Linux in Government: Linux Desktop Reviews, Part 5 - Linspire
Buckminister Fuller, who's credited with the theory of Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science, often quoted Victor Hugo, the 19th century author. Bucky would say, "Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come." Those familiar with the adoption of shifting technological paradigms probably have encountered this quote and these individuals in their studies.
Many analysts say Linux and open-source software follow accepted patterns of adoption that are familiar to students of marketing. Some consider the adoption curve as law. In Figure 1, you can view Everett Rogers' adoption curve or diffusion model. The model divides the population into five segments, with each segment offering opinion leadership for the following one. For example, early adopters influence people in the early majority and so on. Companies bet the bank on Roger's model. In Figure 1, you can see the percentages of the population that fit into each segment of the model. We discuss this model in more depth toward the end of this article.
Integrating technology and introducing technological innovation presents a complex set of challenges. Getting a new idea adopted, even when it has obvious advantages, is difficult. Society's acceptance and implementation of any technology seems to involve religious wars where the aspirations of innovators become characterized as evil. Resistors often question profit motives, technical competence and the low costs associated with new technologies. One can see a certain irony as the mantle of power changes hands.
Not very long ago, the same kind of noise occurred when personal computers began to proliferate at the expense of mainframes and mini computers. People characterized Microsoft and Apple Computers as the low-cost innovators who would destroy infrastructures and jobs. Personal computers could never replace mainframes and the billions of lines of code written in COBOL. Personal computers held a promise that could never reach fulfillment and endangered enterprise.
People said similar things about the compass, railroads, steam-powered ships, canals, the printing press and so forth. Even Ross Perot met stiff resistance when he began computerizing Wall Street. People said, "How can we maintain quality if we can't see every transaction and examine it thoroughly?"
Even within the Linux and Open Source community, a significant number of people believed Michael Robertson began Linspire to cash in on the desktop Linux boom that some thought would occur at any time. Linspire took existing open-source applications and renamed them. Linspire created a Click-N-Run warehouse and shopping mall, which many people viewed as a renaming of an apt-get repository. The look and feel didn't conform to accepted Linux distributions.
Looking back, consider the entry of Linspire into the market as part of the complex set of challenges Linux faced as a new technology in an adoption or diffusion curve. I welcomed the entry and watched carefully until a time came when I clearly could differentiate the product. Linspire does not fit the enterprise classification of a Linux desktop. Regardless, Linspire pushes Linux adoption toward critical mass as it reaches users who ordinarily would not use the traditional Linux-UNIX model.
In addition, Linspire has reached the majority of the PC manufacturing market. While the major analysts sit at the round table of information technology and argue about Dell or HP picking up one or two percentage points in the PC market, Linspire has gone after the big market.
For those who do not know, white box PC manufacturers such as Microtel, PowerSpec, TigerDirect, Wintergreen, GQ and hundreds of smaller localized firms make up 50% of the PC market. The white box market is the big market, and Linspire has made significant headway into that market.
The only problem associated with Linux growing in the white-box market deals with the operating system reaching a point of critical mass. To reach critical mass, the buying public must see Linux, OpenOffice.org, Firefox and other applications associated with mainstream retail establishments. That gives any product market acceptance.
So last week, Linspire announced its availability at more than 1,000 major national retail stores, including Best Buy, CompUSA, Fry's Electronics, Micro Center and J & R Computer World. For more and more people starting to worry about the safety of their computers running Microsoft Windows, Linspire's newest product provides a secure, reliable and user-friendly desktop Linux experience at a low cost.
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