I’ve been using Fedora for about 8-9 months at work and have recently moved from XP to Ubuntu on my home machine as well. My reason was that to check out something new (and free) before I decide to dish out cash for Vista and a system upgrade (although I’d prefer to buy a Vista Ready laptop and keep my desktop as it is). I’d heard a lot of good things about Ubuntu and wanted to give Linux a second chance (after nightmares at work with Fedora Core 3).
- The ubiquitous terminal. There’s a reason why GUI’s have taken over. There’s a reason why MS DOS could never do what MS Windows 3.x did for Microsoft. People don’t like command prompts. People don’t like computer commands. Terminals scare the mainstream user away. As long as Ubuntu will require me to open up the terminal to install new software or configure hardware, it’s not going anywhere near most computer users. Even people with technical backgrounds prefer to have a 1 click installation rather than typing in commands to install stuff. Atleast I do. Although Ubuntu’s Update Manager and third party applications like Automatix and Easy Ubuntu make it really easy to install commonly needed software (codecs, media players, browser plugins), it gets slightly difficult if you want to install something by yourself. (My suggestion: Keep the terminal for advanced users, provide a GUI which performs similar tasks for dumb .. err … home users.)
- Games, or lack thereof. It’s kind of like the chicken and egg problem. Game manufacturers don’t prefer making games compatible for Linux because gamers don’t use Linux. Gamers don’t prefer Linux because there aren’t many games on Linux. Wine isn’t exactly known for allowing Linux users to play Windows games. Unless the Linux community can make it really easy for people to play Windows games on their Linux boxes, I don’t see Ubuntu getting any help in the gaming department. And I don’t see that getting any easier especially with Vista Only Games (Crysis, do I even need to provide a list now?) coming up. (My suggestion: Working on games virtualization hasn’t helped. Games manufacturers need to be persuaded to keep Linux in the compatibility loop.)
- The Microsoft Factor. Sadly, it’s any implied requirement for non-Microsoft systems to either have Microsoft software work on them or have their own replacements compatible with Microsoft’s products. Take MS Office on the Mac for instance. Although Open Office on Ubuntu does a good job of allowing the user to open, view and edit their MS Office docs and spreadsheets, it has a lot of ground to cover. Yes having a Windows virtual machine and editing your Word documents there would solve your problem but that’s not what a mainstream user would want to do. (My suggestion: Polishing up features and compatibility of MS alternatives is the way to go.)
- The Other Microsoft Factor. With 90+% of the world’s homes and businesses using Microsoft’s operating system, it’s an uphill battle for Ubuntu to get a respectable chunk of this market. Ubuntu in its current state is more likely to be accepted and used widely by the developer community than the mainstream user simply because people won’t replace something if its not broken. Windows works perfectly for the average home user. Every printer scanner and digital-camera (hardware’s tom dick and harry) works with Windows. Why try something different? The only reason I see people going for Ubuntu instead of Vista is cost. Cost of upgrading to a ‘Vista Ready’ machine. And cost of Vista itself. These two can burn a serious hole in your pocket. Ubuntu is free. Heck they’ll even send you the CD at your doorstep. (My suggestion: good luck!)
- Configuration for Dummies. The rule of thumb in Linux is that if it doesn’t work, you haven’t configured it properly. While I was writing this post, my brother wanted to me to burn a data CD in the background. I had used Automatix to install GnomeBaker, touted as the best CD burning tool for Ubuntu. Turns out it won’t burn the disk. Gives a configuration error. This highlights another important issue with the Ubuntu environment (although I believe it’s tons better than other Linux distros in this regard), the amount of configuration work that a user has to do to get something to run. You have to do that in Linux a little too much for my liking. The difference between the configuration in Linux and Windows is that in Linux you have to configure something to get it to run, in Windows you have to configure something to make it run a little differently. Big difference. User’s shouldn’t be expected to perform engineering tasks to run a setup file that they downloaded, just like they shouldn’t be expected to change the engine oil of a car they just bought, so that it’ll run. (My suggestion: Do for all Linux applications what Ubuntu has done with their synaptic packaging. Automatic download, install, update.)
What do you think Ubuntu needs to do to put a dent in Windows’ market share?