Originally Published: Thursday, 22 June 2000 Author: Joeri Sebrechts
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

How to Convert Windows Users... and Get Them onto Linux

The way to conquer the desktop is not only to provide a good alternative on the Linux side, but to place that same alternative on the Windows side also. Switching OS and apps at the same time is too much.

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What would you say if I were to tell you that you had to move to a different continent, packing nothing but the clothes on your body? I bet your response would be either filled with laughs or with curses. Anyway, you wouldn't even take me serious, let alone consider it. Yet that's exactly what Linux fans want Windows users to do. They want them to leave behind their environment, their programs, their settings and most of their data. All in the name of progress. They never stop to think that maybe Moses should go to the mountain, instead of demanding that the mountain come to Moses.

Let's take a look at the average Jane User. She doesn't work with or manage OS's. She works with programs, and she uses those programs to manage data. So there are two things of importance here: the user's habits regarding programs, and the user's data. If you want to get a user onto your continent, then you need to make sure he can keep those. This is what has led to the rash of Windows copying that has been happening in the Linux world. It has led to the current look-and-feel of the two most prominent desktop environments (GNOME and KDE), which is becoming more and more Windowsish, and thus more and more bland. All in the name of conquering the desktop user. But where has it gotten us?

Currently we have two free desktop environments nearing completion, including their office suits. By completion I mean that all the apps are functional, and they fit together. By this I do not mean they are finished. They never will be, not even after they have long been swept aside by competing projects. But, as a Linux user myself, I can testify that there is an app for almost every niche right now. And the existing projects don't really need extra developers. Well, they could use them of course, but they'll keep on going at a fast enough pace anyway. You can build a completely free (as in beer, because Netscape and Staroffice still come in handy) gnu/Linux system offering (relative) ease of use, ease of installation, and a full-featured set of applications. Corel is a nice example of this. So if Linux does everything a user would ever dream of, but only more stable and faster, why aren't Windows users flocking over? Because all the Linux people are trying to do the wrong thing.

What Linux needs is not to become Windows-like. Not even in its applications. I understand it's a lot faster and easier just stealing all the idea's from existing apps. And I'm willing to support it as long as we don't have a talking paperclip (which is possible, viewing that they're implementing VB scripting in GNOME right now). But the main objective is not making Linux hospitable to Windows users (and thus like Windows), it's making Windows like Linux.

The gimp. We all love it. It's, apart from PhotoShop, the best bitmap-based graphical design program I know of. Have you checked out the Windows port lately? Oh, you didn't know there was a Windows port? Well, they're not actively promoting it. In fact, it's not even linked from the gimp site. That's why you don't know. And if even a lot of Linux users don't know of a Windows port, how should Windows users find out? I'm nearing my point here. The trick to tying down Windows users is surrounding them with our apps. Microsoft has known this for years. And we have accused them of abusing this knowledge all these years, while we just do nothing ourselves.

If you make ports of all the great Linux software to Windows, and surround Windows users with them, they'll use it. If the gimp had been available to me back when I started using PhotoShop (in what I call "my dark ages", when I used nothing but Windows), I would have used it. It's the same with every great, nice or even average app out there. If you port it to Windows people will use it. After all, it's free, and that counts bigtime with a lot of folks out there. Once you get them using it on Windows, you've won them. They'll hear about how they can switch to Linux, which is faster _and_ more stable, and still offers the same apps. Well, rest assured that a lot of them will switch. Their data will be tied to their apps, but their apps will be multi-platform, so it won't matter.

So, to bottom-line it. The way to conquer the desktop is not only to provide a good alternative on the Linux side, but to place that same alternative on the Windows side also. Switching OS and apps at the same time is too much. But switching apps first, and then OS later on is a lot easier, both on the home user, as on the corporate world, which is lacking on adapting Linux on their desktops because it's an "all-or-nothing" type of move. I don't know about you, but I'll be helping porting efforts from Linux to Windows this summer, even if I think Windows is crap. Just because it's the best thing to do right now to increase the usage numbers of Linux. And the more people that use Linux, the more resources go into Linux. Nothing but winnings to be had. So, let's not be like Microsoft and bury ourselves with our apps on our platform. Let's share.

Joeri Sebrechts is a 20-year-old IT student at the university of Antwerp, Belgium. He's never content with any OS, so he's just about tried them all. But in the end, He prefers Linux, because it makes him feel free. (Although it can be a pain in the **** sometimes)

This article is provided under the OpenContent License, and was first published in osOpinion.

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