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NewsForge: The State of Linux at the Retail Store

Aug 04, 2003, 22:00 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by James Hutton)

"I work in a small retail electronics store that has been selling cheap Linux PCs for the last 8 months or so. It was an experiment that returned mediocre results. The hardware wasn't a problem--it was cheap but solid hardware, and exactly what a lot of people wanted for basic word processing, email, etc. Even the fact that it wasn't running Windows wasn't a problem, people are prepared to overlook that if it's going to do what you want. The problem was that it was running an open source operating system.

The 'it's free as in free speech, rather than free as in beer' has been an oft-quoted example of what free software is all about. Unfortunately, when talking to people off the street, this is a very hard idea to get across. Most people have not heard of Linux. In an age of commercialisation in almost every sector of society, mostly relying on word-of-mouth and consumer interest has given Linux a low profile to the average consumer. They are confronted with a 'free' operating system for the first time, and their first interpretation of 'free' is 'free as in this is so bad that no one in their right mind would pay for this crap.' This is not an unreasonable reaction..."

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