Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Keep the "Linux" out of it Please

Android and Ubuntu are arguably the two largest Linux success stories to date. Ubuntu with its soaring success over other Linux-based desktop solutions and Android with its seemingly single handed domination of the mobile market.

What makes these two distributions so successful?

Anyone who owns a company or sells a product will tell you - you can have the best product in the world and no one would use it if you don't have the right advertising to back it up. Now, semantics and marketing are not the only reasons these distros have been so successful, they are genuinely good products, but there is no doubting that good PR doesn't hurt. This brings me to an interesting question:

What does Ubuntu's advertising have in common with Android's advertising?

Neither of them make any mention of that frightening word "Linux". Don't believe me? Take a look at the Ubuntu and Android homepages, do you see the word "Linux" anywhere to be found? This is not by chance, this is by design. The Blog of Helios asked an interesting question a few months back:

Is the Linux brand poisoned?

Canonical and Google certainly seem to think so. What do you think? Does the Linux name need to be left off a product in order for it succeed? If so, why do you think this is?

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. I guess I would ask a different question: why should they mention Linux? Their target audience probably doesn't know what Linux is, and even if they did it's really not relevant. There are a lot of other products in Ubuntu as well: GNOME, Bash, GNU. If someone wants a listing of everything that went into the making of the OS they can go look at the ubuntu-desktop package.

  2. Ubuntu and Android aren't the largest success stories to date. The largest success story to date would be RedHat ($32.38/share currently). The second would arguably be Novell ($5.67/share) or SuSE.

    Ubuntu isn't even on the list. Android is arguably the most up-and-coming, but no where near the largest success (yet).

  3. Android isn't defined by $ market share.

    That definition is just misleading.

    Its best defined by number of devices active.

    The problem with your definition, is that google is the primary funder of it, and is not selling the product or even product services, but rather is datamining, and selling search.

    The backwards funds nature of google makes it impossible to look at like how you do.

    For example, google doesn't sell gmail, and google doesn't sell gmail support services (postini enterprise isn't that big of a deal financially).

    The purpose of android, and the purpose of other google services, is not to sell, but rather cause an addiction to google.

    I'm posting this from my google account.

  4. I'd like to also point out, mint has linux all over its page.

  5. This is good conversation regarding the issues with "Linux" as a brand. However, saying "keep Linux out of it" I think is hurtful to it as a brand. If the success stories (I agree with your assertions above, but only as they apply to the consumer realm) marketed themselves as Linux, the consumers it doesn't scare away would have their eyes opened. However, the fact is, most people don't care about the Linux agenda. I don't like to call it "our" agenda, though I do support free and open source software, but for what it's worth, most people just want something that works and works well, and unfortunately the prevailing prejudice against Linux is that it's "too complex".

  6. Getting rich is incidental in any discussion about Linux success. Success is better measured in how many grandmothers are no longer paying the software barons.

  7. It's not important for most users to know that Linux is behind Ubuntu in the same way that it's not important for most users to know that their Windows install sits on a FAT32/NTFS/whatever hard drive

  8. They don't mention Linux because they know if they did, they'd have Richard Stallman flapping his sandals and writing one polemic after another lecturing them that Linux is a misnomer -- it's really _GNU/Linux_ -- and quibbling about the conceptual definition of "free" when applied to software, and arguing loudly to himself about how many angels can dance on the head of Mark Shuttleworth.

  9. Agreed, Linux isn't poison, but only those into the scene will care about what's running under the hood. In the case of Android and iOS, people want iPhones for the "apple" brand, not really for it's functions that a Droid can easily reproduce instantly. Advertising that Android is running Linux is like saying that you can get your daily amount of electrolytes from a Banana. It's true, but people don't need that information and it might turn away the dumber sheep... (since it's not how useful or powerful the product is, but rather, it's market penetration that determines winners and losers...)

  10. First of all, Ubuntu isn't successful. Canonical is still running in the red where ubuntu is concerned, hardly a "success".

    Also, You are mistaking popular for successful.While most people go by the download totals seeming to show ubuntu as one of the most downloaded distros, one must also take note of the entry/exit revolving door of Ubuntu wherein the time users continue with Linux after starting with ubuntu and then moving to another distro after a short 'breaking in" period. That is also not "successful" as ubunt uspends so much of it's popularity on being the distro for "nebies" thus giving the impression that experienced Linux users need to move on after gaining familiarity.

