There is Ubuntu, There is Linux and Then There are Others

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The Microsoft Windows users of the world are beginning to experience the pain of the new release of the Microsoft’s flagship operating system, Windows 8.

While there are some users that are happy with the new release, a lot of them are not satisfied and some even very bitter. Microsoft is pushing the marketing for Windows 8 pretty hard. There is advertising on Facebook, banners on all of the popular websites and also TV commercials. And it’s also in newspapers and magazines everywhere you read. Microsoft does always markets a new Windows operating system release pretty heavily, but more so with Windows 8. Why? Because Microsoft has accepted the fact that the strong and viable competition can actually affect their bottom-dollar. And there’s public evidence of this when you look at the share price for MST. It has flat-lined and has been this way for quite some time. They are facing stiff competition from both Apple and Linux operating systems alike.

Linux and specifically, Canonical and Ubuntu have a chance to really take advantage of the weak and vulnerable position that Microsoft is currently in for the consumer desktop operating system space. But before Canonical jumps in to the deep end and starts marketing Ubuntu as a Windows 8 killer, they really have to start taking a serious look at the situation at hand. Microsoft has had a grasp on power for so many years that they have taken advantage and abused the power held, by implementing an operating system that really does not satisfy the requirements of today’s desktop users. Whether you love it or hate it, Windows XP was probably one of the best operating systems released by Microsoft, even though it was built on the back of Windows 2000. And it may very well go down in history as the best operating system released from the company. But the release of Windows XP was interesting in a sense that it marked several points of interest. One: In a nutshell, it contained everything that Microsoft had worked hard for over the years and everything that a user wanted in a Windows operating system. Two: It also marked the end of an era for Windows as we know it. Windows XP was followed up with the infamous Windows Vista which would prove to be a commercial failure in the history of the company. But then Microsoft realized that its desktop Windows users would expect something very worthy of release after Windows Vista. And along came Windows 7. The 7th release of Windows based on the NT code base.

Recent statistics show that Windows 7 has now overtaken Windows XP as the most widely installed Windows operating system in the consumer sector. Comparing Windows 7 to its older sister XP quickly shows that the two really are not that different. There is some new updated support for the most recent and future hardware. It’s still based on the old concept of Click Start (or Orb as it is now known) for menu > Select Application you want > Launch application. But it is what works for the consumer and satisfies most users desktop operating system requirements.

And then came the decision from Microsoft Developers to implement a radical new design. The code-name was “Metro”. It would see developers ditch the old Start menu style of which Windows users had become accustomed to over the years in favor of a new tile based design for application launch and management. Microsoft has defended its stance on the decision by claiming that the new interface is designed to be suitable for all and any platform that Windows is installed on, whether it be a smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Microsoft had decided that ’tiles’ were the way of the future for Windows and its users.

Time will tell whether Windows 8 has been a commercial success or not, as it’s still too early to make any assumptions. But one thing is clear and obvious, Microsoft Developers did not listen to what the customers wanted in an operating system. If they had, then Windows 8 would be embraced much more than what it currently is. And especially with power users and developers.

In truth, the old Start menu system procedure probably still had many years of life in it yet. But for proprietary software companies to move forward and continue to increase revenue of the services, things have to be changed and updated to keep things appearing fresh, new, exciting and innovative. Even if it is at the expense of its users productivity levels. And this is one of the many failures of proprietary software. When It works well, the company reaps the rewards and benefits. But then comes the pressure of maintaining that strong position. And when new services are not embraced as well as previously anticipated, then it could potentially put the future of the whole company in jeopardy.

This is where Canonical has a chance to dive right it and take the market share of dissatisfied Windows users. Canonical needs to stomp and succeed. I specifically use Canonical as an example because I honestly believe they are in the best position to make a large dent in the market share of consumer desktop operating system space held by Microsoft. But they have to make careful decisions if they are to succeed in this mission. And they have to be certain to not make the same mistake of which Microsoft has made. That being, taking their commercial interests more serious than their user’s interests. User’s interests are very important and have to be taken seriously. If they don’t, users will quickly look at the alternative.

Canonical has taken heavy criticism since the implementation of Unity as the default desktop environment graphical interface. Canonical is in a hard position at the moment. Unity is probably not the best implementation of a desktop environment we’ve ever used in Linux. Yet the default alternatives, GNOME Shell and KDE are really not much of an improvement. Personally, I don’t think any are as good as the old classic GNOME 2 environment. And that is why Linux Mint is increasing in popularity. The Linux Mint Developers have listened to what Linux users want and responded with a release which contains MATE and Cinnamon. Both of which are viable alternatives which closely resemble the ‘old’ yet very productive way of getting tasks done.

Listening to the users of your software service is often underestimated. It all comes down to what you wish to achieve with your service. If you want absolute success and market power, you must “listen”. If not, you will quickly find yourself in a difficult and vulnerable “survival” position. Yet if you do listen, you will find easy success around every corner. History proves this.

Update: I have amended my article. The first iteration stated that Linux Mint has become more popular than Ubuntu. This is incorrect. I have updated the article to reflect the fact that Linux Mint is increasing in popularity and NOT in fact more popular than Ubuntu.

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