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CrossoverWare: A Linux Advocacy Strategy

May 21, 1999, 02:34 (36 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Thad Phetteplace)

By Thad Phetteplace

I've been mulling over ways to promote Linux, and there is one idea that keeps rising to the top. I call it CrossoverWare. In short, we release useful free tools for the Windows environment, but leave some features out. If someone really wants to use that feature, we make it clear that the (also free) Linux version of the software contains those features. Read below for an example.

I am working on a free, open-source, net playable game for Linux. I've decided to make a client piece for Windows95 because, let's face it, there are a lot of gamers out there that run Windows. If you want to host a game, however, you must be running Linux (or some UNIX variant). The reason is practical as well as *marketing* driven; it is just plain easier and more efficient to implement game hosting services on a UNIX-like OS.

So, when the Windows users go to the "Host A Game" option in their software, they will receive a "You must be running the Linux version of this program to host a game" error message and maybe some web addresses where they can read more about Linux. Our on-line documentation will advocate Linux as well. This model could be extended to many other types of software. Even the simple message, "If you like this program on Windows, you'll love it on Linux" would go a long way if plastered prominently in enough help screens and install docs. Linux is now well known in the IT industry, but the *average* home user still has not heard of it. CrossoverWare could really help in the "name recognition" and "mind share" departments, paving the way for a mass migration to Linux on the desktop.

Some of you are no doubt thinking "By creating software for Windows, aren't we working counter to the purpose of improving and advocating Linux?"

I think of it like this. If you are trying to topple a communist regime, it is better to engage them in such a way that they become infected with capitalist ideals than to embargo them and hope the economic harm will do them in. Microsoft already has the home field advantage (95 percent market share). An *embargo* by the Linux community would hardly be noticed by the application saturated Windows world. But applications that help Windows users while raising their awareness of Linux can only benefit our cause. Look at what Samba has done in that regard.

So what do you think? What kind of killer apps can we come up with that will pull users over to the Linux experience? I look forward to seeing a debate on this topic.

Thad Phetteplace