation refused to adopt Linux because they felt that other OS was essential and they did not want the burden of two OS's to maintain. Linus takes very little maintenance. I moved on to a more Linux-friendly environment.

Re: Some people do not change automakers when the wheels fall of

Anonymous's picture

I use Linux on all of my machines, though I don't use the BSOD evidence to prompt people to switch. The reasons are simple;

  • Windows 98 crashes often.
  • Windows 2000 and XP crash rarely.

    There are good reasons to use Linux, including security as the article points out.

    BSOD is not one of them and promoting it will make you look bad -- not because Windows (any version) doesn't crash -- but because most people see "Windows" = "the computer". Promoting Linux as the cure for BSODs will fail with the first person who has used a farily stable version of Windows (sometimes that's Windows 98).

    A simple "I don't use Windows" often enough will break that chain, and get the questions "what do you use?" and "why?".

    Treat Windows as an application not as an operating system.

  • Re: Some people do not change automakers when the wheels fall of

    Anonymous's picture

    i agree most ppl dont understand the concept of an operating system or even the most basic aspects of computers. I converted several ppl when sasser attacked their boxen.

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture

    Evolution comes from a change in the environmemt. You don't unseat anything.

    Jim Reiter

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture

    Quote: I'd be happy to use Linux instead of windows ... (and please don't tell me, there is lots of software for linux!" There is not enough, there is not what I need. The end.) End Quote

    I do not believe you would be happy to use Linux instead of Windows.

    You demonstrate the argument the author makes - exceptionally well.
    You say, "please don't tell me....". In other words, you're in denial.

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture

    I agree. People who claim they can't find the software they need on Linux are folks really saying they don't want to migrate from Windows. I've had no problem finding Linux software to do everything I could do with Windows software -- frequently with better features and functionality than the equivalent well-known application of its kind being used on Windows.

    Frankly, though, I don't think Linux is for everyone. I find that people totally new to computers love Linux and have no problems using it. However, folks who have been using Windows awhile and fancy themselves "computer knowledgeable" can have a really hard time with Linux. They are stuck in a Windows mind set and can't do things the much simpler way that Linux presents them.

    They are happy with Windows, and that's what choice is all about. Finding the system that makes you happy. They should stick with Windows and not worry about it.

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture

    I'd be happy to use Linux instead of windows if there was some amount of software support, but there isn't. Linux is in the same hole that Mac is in. All the vulnerabilities in the world won't unseat windows until companies make software for linux.

    (and please don't tell me, "there is lots of software for linux!" There is not enough, there is not what I need. The end.)

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture

    The majority of the consumer world don't buy software beyond what was shipped with their computer when they bought that. Just about everyone I know who owns a computer falls into that category. Yeah they'll buy a few games maybe, but that's expected. Of course these days, anyone wasting their hard earned dollars on video games for the PC, Mac and etc... is living in the past and won't let go. As the game market trend has shown; the game console is good enough for gaming!

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture
      The majority of the consumer world don't buy software beyond what was shipped with their computer when they bought that.

    That's what I found when working at a software company that sold to OEMs (including Microsoft) through to retail stores. The rough ratio is 80% of the software is either bundled with the systems or bought within 60 days. The remaining 20% is purchased much later.

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture

    What do yu need? Empty arguments are a waste of disk space on the server. Games, I understand and WineX is making progress to address that great divide. Even if it isn't the prefered solution (makin native Linux games is) it's a start. I hear that it can even run Quicken if you tweak it, and that's what was holding me back. My next desktop will be a Linux only machine. Bye, bye M$.

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture

    The equivalent of Paperport Deluxe and serial scanner support.

    Re: Linux in Government: Unseating Incumbents

    Anonymous's picture

    When is the last time you checked this out? I have Paperport Deluxe on a Windows machine, but I prefer XSane on Linux because it does a whole lot more than Paperport does and gives me greater control over the scan output. How come you can't get a serial scanner to work under Linux? Other people can.

    Webinar
    One Click, Universal Protection: Implementing Centralized Security Policies on Linux Systems

    As Linux continues to play an ever increasing role in corporate data centers and institutions, ensuring the integrity and protection of these systems must be a priority. With 60% of the world's websites and an increasing share of organization's mission-critical workloads running on Linux, failing to stop malware and other advanced threats on Linux can increasingly impact an organization's reputation and bottom line.

    Learn More

    Sponsored by Bit9

    Webinar
    Linux Backup and Recovery Webinar

    Most companies incorporate backup procedures for critical data, which can be restored quickly if a loss occurs. However, fewer companies are prepared for catastrophic system failures, in which they lose all data, the entire operating system, applications, settings, patches and more, reducing their system(s) to “bare metal.” After all, before data can be restored to a system, there must be a system to restore it to.

    In this one hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for better disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible bare-metal recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.

    Learn More

    Sponsored by Storix