Ouch. Here goes another “Linux desktops” article that misses a crucial point: “To capture more of the desktop market, Linux needs to target the average user. That article does get lots of things right, many more of most similar articles, starting with this sentence:

“Don’t even mention the terminal window, commands, or open source. Why? The average user doesn’t care and is only turned off by those ideas.”

which I suggest to compare with the “Where’s the trick?” section of these FOSS evangelism tips I wrote in 2008. But the main, serious omission is another. That otherwise good piece fails badly when it says that the reasons why the average user doesn’t bother with Linux are only these two:

  • They don’t want to install an operating system.
  • They think it’s too challenging.

The point that is missing is that “the average user who doesn’t bother with Linux” has a PAST that she cannot leave behind.

“Please let’s end…”

Please let’s end this desktop environment tantrum and realize how futile it is to think Windows users will be freed from slavery by somebody saying, “Here, take this, it looks and feels just like Windows.” This last point has been thrown around too much, in too many places.

The question “How do I replace Microsoft Access” appears on the mail OpenOffice.org list every other week. Every time it reappears a bunch of solutions, usually MySQL-based, are kindly suggested. Almost always, though, nobody — starting from the original poster — understands what is really being asked. They’re not looking for a “a stable, powerful and license-free DBMS which also has more or less the same buttons as Access” as much as they are looking for “whatever, even text-based, as long as it reads perfectly ten years worth of customer orders”.

Windows users (especially corporate ones) don’t stick with Windows because they can’t stand different interfaces, but because they have a really hard time converting terabytes of documents in proprietary formats. This is the real problem.

And that whole “Please let’s end…” paragraph..

is nothing but a literal quote of what I wrote FIFTEEN YEARS AGO in “Hooray for Bluecurve”. The only, but big problem with that article is that it doesn’t contain any occurrence of the word “format”. If you want to promote the Linux/Free Software desktop, don’t waste seventeen more years promoting Free office suites instead of OpenDocument. Actually, don’t waste any more time at all promoting the Linux desktop, or even Free Software in general. Focus on convincing everybody to demand that only non-proprietary formats are stored, published and accepted by Public Administrations, instead. That alone will make switching to Linux, or Free Software in general, so much easier to make any other objection irrelevant. Because it will make THESE problems disappear, for new documents at least:

What Linux "needs to target" is the PAST of its potential users /img/word_x.jpg
An absolutely UNREADABLE document, on an absolutely NOT challenging Linux desktop. Source (click to read it): 'Format Wars', 2005