The perception that Linux is still too difficult for the average computer
user is the biggest challenge that Linux evangelists need to tackle.
Linux gained prominence at a time when it wasn't ready for mass con-
sumption. A lot of people tried it during the late 1990s and were turned off by
its quirkiness. It was simply discounted as a play-tool for geeks.
And this image still persists. But instead of confronting this, Linux sup-
porters continue to tout every other aspect in order to gain converts: it's free, it's
stable and it's secure.
Does it really matter?
All software is free in India. Okay, it costs 150 bucks. Given the current state
of affairs, how exactly is this whole free angle going to make anybody bite?
We're used to 'buying' the latest version of Photoshop for resizing our digital
photos even when there are umpteen free tools available on the Net for this sim-
ple task. Yes, things might be different if we actually had to pay Rs 4,000 for a
copy of Windows. But they aren't. Also, with the release of Windows 2000 and
then XP, Microsoft has made bold steps in rectifying the bad poster boy image
What's important is that Linux has come a long way from its humble begin-
nings. Most of its kinks have been ironed out and the rough edges smoothened.
Sure it still needs to improve on driver support for new hardware, sort out cer-
tain compatibility issues with Microsoft Office and add a few features to its top
applications such as Star Office and GIMP. But on the whole it's a viable desk-
top alternative to Windows.
What's needed now is to get users to try it once again. But without a cen-
tralised marketing push, it's naive to hope that everyone will see the light. The
best bet then is to get top-tier system resellers to adopt and propagate Linux.
This has been made easier with the recent US Department of Justice ruling
against Microsoft. The Redmond bully can no longer offer special incentives to
its cronies or force any system vendor from adding non-Microsoft software to