How to Create a Desktop Linux Monopoly

With a concrete set of steps, solid funding, and about five years, you’d have a lock on the desktop market.
Posted February 12, 2008
By

Matt Hartley

Matt Hartley


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What if I told you that it would actually be possible to see a Linux monopoly with the right components in place taking form within a short five-year period? That would be impossible due to licensing and availability, right?

Nonsense. While it would never "out maneuver" Microsoft Windows or OS X from a monopolistic point on view, with certain things in place, a company pushing a tightly controlled Linux distribution could definitely corner the desktop Linux market in a very short period of time.

Getting it right the first time.

Not too long back people were becoming very excited at the prospect of an upcoming Google OS. Despite the constant denial that Google would ever bother to enter the desktop Linux marketplace, people were asking for a Google distro with great enthusiasm.

Then, later on, as if on cue, Everex rolled out an Ubuntu-based PC using a Linux distribution called gOS. Unfortunately despite much fanfare, it appears that U.S. vendors such as Wal-Mart are no longer providing these PCs for sale online. Why is this? Considering the vast array of goodies and Google application offerings, surely this computer should have been a smashing success?

Like other Wal-Mart Linux PCs sold before it, there was a tremendous number of complaints – thanks in part to customers being completely unaware of the trek they were about to undertake with the gOS powered Everex computers. Significant issues with the low-powered hardware and total absence of "real support" left many people wanting their money back.

Attempt number two.

With Wal-Mart no longer selling the gOS-based PCs in the online-store, it seems to be too little too late to hear the hoopla about gOS and the newly released. This is truly a real miss for the gOS team, as this time around they have made some significant changes, despite likely still being run on very low-end hardware.

Some of the most notable changes include:

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• Access and integration into Box.net for simple remote data storage.

• Really simple access to webcam functions thanks to a Web-based application called gBooth and a webcam put out by Ezonics.

Both of these additions are really great pushes forward, but it also illustrates why gOS is not likely to lead the way into an eventual desktop Linux monopoly.

Must have key ingredients.

When considering the advantages of what the gOS tried to accomplish with their Linux offerings, the fact is that their success was hit or miss. First plenty of fanfare, then as reality about a lack of certain (expected) features became more apparent, the fanfare once again died down.

In order to see a Linux distribution – along with a combined hardware vendor – truly provide a compelling case to the end user, the company seeking a desktop Linux monopoly would need to make sure the following ingredients were snuggly in place ahead of time:

• Access to a real music store. Despite myself having an affinity for the OGG Vorbis audio format, mainstream music stores are all about the MP3. So I see taking existing jukebox software like amaroK and creating an Amazon music store plugin for the amaroK software. This works because Amazon is now offering DRM-free music and would likely be open to such a deal where others, like Apple, would not.

• Wireless and webcam options. There are instances were wireless availability is needed for desktop machines. And while some distributions like the gOS have done great work at finding a solution to the webcam challenge, the wireless availability is largely left to those selling Linux bundled notebooks. Desktops must be included here.

• The Linux hardware store. Contrary to what Microsoft and Apple might like you to believe, hardware compatibility issues with Linux are quite narrow. To fill in the small remaining gaps, I see the need to create a "store front" where participating Linux users can visit and purchase certified hardware for the distribution looking to corner the desktop Linux market.


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