Paying someone else to do the thinking for us.
Remember Zonbu? A fantastic idea using less than the best hardware and then further destroying a great idea by releasing a stand-alone distro that clearly needed "more time in the oven."
Look, the idea of network computing is not such a bad idea with certain obvious localized benefits in place. These include: A usable hard drive for data, the ability to install software, and allowing the user the choice of either being networked with the vendor's network computing service or just going at it alone.
Basically merging the visions of both Zonbu and Linspire is clearly a winner. The problem is every company out there doing it today is clearly not using their product on a daily basis themselves. The lack of obvious safeguards against boneheaded mistakes is evidence of this.
Right now desktop Linux is in a position that with the right game plan in place, Linux could make huge jump forward to attract new users during this recession here in the US.
Yet even with this great timing, there are some things that simply must be considered before this could possibly happen on a wide scale for the common man.
1. Control the hardware. If there is one idea to take away lesson from Apple, it is controlling the hardware. Doing so means a smaller market share, however new purchases end up with both the OS and the device from which to run it from.
2. Software choices made simple. Ubuntu had the right idea with its use of gnome-app-install. Just check the box of the described software and enjoy. Simple. In a managed solution, so long as the repositories are locked down for managed service or open for unmanaged service for the end user, life can be as secure or free as the user likes.
3. Safe data at all times. This is more of an issue for any OS, not just Linux. But as Zonbu demonstrated, there are creative ways to use networking solutions to keep the users data in sync at all times. Most people would happily relearn a program or two if the immediate benefit is to NEVER lose another file to data loss again. Synced backups are the wave of the future.
4. Work out a deal with HP and others. Considering those companies such as IBM, HP and others who spend tremendous amounts of effort making things work hardware-wise on the Linux front, why not strike up a deal in the from of a compatibility store? Considering most users like to have peripherals compatible with their OS, this is not just an idea, its a must.
At the end of the day, we need a little bit of Apple thinking bundled with some of the really obvious stuff Apple is lacking like ready to go affordable full-sized network backup ready notebooks, for instance.
I do not question the fact that the opportunity is there for desktop Linux to succeed as people throughout the US are looking closely at getting more bang for their buck. And for the non-geek, going with a working, network-managed solution is going to provide the best path to success.
But key areas such as price or even the option of turning existing hardware into a managed appliance will be of key importance. Difficult financial times or not, desktop Linux must meet the needs of the masses on their terms. Offer something uniquely valuable or do not bother at al