As Linux companies such as From Mandriva have demonstrated, Linux-supporting corporations outside the U.S. are not concerned with Microsoft's IP threats. They know full well that the long arm of the law is not going to reach them, given that the entire patent argument is an American argument. So adoption for Linux users in Europe, among other areas around the world, has already exploded. Yet here in the States, many users are left feeling uneasy. Still others are simply turned off out of confusion with how Linux 'works' in the first place.
How can Linux honestly have a real shot at making a dent here in the U.S., in addition to other areas of the world where Windows is 'the norm'? Nothing short of frustration with the existing closed source alternatives, I suspect. I find myself disgusted with the state of affairs that I see Linux in today. Not by its development, which has done rather well. Rather, the fact that I am witnessing a coming split with our community that is going to get very unpleasant when all is said and done.
For Linux to seriously gain real mainstream acceptance in the U.S., it will require the GPL to become less restricted, a massive boycott of restricted media formats on a very large scale, or for restricted formats to be made available for sale legally for U.S. users to purchase. The first two options will never happen, however the latter is supposed to with Linspire's CNR product.
How deep does the restricted format issue go?
As the battle for computer-viewable media control rages on, we now have new formats that have alienated Linux, Blue-ray and HD-DVD. What's interesting is that, recently it was discovered that through a proprietary program called Nero, the end user could create their own Blue-ray and HD-DVD content. Yet Linux users can forget about a legal means of playing these media formats when purchased from a store, thanks to DRM. Speaking as a U.S.-based Linux user, it sure would be nice to not having to resort to feeling like a crook just to view a movie that you rented.
I firmly believe the single biggest reason that we do not have the same access to restricted formats as Apple's OS X is because the license that Linux uses makes their bundled inclusion impossible, and makes any sort of 'store-front' very limiting and unattractive to potential licenses. Not knocking the GPL, mind you, rather pointing out the economic facts of the situation.
Dell Linux TV commercials will never happen in the U.S.
Despite all of the hassles and restrictions Linux has surrounding it, we'll continue to see growth in user base among various technologists and hobbyists looking to try something new. Even more interesting is the fact that many American Linux users honestly could care less about the 'legalities' behind using restricted formats to listen to their music and watch their videos.
On the flip side, Dell has broken the myth that you must provide restricted formats in order to get users to purchase Linux PCs. And even if the user base remains small on the percentage scale here in the U.S., on the international front we are seeing what will become an explosion within the next five years. It's simply a matter of software freedom, and the fact that they are not as restricted with IP concerns as we are here in the United States.
And still, the question remains. Who is to blame for all of this? Is there one group this is totally right while the other is totally wrong? In my opinion, each of us have created this beast called the operating system. And because of our collective choices early on, we gave this to the likes of corporations such as Microsoft and Apple. If anyone is to be held accountable to the headaches involved with the Linux desktop, it is us all of us.