Ubuntu's Best Hope: Convert the KidsUbuntu's Best Hope: Convert the Kids
When it comes to Ubuntu, we have the flash, we have the solid operating system, we have major suppliers -- but now we need even more users. Are those users going to come because of Dell or Hewlett-Packard offering Ubuntu pre-loads? Nope. Here's what Ubuntu (and Kubuntu) really need to go mainstream.
February 10, 2009
When it comes to Ubuntu, we have the flash, we have the solid operating system, we have major suppliers — but now we need even more users. Are those users going to come because of Dell or Hewlett-Packard offering Ubuntu pre-loads? Nope. Here’s what Ubuntu (and Kubuntu) really need to go mainstream.
The answer, of course, is an audience that is used to the operating system and is not scared of change. Windows users are ingrained in their world and generally fear change. Mac OS X users are a little more open to change, but are often stuck in the ‘Apple is God’ mindset.
So, whom do we convert? The simple answer: Children.
The Kids Are All Right
Hear me out. Kids are extremely open to change, love the flashiness of the rotating cube/snowfall, and have possibly not been induced to brand loyalty on personal computers yet. As a bonus, Linux can offer everything children need for school in a completely free way (OpenOffice, games, Internet access).
My children have been using Kubuntu for the past three years without any complaints, save one. The network administrator forgot to install Flash so that Nickjr.com and PBSKids.org would work properly after a fresh install awhile back. After I got their games working properly, they have used the desktop with great success doing everything they need.
When I asked Erich (my oldest) if he noticed any difference between our computer and the one at school he replied, “Our computers at school are way slower, Dad.” One night at an open house at his school, I checked out the systems and they are no slouches (Windows XP on Pentium 4s with 1GB RAM) — roughly equal to my home machine. Another plus to Linux, and evidence that children will evaluate things on use instead of ingrained OS dogma.
Ironically, the situation is similar for Joe Panettieri, editorial director and co-founder of WorksWithU. When System76 sent him an evaluation laptop running Ubuntu, his kids (pictured) gave it a try — and they didn’t want to send it back. (Memo to System76 President Carl Richell: Don’t worry, the kids touched the system for 15 minutes and the laptop finally is on its way back to you.)
While this argument is far from perfect or without fault, I believe the children will be our path to promoting Linux use for the future. The Helios Project seems to be making great headway in this direction, and mirrors what I believe to be a great path toward Linux adoption – get Linux to the children. The Helios Project is more specifically aimed at helping those in need, but where do you think those children will place their loyalty, with Linux or some restrictive OS/software they have to use as someone else designed?
While there will be a long wait for return on this investment, it should be worth the wait. Microsoft has a monopoly built by succeeding and then familiarity. Linux is a success at being ‘pretty’ and solid, now we need the familiarity that can easily be supplied by getting Linux into the hands of children.
Contributing blogger Dan Voyles is a junior network admin for a small environmental company based in Mount Vernon, IL. He has used Kubuntu since 2005. Follow Dan on Twitter, or his personal blog: blog.danvoyles.us.
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