    Android is being sold to the cell carriers, there is $ being generated for it. The more carriers that buy then sell android based phones are sending $ to Google. That is verifiable "success" AS mentioned above, Redhat and Novell exhibit verifiable success.

    buntu is just a poser distro trying to get by on it's fan boy popularity machine.

  11. >> Scott

    Google *does* in fact sell gmail:

    Google *does* in fact sell android.

    And on all of its products it does in fact sell advertising, not "search".

  12. Retarded. Linux Mint is called Linux Mint. It's the 4th most popular OS in the world, arguably the best, and has virtually no hiding of the branding.

  13. "they are genuinely good products"
    Hah. You kid.

    Windows has over 20 years of maturity. And even the lowly Mac OS X has more than 10 years, if you count its heritage in NeXT and BSD.

    Ubuntu and Android have a loooong way to go, in stability, and reliability:

  14. The largest Linux success story by any measure is RHEL. It predates both Ubuntu and Android and it has Linux right there in the name. It's not a consumer product and the number of users isn't the largest, but it was the first and most significant validation of Linux as a viable OS for mission critical jobs.

    I think the reason Ubuntu is not called "Ubuntu Linux" is probably simply brevity, and the need to distinguish Ubuntu from other distros. I don't think Linux is poisonous. Most of the public don't know enough about it to be bothered by it. But calling it 'Linux' when other distros have 'Linux' in the name would probably cause needless confusion in the minds of people who are completely unfamiliar with operating systems other than Windows. Ubuntu is building a brand and it was about time someone finally did. Red Hat hasn't been interested in pursuing the home desktop, Fedora doesn't have the marketing and cohesive branding effort Ubuntu has, and Novell also seems to lack focus, having had a confusing series of brands over the years (Novell, SLES, SuSE, OpenSuSE).

  15. interesting... i read all the article...

    Anonymous is happy.

  16. Me: I love Linux
    Co-worker: Linux Sucks, here let me show you this video of South Park trashing Linux on my Android Phone
    Me: ummmmm your using Linux...
    Co-Worker: ok Ill take the Linux Mint 8 DVD and give it a try....

    True story btw.

  17. I tried Linux for the first time less than a year ago. I choose Ubuntu, actually Xubuntu, only because it was the "most popular" Linux. In fact, I kept looking for a Penguin icon on the desktop, and a Penguin or some "Linux" wallpaper to load behind. Couldn't find any!

    But still I overwrote Windows-XP on a desktop and laptop and was so proud I finally had my "Linux" installed, even though I couldn't prove it to anyone that sat besides as I test drove my new system.

    +"Trust me, this is Linux here"

    -- "That's Xubuntu, not Linux, I thought you were getting Linux"

    +"No, that is Linux, its a version of Linux"

    -- "Well why don't you just install regular Linux? I wanted to see the real Linux"

    see where this is going?

    But I touted it to family and friends and installed Xubuntu on another's laptop. It still there and runs 100 times faster than XP did (at least!).

    The only good marketing for Linux so far has been Microsoft. They convinced me when my new laptops "Trail" version of Office suddenly stopped working and said [click here] to purchase, and my marathon training log was inaccessible for editing. And on the other machines that had antivirus subscriptions warning "time to renew know".. and slow lumbering machines that were hosed down with malware, popups for Buy This and That. And all those Microsoft Updates [this will make your machine run better] but it only got slower. Oh I get it, that means its time to purchase a new computer with a new Windows license... Then "MAKE SURE" to install all the forthcoming updates to make the machine run better. Yeah right, I've been believing that for the last several machines but NOT ANYMORE.

    Anyway, As time went I enjoyed using Linux. I discovered that many Linux operators didn't care to showcase the fact that they had Linux operating systems, instead they were just excited about their particular Distributions. Turns out, my "discovery" turned out to be false. Really its the distributors of the Distributions that like to downplay Linux and not talk about it; its the Distributions marketing that never seems to showcase the power under the hood.

    Each Distribution seems to vain-fully portray there invention as the greatest thing since sliced bread came along. Most of the public seems to think "oh, neat, Linux!, you know how to use that??"

    Linux is cool to those that think computers are cool, and that "thinking" is cool. I guess its my memory of the IBM Linux Commercial on Superbowl Sunday a few years back. Search for it on Youtube! Now that's great marketing!

