I seriously hate writing overly long blog posts, but this turned into one. You are forewarned.
What can Linux and the Free Desktop learn from recent marketing campaigns by Apple and Microsoft? Let's quickly take a look at a few of the campaigns over recent years from Apple.
I was surprised how well they were able to comfort users about switching to OS X. The same qualms exist for Linux and in very similar ways.
Rather than worry about migrating existing applications to OS X, (iPhone really, but it still applies,) Apple comforted the user in knowing that anything they want to do can be achieved. With Debian, for example, there are tens of thousands of applications. Do we have an app for that? Probably.
The first commercials that came out for OS X talked about how hardware just worked when you plugged it in. No extra installation of drivers or finding installation cd-roms was needed. Of course, now that more hardware vendors are supporting the platform, it is no longer the case. Linux has an advantage here due to frequent release cycles. The consistent releasing of new software and drivers gives a leg up for supporting current hardware sooner. Granted, someone still needs to be writing those new drivers. But if GkH is right, then Linux also has more drivers than any operating system ever written.
Apple talks about their iLife applications a lot. They are good and all but we have acceptable alternatives for them. Providing a full Office compatible product is quite important and you don't see either bringing that up. Granted, I would love to see an application as sleek as Apple's Keynote or Pages.
They also made hardware that developers wanted to play with such as the airtunes device. Has anyone made an airtunes-like device (airport express) with just F/OSS software. I'd think that pulseaudio could do most of what is needed.
Each of the framework libraries perform a single task well. Yet, they all still integrate together. For example, an application can control external windowing animations. Say that I'm writing a book reader and when the user turns the page I want the page to actually tear off the application window and fly across the screen. This is just not possible in a practical way today. Now that X has compositor support, shouldn't it be available to the application to provide custom control? I would love to make Marina have a native newspaper interface and do exactly that. This is just an example, many facets of the system layer need fresh innovation.
There are tools to write to make our daily lives easier. Streamlining development will only make our time-to-market sooner.
How is Microsoft reacting to the marketing campaigns from Apple? They have a few failed attempts at using celebrities such as Seinfeld. But more recently, are the "Laptop Hunters" ads. These are quite funny as you will notice they get laptops that don't match what they claimed to have wanted at all. Most importantly, though, they are attacking Apple on price and trendiness. I guess they tout gaming on PC's too. Gaming, however, is a strange problem since the total market share of PC gamers relative to PC users is quite small. It's also shrinking as the Xbox, Wii, and PS3 continue to expand their coverage. Regardless, they are both beat on price.
Additionally, I thought the slogan "Life without walls" was funny since without walls you can't have windows.
Many pundits, myself included, have talked about how netbooks can totally change the game. The iPhone was similar in the phone market. Do you think it would have been as successful without the developer platform and thousands of applications?
So finally, how can we replicate the positive results Apple had? What is missing from our platform today (can linuxhator kick our asses into shape)? What are our weaknesses (and how can we fix them to become strengths). What story do we have to tell developers? What do we really enjoy about our platform?
-- Christian Hergert 2009-06-21
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