Why Doesn’t Linux Market to the Masses?

I’ve always wondered why there has yet to be a Linux distribution that has ventured into a big time marketing campaign for its Linux product. With Mac OSX stealing a lot of Microsoft’s market share due to a great marketing campaign with the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” television commercials, why have we yet to see any Linux commercials? Why are there no huge campaigns by big companies like Red Hat, Canonical (Ubuntu), or Novell to get users to switch to their product as an alternative to both Windows and Mac OSX?  I’ve come up with a few reasons why I think Linux doesn’t market to the masses.  If you have anything to add please feel free to leave a comment.

Linux is Free

Lets face it. Linux is a free operating system. With that said, the most obvious question is why would a company like Canonical throw a million dollars at a campaign to get new users to switch from Microsoft Windows or Mac OSX to Ubuntu, when Ubuntu can be obtained for free?

Are Linux Users Too Cheap?

Another question that is worth asking is are Linux users cheap? Linux is free, most of the Linux software available is free, and a good majority of users who use Linux do so for the exact reason that it cost absolutely nothing. This definitely has to have an effect on a large companies motives to market Linux to the masses. Would Linux users actually pay for something? Would investing in a marketing campaign yield profitable results? Today, I can’t see how it would. It’s safe to assume that most large corporations perceive Linux users as too cheap to market to. It’s up to us as Linux users to prove them otherwise. How can we show them we’re a profitable market and boost Linux into a profitable and mainstream shelf product?

Rethinking and Corporate Backing

If Linux ever wants to gain more of a market share in the desktop computer world, we need to rethink how we market to new users. Corporate backing and a strong marketing campaign can bring on a great deal of new users and awareness of an alternative to Windows and Mac OSX. New users and a wider audience can bring a ton of good (and some bad) to the Linux desktop. Linux has done great thus far with word of mouth advertising, but it’s time to push Linux to the mainstream audience with some powerful marketing campaigns.

I’ve asked a lot of questions in this post that I don’t have an answer to. I’d like to hear your input. Please leave a comment.

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4 thoughts on “Why Doesn’t Linux Market to the Masses?

  1. Linux is great, free but not cheap, for windows, you can get software at a store, but for linux you need a internet connection, and that is not cheap at least for a decent one
    so you can download the big files and all the dependencies.

  2. Pingback: Ubuntu and Marketing « LoCo About Ubuntu!

  3. Pingback: Tightwad Technica » [Reply] Why Doesn’t Linux Market to the Masses?

  4. Linux is a fantastic OS, moreso considering it’s free.
    The relatively few companies behind it (Novell, Canonical, RedHat) don’t stand to gain a whole lot by advertising it – at least not unless they’re prepared to put forward a combined marketing effort.
    The reason is, an ad in favor of any Linux distribution is pretty much an ad promoting any and all Linux distributions. There’s no “Linux” operating system company – there are dozens, hundreds of them, tiny and large, and there are new ones springing up all the time – each dedicated to a specific interest area for their creators (with the exception of the few commercial companies named above who are trying to win over the corporate desktop space and/or the corporate server space).
    Linux is not like the Mac OS, or Windows. It’s an extensible, fluid, malleable, almost infinitely variable set of elements that can be applied to make an OS-based tool to achieve pretty much anything, from the tiniest embedded systems to super mainframes running hundreds or thousands of virtualized computers. No “real” company could have the money or the self-interest to target an audience that diverse. There’s no embedded micro-windows OS, despite all Microsoft’s money, and there’s no Windows for massively parallel super-computers or mainframes.
    Enthusiasts can do it – and usually without much (or any) money. They can dream up this universe of special-purpose, as well as general purpose instances of Linux (and the excellent BSD’s and QNX and all the other “alternative” and open-source OS’s).
    Personally, I’m glad there’s no clear “winner” in the Linux race – if there were, they’d feel the need to start killing off the competition, to remain the winner.
    I believe Linux should be free, and it’s regrettable that companies like RedHat, Novell and so on can co-opt the excellent work of some truly generous enthusiasts, like Linus, Stallman, et al, and in some cases have made pretty good money standing on the shoulders of others. I won’t say that these products won’t likely get even better faster with the kind of funding that Novell, RedHat and Canonical can pour into its improvement, but at some point, someone is going to try to close the Open Source idea down, out of corporate self-interest. We saw it happen with that tempest in a teapot a few years ago, it may happen with Microsoft starting to sniff around the Linux camp, smiling and wanting to play nice, offering the occasional tidbit – but it will come with a hefty legal string attached (there’s one to watch out for… I feel it in my bones). Hands off, Ballmer! Let it be!
    It’s great that Linux is guided by the GPL and a set of open source principles based on sharing, helping and not restricting and winning. A set of principles that a whole bunch of people can uphold somehow gives me a lot more faith that something free will remain free. Putting those principles in the hands of corporate management? We always seem to see those same businesspeople ending up admitting that principles in a business context are just another commodity that can be sold, disposed of, ignored or hushed up until nobody remembers there ever were any principles, or that anybody had any.
    Linux proves that there are other things of importance in the world than making money, like enthusiasm, generosity of spirit, innovation for its own sake, quality, cooperation, competition to make things better (not to eliminate competitors) and that the success of Linux really can’t measured in dollars or units sold. How do you sell something free?
    We owe a tremendous thank-you to the thousands of dedicated, brilliant people around the world who have added to Linus Torvald’s little OS kernel, resulting in such excellent tools to be used in so many diverse ways.

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