While companies worldwide look for ways to reduce costs, shed dead weight from their labor resources and streamline their businesses, it makes me wonder if Linux will survive the global economic meltdown. Oh, I know it will survive in terms of us geeks who use it and tout its goodness. It will survive in ISP data centers, some cloud-based businesses and as the de facto platform for virtualization. But will businesses such as hospitals, law firms, trucking companies and retail stores adopt it for their productive operating system of choice?
The answer isn't easy.
The reason is that Microsoft isn't making it easy.
Linux for server systems, enterprise or small business, is a fine choice. It's a toss-up for most businesses if they have all the facts in front of them with which to make that choice. Often they don't. Microsoft has a marketing machine like no other. You hear Microsoft and you assume quality, reliability and a top-rated global company.
Linux, alternatively, conjures up strange people who sport sandals, wear ponytails, don red fedoras, quote lines from Monty Python episodes and flash the intergalactic 'gang' sign (The Vulcan 'live long and prosper thing').
It also makes business owners think that it's wholly unreliable.
Sure, there are plenty of Windows nerds, geeks and freaks out there who're every bit as weird as those of us who type 'ls' instead of 'dir' at a command prompt but they have the marketing momentum behind them to hide their geeky band of follower's greasy faces from the public.
Think of those McDonald's commercials that show the beautiful young people working in their restaurants with mouths all full of nice white teeth, clean hair, arms unmarred by track marks or dragon tattoos and bright eyes undaunted by years of methamphetamine abuse. They hide the real ones from the camera. If they showed the real people, you wouldn't want to buy an Egg McMuffin or a Big Mac, would you?
Microsoft has that marketing engine behind it. Linux has Linus and a band of merry followers who attempt to "convert by the sword" and to convince the infidels that there's a better way.
Yes, we have The Linux Foundation, the Free Software Foundation and a few others out there displaying the white teeth and freshly scrubbed faces but have you seen a Linux commercial lately? OK, a non-YouTube commercial? I mean a mainstream, legitimate Linux commercial with snappy dialog and a catch-phrase. No, you haven't and neither have I. Neither has anyone else.
People buy what they see. If they don't see it, they don't buy it. That's why advertising works.
So, the question remains: Will Linux survive the global economic meltdown?
Likely, but will it thrive at a slow pace. Adoption will remain sluggish. Just because it's free doesn't mean people will go grab it and use it. For people in the know, like you and me, it's a no-brainer. For everyone else, it's a mystery. It's an unknown quantity. It's not mainstream. And, therefore, it's not reliable for business use.
If Linux is to survive and thrive, we have to put the word out to those who might adopt it. I have a potential solution, which I'll post tomorrow, December 31, as my final entry for 2009.