The limits of open source engineering
Hang with engineers for a while and griping about marketing is inevitable. The 3 Margarita lunches, the plush globetrotting, the hotties in Marcom and worst of all, they don’t understand the product.
Next bench marketing
Many engineers are quite good at marketing – to other engineers. HP got started with products by engineers, for engineers. Much of Silicon Valley is built on engineers building stuff for other engineers.
Engineers understand each other. They know how their minds work. Their problem-solving skills work in harmony. They know the problems and how to talk about them.
From a marketing perspective it is just about perfect.
Linux on the desktop
Where it falls apart is when a technologist is marketing to a non-technologist. Linux server vs Linux desktop.
Linux is huge in the server market. The developers and sysadmins who work on Linux have good communication. Red Hat engineers see the customer problems through RHEL support.
On the desktop, not so much. There is no Steve Jobs flogging designers and developers to make everything as simple as possible – but no simpler! – with good esthetics.
Consumer Linux so far
Linspire and Ubuntu have reportedly done a fair job in creating non-Linux guru versions of Linux that come with the codec, Wi-Fi, and application support that most users expect. How about taking people *beyond* what they expect?
Is there a Linux iLife equivalent? Or adding a suite of creativity apps for content creation, such as FreeMind (mind mapping), GIMP and Celtx (video production)? Your Linux guys will say “so what, it is easy to add those apps if you want them.” The marketing guy says “creating the perception of value is even more important.”
The prevailing thought seems to be Windows and Office based on a naive assumption that since everyone else runs Windows, that is what Linux desktops should look like. How about being *better* than Windows/Office?
What could be better?
Why not rip off the Mac instead? Most of the Windows auxiliary applications like Notepad are pretty lame. Surely Linux has superior versions. Then you could go from “looks like Windows” to “better than Windows” as a tagline.
The StorageMojo take
Linux on the desktop means Linux marketing that is target customer driven. Developers and/or Linus aren’t the people to drive this. It will take someone with money. Red Hat? Ubuntu?
It will also mean some changes in Linux governance, such as a “Real Linux Desktop” UI certification to start developing a more compatible look and feel across apps. I imagine getting Linux developers to buy into such a thing would be like herding cats. But if the Linux community wants a desktop presence they need to set their sights higher than Windows.
Comments welcome, as always. I was influenced by Walt Mossberg’s Linux review of a few weeks back, as well as my own use of OSS apps on my Mac. I’m thinking I’ll get an Eee early next year, which will really get me into Linux, ready or not.