Critical mass- What Linux needs to market itself more effectively (Guest post)

Linux has an image problem. Unfortunately, it’s been marginalized partly by its technical image. It’s seen as a tech-head platform, not mainstream, not exploitable by commercial interests. That’s an echo of the old days of “grunge” tech, and it’s an image which is pretty much out of place with the iPhone/tablet generation, which isn’t technically minded or particularly interested in it. If you were to describe the Linux image in SEO terms, it’d be “off the radar and staying there”.
If you remember the old “compatibility” and pre-Java days, when running software was almost brand-based, the Apple/ Microsoft dichotomy, cosmetic as it sometimes is, has been dominating the commercial market in much the same way. That’s unfortunate, particularly in the days of high value open source apps and a general demand for quality from Microsoft and Apple. Linux could be a game-changer, but so far it hasn’t been.
Linux as a market entity- Breaking in
The “business as usual” approach in software and devices been a real obstacle to Linux penetrating the market. Ironically, the solution may be a lot closer than people think. Google’s Android has become a standard in its market, very quickly and very easily. Android is a high value platform, able to do a lot of work across the entire user spectrum very efficiently.
Having Google behind it was obviously a big help, but Android also exploited what was really a comatose market dominated by the iPhone. The market was ready for something new, particularly if it was so easily available. Android achieved instant market penetration in what was thought to be a locked down corporate monopoly. The success was more remarkable because of the level of user commitment to the products. Android, a new product, created a brand image almost effortlessly, against extremely strong, entrenched competition.  
Linux could do the same thing, with much the same methods. A direct attack on the Apple/Microsoft duopoly may not sound like an easy task, but it needs to be remembered this is no longer 1995. People and businesses are now glued to their computers. They need functionality, and they want apps, etc, to do the jobs. Consider the various basic computer operations for business, and you’ll see that they’re much the same.
The basic requirements for Linux to penetrate the market are:

  • A range of familiar operations and apps that can do the same jobs.
  • No communication issues, able to work in mainstream contexts.
  • The open source effect of Android
  • Innovations which are competitive and work with any device mode, particularly mobile and business

As you can see, the big tasks aren’t really that big. They’re necessary as part of a package for consumers to appreciate the value of Linux, but hardly out of the ballpark.
Linux lacks a clear, positive consumer image at the moment. That’s the problem, not the product. If Linux goes for a position of clear consumer relevance as a market option a la Android, the search engine optimization ranking will hit #3 without any trouble, and could take market share quite easily.
A third mainstream option would be good for the economy and good for the competitive base of the consumer market. Let’s hope it happens.