"Nobody Uses Linux" is Not a Good Enough Answer

by Katherine Druckman

I spent some of my weekend with the ladies of the Mom 2.0 Summit, a new conference targeted at women who do business online. All indications are that the event, organized by my good friends Carrie Pacini and Marla Trevino of opmom.com as well as some other awesome local women, was a smashing success and will likely become an annual event.

Among the products and services showcased, Eye-Fi caught my eye in particular. As a geek who is also married to a geek, gadgets, cameras and other toys are fixtures in my house, and while I have read about the availability of memory cards with built-in Wi-Fi capability for a while, I had not yet played with one. Obviously, a girl like me will gravitate toward the person in the room with the coolest toys, so I struck up a conversation with Ziv Gillat of Eye-Fi. I had witnessed the wonders of Eye-Fi the night before at the big Mom 2.0 conference party where he captured me in a moment of stealthy iPhone photography, and yes I did have a Burger King bag on my head and a pink feather boa. It's how I roll.

Katherine the Webmistress with feather boa and bag on head (possibly trashed?)

The party photos were instantly uploaded to Flickr, and projected on the wall, which is a pretty cute party trick.

When I ran into him the following day and could properly interrogate him about his product after a nights' rest, I asked him how it all worked. The story got pretty good when he told me stories of all the cool Linux geeks working behind the scenes over at Eye-Fi, but sort of took a turn for the worse when I found out the SD cards require a software client that only runs on Mac or Windows. When asked the obvious question of "Why not offer a Linux client?" the answer was sadly, "No one uses Linux." But... but... I do!

I understand where companies like Eye-Fi are coming from. There is a long tradition of knee-jerk answers of "That's not our target market" or "our people don't use Linux." Ultimately these companies conclude that the Linux market will not help their bottom line, and while Eye-Fi seems to have a pretty great product, the shortsighted exclusion of a growing market segment can't possibly be the right answer.

I am increasingly aware of more and more "regular" people using Linux. They bought a netbook, their son or daughter installed "this thing called Ubuntu" on their aging hardware, or maybe they just thought they'd try something new. There is indeed a quiet, but sizable group of Linux users out there who want to buy consumer products that "just work" with Linux. Frankly, I am one of them. I would be ecstatic to use the Eye-Fi card with my Acer Aspire One on the road, but someone thought I was not a viable part of the consumer market.

What say you, Linux Journal readers? We have many camera geeks among us, do we not? I have met so many of you in person, so I know you are there in massive numbers. I bet you'd really enjoy an Eye-Fi card too.

Incidentally, there are people out there trying to make this work with Linux, but if this were my company I think I'd prefer the Linux community have a positive experience with a product completely of my own creation rather than trying to make do with a hack.