Criticizing Vista Doesn't Mean Promoting Ubuntu
Glyn Moody wrote an interesting piece last week about mounting evidence that consumers disillusioned with Windows Vista are electing simply not to upgrade. And from there, he concludes, it’s a short step to the idea that patronizing Microsoft isn’t necessary at all, given the myriad open-source alternatives.
I love Ubuntu and free software as much as everyone else, and I agree that Vista, a.k.a. “DRM masquerading as an operating system,” is hardly a mandatory upgrade–in fact, neither of the two IT departments for which I’ve worked in the last two years have any plans to move past XP in the foreseeable future, and I suspect that my anecdotal experiences coordinate with a larger trend.
But I’m not sure I see the logic in Moody’s argument that a rejection of Vista is tantamount to a rejection of Microsoft and proprietary software altogether. It seems to me that the vast majority of Windows users who are turned off by Vista are just going to go back to XP, not jump on the Ubuntu bandwagon.
Optimizing pro-Linux rhetoric
In fact, I think that the idea of using the failure of Vista to seek Linux converts distracts free-software advocates from the more effective strategy of criticizing proprietary platforms–Microsoft and Apple–in general.
If you tell someone not to use Vista because it’s a resource-hog, she’s much more likely simply to stick with XP than switch to Ubuntu.
And if you criticize Windows for being insecure, she’ll probably end up buying a Mac, not a Linux netbook.
On the other hand, if you point out Ubuntu’s strengths–as opposed to Vista’s weaknesses–you might gain a convert. The immediate and practical advantages of Ubuntu–adaptability to individual needs, rapid innovation, thousands of productivity applications downloadable in a few clicks–are attractions with which Windows and OS X, because of their development models, can’t compete.
The cries of liberty, equality and fraternity associated with free software can also be appealing, although they may not mean much to those who have yet to read a Richard Stallman manifesto.
In the end, criticism is not enough to win the struggle against Microsoft (or Apple). Rather, Ubuntu needs to appeal to those dissatisfied with their proprietary experiences. Criticism alone is not enough to convince someone to enter the strange new world of Linux, but if that world can be made sufficiently appealing, then he might indeed be moved to leave the old world behind.
Ubuntu users who want to spread the cheer of free software should not distract themselves with the belief that the demise of Vista necessarily means the rise of Linux. Rather, we need to strike at the heart of proprietary software itself, exposing the flaws that only a free development model can address.
WorksWithU Contributing Blogger Christopher Tozzi is a PhD student at a major U.S. university. Tozzi has extensive hands-on experience with Ubuntu Server Edition and Ubuntu Desktop Edition. WorksWithU is updated multiple times per week. Don’t miss a single post. Sign up for our RSS and Twitter feeds (available now) and newsletter (launching January 2009).