Mailinglist Archive: opensuse (1677 mails)

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Re: Clinging to Microsoft (was Re: [opensuse] Why openSUSE is less popular than Ubuntu?)
On Wednesday, December 07, 2011 05:13 AM Per Jessen wrote:
Roger Oberholtzer wrote:
On Wed, 2011-12-07 at 17:38 +1000, John Bennett wrote:
Or they just can't get the support from any "other than Windows"
suppliers! Our company has just gone through the process, and were
SERIOUSLY looking at a Linux solution (in particular, Novell).But
after months of trying to get support, both off the web and locally
(Qld, Aus.) we gave up and have gone for another Microsoft solution.
Really frustrating!

In our company, they are doing all this stuff with sharing documents
and such. Sharepoint, I think it is. Once you start the MS path with
that, you are pretty much committed. In a company of 8000 engineers,
reworking all that document integration is not likely to happen.

Yet a larger company is much more likely to be able to carry out a
successful migration. Of course, a larger company will also have far
more inertia and many more well-placed MS people to stop any such ideas
well in advance. :-(

Ah, this thread continues to live on . . . my feelings won't be hurt if the
following is longer (and it is long, you've been warned) than your schedule
permits :) . . .

Per's comment above re "inertia" deserves a lot of consideration. It is
*huge*.
IMO, this is the most useful and relevant comment in this thread.

All the talk about this or that detail, while certainly very important to the
users affected, as well as to those with broader experience like ourselves, are
in the big picture just that . . . details.

It seems that often the distinctions between the data center and the desktop,
and between businesses vs consumers, get blurred. And yet, inertia is the
critical factor in all these market segments. The difference is in the form
that
the inertia takes.

For a business, switching costs are typically enormous. As Per also observed,
the larger the company, typically the better equipped it is to handle
migration.
It is also likely to understand switching costs better - and the difficult to
quantity soft costs, and risks (mostly non-technical), that can easily be
larger
than direct costs like sw conversion. Mgmt understands this. Anyone having
worked in sales for one of the big hw/sw vendors mentioned, knows that
virtually
every new deal is primarily a matter of how to displace the incumbent.
Discounting your way to winning occasionally works, but it's too expensive. In
most cases, in the end, it's a matter of convincing whomever writes the check
that the long-term benefits outweigh all the difficult switching costs (or
convincing whomever the economic buyer delegates the decision to). It's a very
high hurdle.

Smaller enterprises don't have this sophistication. But the inertia is still
there. They only know what they know, and they don't know what they don't
know.
And unlike big companies, they don't have to resources let alone disposition to
find out. That's not flippant; it just describes the mind-set. If a supplier
has
a monopoly position, it is the default. The business will decide based on
comfort, safety, and money. Comfort comes from what you already know and
safety
from what everyone else uses. So the cost/benefit decision takes a simpler
form,
but the hurdle is there nonetheless.

By the way, in the public (govt) market segment, the issues are largely the
same, but with politics being a much bigger factor. Some national and state
govts have, or at least have tried, to adopt Linux. A few have succeeded. But
in most cases, the push-back has been enormous. Helped by the incumbent, who
will neutralize much of the price advantage with discounts, making the hurdle
in
this cost-driven segment extremely high.

In the consumer desktop market, inertia is nearly everything. The Linux world
has touted "free" and "freedom" forever. In this market, with very little
traction. The comfort and safety factors, rightly or wrongly, far outweigh not
paying for Windows in most geographies. And the typical Windows user only
cares
about the app s/he uses, not the bevy of free stuff available. Concepts such
as
"open source" are meaningless. Sure there are exceptions, but the percentage
is
extremely small.

So why has Ubuntu been successful? First, define "success". Relative to
Windows? That's ridiculous. All of Linux on the consumer desktop combined
barely moves the needle. Why has Ubuntu been more successful compared to other
distros? Because it has done a better job with comfort and safety for its
target user.

I contributed to the Ubuntu project for ~2 yrs following release. Canonical
put
a lot of money and resources behind it. There was no democracy; Shuttleworth
made the important calls, even about details. And there was a very tight focus
on attracting typical Windows users, mostly younger people, with a lot of
outreach in emerging markets. The key was rapidly building a large community
providing excellent support and good documentation, and then building on top of
that. The system wasn't remotely what SuSE and Fedora were (but Novell & Red
Hat's desktop target was really the business end-user anyway, not the consumer
market). Other commercial attempts failed (including mine, btw). Ubuntu "just
worked", just enough (barely at first), for its target audience. It achieved
awareness and mind-share. It became the default in this space. And so,
roughly
speaking, it is the incumbent. If openSUSE wants to attract the same new
Windows users as Ubuntu, it will automatically be compared to Ubuntu, and it
will have to overcome the inertia factor that Ubuntu has created.

That begs the question, does openSUSE want the *same* users as Ubuntu? I asked
this question in a prev thread, and was pointed to "Linux for Adults".
Beginners are welcome, but the project is looking for "contributors". That
profile fits some Ubuntu users, but only some. Ubuntu has built on its core
"just works" user base, and so it also now has mass. And money. And
commercial
intentions. And btw it delivers a lot less, leaving servers to a sister
project
and other DE's to forks.

To the original question, the simplest answer is that the projects are not the
same in many different and important ways. And that is intentional. And that
will naturally result in there being more Ubuntu users than openSUSE users.
All
of this is fine as long as the openSUSE project can accomplish what it wants
for
its contributors.

And as far as MS or any other monopoly incumbent, the answer will always be the
same: Inertia. The only thing that will change this is something like
disruptive technology that causes creative destruction, driven by market demand
and/or other big dogs - such as has happened in the new mobile computing space
with Apple and Google/Android (with both, ironically enough, having a *nix
heritage). The stock markets know this, and so does MS.




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