Why Linux Failed at Walmart -- And What to Do About It: Page 2

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From this point, the potential customer needs to be clearly educated on what OS differences are to be experienced should they take the plunge.

These individuals need to have a manual to help them learn about:

• Software – Linux applications, where to get them and why their existing Windows apps might not work with Linux despite efforts such as WINE.

• Peripherals – What will easily work and what will not. The facts about wireless under Linux and why one peripheral works great while another falls on its face. This can affect their future purchases.

• App for app exchange – Which applications replace which when making the Linux switch.

From user education to provided solutions.

Another important yet often missed consideration is that companies looking to sell Linux computers to Joe Average are best off sharing the value of freely available, preinstalled software.

Bundle this concept with stellar support and watch what happens – people tired of Windows begin migrating over to alternatives. In order for this to work well, however, this means Linux computer sellers must demonstrate the value of their machines with the following points.

• A balance of cost. PCs loaded with a newbie friendly distribution that also has hardware specifications that actually allow some level of multitasking.

• Sell potential users on the value of not being forced to pay for software. There is a real economic incentive to using open source software. And considering the value of applications already installed on most Linux distributions, it becomes a tougher sell to see value in OS X or Windows by comparison.

• Trumpet the value of "it just works" when you buy Linux preinstalled. And remind users that Linux provides a product at Windows PC cost that parallels the stability of a Mac from Apple.

• Disclose very clearly that these PCs will not be running Windows software out of the box. Further explain that using provided Linux alternatives is recommended.

Covering these simple sales points will mean that customers buying Linux machines will have the ability to better understand their own personal compatibility with Linux – and most importantly, not finding themselves with buyers remorse later on down the road.

Big box Linux sales – success or failure?

There is really no question that past sales of Linux PCs in big box stores such as Walmart have been tremendous failures overall. Do not let those old sales numbers of the gOS fool you. While the preloaded PCs were stated as big sellers, those sales numbers did not include the people who bought those machines without understanding what they were getting into.

Now this is not to say that big box stores do not make sense for selling Linux computers. After seeing successful ventures where the Linux vendor is clearly targeting a market that understands what they are buying, such as with the Xandros using ASUS Eee, any potential buyer's remorse can avoided with greater ease. And should an Eee user find that they do not care for the distribution that comes with the mini-notebook, they will either end up installing Windows XP or perhaps another distribution entirely, as clearly they possess the skills to do so.

Success for future sales of Linux PCs will eventually have to fall into one of two categories – 1) sales to those who know Linux already or 2) to those looking a better overall experience than from Microsoft Windows.

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Tags: Linux, Windows, Microsoft, Vista, HP

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