The open source software (OSS) initiative has already created a highly productive, globally supported alternative software platform. The choice of free applications for Linux is growing daily. Smart application software vendors are already reaping a financial reward from the sale of their applications. Companies that have not yet embraced OSS, by porting their application to Linux, are likely to go the way of the dinosaur.
|John H. Terpstra|
Software vendors are getting onboard. Hardware vendors are playing on the sidelines, and electronics retailers are out in the peanut gallery, still hogtied to Microsoft. Considering this situation, I think it is time for Open Hardware Manufacturing (OHM) and for the creation of a new global IT solutions retail infrastructure. Yet, I fear that U.S. players are still making enough money from their Microsoft connections that they feel comfortable with the status quo.
It's a good possibility, however, that a new-styled OHM will emerge out of China, where labor costs are low, and the desire to forge ahead is stronger than it is today in America. I've heard rumblings that Chinese manufacturers might establish new retail operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia, resulting in even more of the U.S. domestic technology market being sacrificed to the scrap-heap of history. Consider this: China has already stolen the march on the U.S. textile industry.
Will China use Linux to kick some U.S. butt?
The question we must answer is this, "Will China be the hub of future IT innovation and consumerism?" If the answer is yes, Linux is the tool that is waiting for the right Chinese entrepreneur who has a vision for creating the future.
I do see some inkling that U.S. players will play the Linux/OSS card and do it well. I'll wager a bet that Novell understands the dynamics of the market. Novell purchased SuSE, a major Linux development house. Recently, Novell released OpenSuSE, which means that the professional Linux desktop is now free. Novell sells a fully supported version, but the core product is freely available from OpenSuSE.org. This is a smart and timely move.
If I understand Novell's strategy correctly and my anticipation of the market is correct, Novell is positioned for a meteoric rise. That success could come through local OHM regenerative growth. Or, Novell could even take advantage of the entry of Asian competitors, whose OSS/OHM- oriented consumer retail channel would make the advantages of OSS and Linux desktops famous.
Widespread adoption of Linux desktops and OSS is going to happen. It's going to happen with or without the help of U.S. IT vendors and electronics retailers. Surely, there must be someone in North America with the entrepreneurship, the vision and the determination to take advantage of this opportunity before it is too late. I cannot believe that the current consumer IT retail industry is willing to fall on its sword without reconnecting with a profitable and loyal customer base. I wonder who will step forward.
Users, IT pros: Speak out now
Consumers and IT professionals, this is your call to action. If you want freedom of choice, please write to the managers of your local electronics stores, advising them that you want the choice of Linux on your next desktop or laptop computer purchase. Tell the store manager that if they refuse to be more consumer choice oriented, you will no longer purchase from them. Retail stores value consumer feedback. The few store managers I polled told me that no consumer had ever requested a Linux system, and until at least a dozen do, it does not make sense to offer such systems.
Why should IT pros join this battle? Your users buy their PCs from retailers. If they're only familiar with Microsoft products, then you'll encounter great resistance to any effort bring the lower costs and greater reliability of Linux desktops to your company. Many of you have already fought and lost that battle … for the time being.
You and I are consumers. We have the right and the responsibility to make our wishes known. If enough consumers speak up, retailers will jump to attention faster than you can imagine.
Windows problems with viruses, worms and malware exist because consumers failed to tell Microsoft that they had had enough. Instead of making our dissatisfaction known to the company that could do most to solve the problem, we delighted in complaining to each other. Make your wishes known to your IT retailers now. Remember that your actions, when properly directed, can change the world.
About the author: John H. Terpstra is chief technology officer of PrimaStasys Inc., an IT consulting firm, and a member of SearchOpenSource.com's Editorial Advisory Board. He is author of Samba-3 by Example: Practical Exercises to Successful Deployment, 2nd Edition and The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition.