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July 10, 2008
The Web is buzzing about Best Buy’s decision to stock Ubuntu Linux on its shelves. But I have to say, I’m not all that impressed by the news. Here’s why.
Rewind to the 1990s. CompUSA actually stocked IBM’s OS/2 on its shelves for a while. But it collected dust and OS/2 Warp eventually imploded on the desktop.
Yes, Ubuntu is far more successful than IBM’s dreadful, failed OS/2 strategy. And some exposure on Best Buy shelves could give Ubuntu some more credibility. But will it actually stay on store shelves, wonders Matt Asay over at CNet?
Two weeks ago, for instance, my brother in law had never heard of Ubuntu. I told him all about it’s benefits and its bundled applications. He was impressed, but ultimately he shopped around at local retailers — including Best Buy — for a Windows PC. Perhaps if he had seen Ubuntu on the shelves, he would have finally been sold on Linux.
And here’s another ironic twist: Consumers may actually prefer to pay for Ubuntu — rather than get it for free. No joke: Many consumers don’t like free software. They fear it. My brother in law didn’t understand how Ubuntu and OpenOffice could be free. “Is it legal to actually download and share that software?” he wondered.
Sell the same software in Best Buy, and I bet my brother in law would be more inclined to give it a try.
Still, there’s another problem awaiting Ubuntu in Best Buy. Simply put, most consumers don’t want to buy and install operating systems.
Windows Vista was a nightmare manual upgrade that failed on numerous consumer systems. Those same consumers will doubt that installing Ubuntu Linux will be any easier.
What the world needs is a brave PC maker and a brave retailer to stock a name-brand PC with Ubuntu pre-installed. Yes, you can buy Ubuntu PCs from Dell online. And Wal-Mart briefly offered Linux PCs in its stores last year before switching to an online-only offer.
Now, it’s time for Best Buy or another major retailer to work closely with a big brand PC maker — and continue down the path of customer choice. When Best Buy’s stores carry PCs with Ubuntu pre-loaded, I’ll be impressed. In the meantime, I’ll opt for free Ubuntu from the Web.
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