    My solution would be for all the major Distributions to have key representatives gather annually just to talk about the things they can to unify around the Linux brand and showcase, somewhere in their distrubtion's desktop. Maybe a new Linux logo on ALL Launch buttons (sorry Penguin) , it would be universally known as the "Linux Launch", and pick three things every LINUX Launch bar would include, Universally (suggestion: include an XHTML CREDITS for all open source software installed. Have a One-Click-Away from Credits on all Linux machine.

    Perhaps then each person could instantly see Linux, or Not Linux on Any Distribution, and the hallmark would be the CREDITS that are always One-Click-Away. And then there is no question.. no prolonged wait for "...oh cool! This IS Linux.." which with all current distributions, well, that thought is smothered before it ever gives birth.

    Now it's great for Distributions to have a since of individuality, but to be successful we all must remember that were all still Family. We've all got to be Proud of our Last Name... LINUX. ..and remember Together We Stand, Divided We Fall.

  18. And lets all tout the number one thing that Linux has that Apple and Microsoft and other Iron Curtain Software doesn't, that's Values! Remember, a lot of folks do chose Linux once they discover that they can get involved in something useful to society, something that can propel it forward, faster, and with more efficiency than ever before. Freedom! That's what its all about. Time to tear down the walls and pave the way for the Golden Road

    [same Anonymous poster as above, just too long winded to keep it under maximum content :-)

  19. Lets be frank here, people careless about name. what people care about is something which works. If Ubuntu has added Windows or Mac to their name and it sucked. It would not have been popular. Whether its hides it or not Anyone who goes to www.ubuntu.com to download Ubuntu already knows it is a linux distribution. The people who wouldn't know or careless are the people who you have to set ubuntu up for. This are average yours and last time I checked even the most dump windows users don't go to www.windows.com or even amazon to buy their copies of windows. Its all setup for them. So call Ubuntu all the Linux in the world and it wont mean a think if it sucks

  20. "Windows has over 20 years of maturity. And even the lowly Mac OS X has more than 10 years, if you count its heritage in NeXT and BSD."

    Excellent evidence that talk is indeed cheap. When Microsoft wanted to trash Linux a decade ago they spoke of how it was based on aging, long in the tooth technology; the above statement indicates Linux is based on mature technology despite the author's assertion to the contrary.

  21. There are many examples of great Linux success stories. Even greater than you mention. Consider Google, consider IBM Blue Gene and other great super-computing systems. NAS, networking components, servers all over the Internet, Network attached printers, Consider the millions of households and individuals who now benefit from FOSS.
    Microsoft did their best at trash-talking Linux, but Linux remains and grows even stronger in spite of their attempts to undermine it.
    People working together. Freedom and the power of the GPL--just can't beat it.

  22. It's not so much about a poison brand as an irrelevant detail. Android end users don't need to know it's a Linux kernel, same for Ubuntu; but the people who need to know (device builders, IT people) know what they are getting.

    Which suggests simple gets remembered especially with a simple logo.

  23. Remember that Linux is not a operation system. But Ubuntu is, just like Android. And Fedora, Mandriva, Sabayon, PCLOS etc.

    There is some doubt people are scared to try distros like Fedora coz they are scaring they can't handle with it. No need to scare. Fedora is much easier to use than so many e.g Ubuntu-users are tkinking about.

  24. @Jeff

    Without the Linux Kernel ... where will that 'lot of stuff' go to?

  25. I love the comments like "August 25, 2010 1:42 PM Anonymous" Leave. AKA comments that make it clear they didn't read what I wrote, they just read the title and dropped a comment... What a shame, this was a short article too!

  26. August 24, 2010 4:28 PM
    Anonymous said...
    "they are genuinely good products"
    Hah. You kid.

    "Ubuntu and Android have a loooong way to go, in stability, and reliability:

    So much information in so few words. I don't care what OS you like or what games you play or what your latest killer app is going to be. As pointed out above, Linux is a OS Kernel. Ubuntu and Droid are different operating systems that have in common the same kernel. Decisions are made by those who work with any kernel (not just Linux) and some of those decisions may be problematic. I have found the recent Ubuntu 10.4 to rather good. It's the first time Ubuntu lasted a week with me, but I have used Linux since RedHat 5.2. I use Windows as well and frankly, I don't have a lot of problems. But then, I check the tire pressure daily, wash and polish it every Saturday and change the oil every 3000 miles.

    Still, I know Jeff is on the money. It matters to me what kernel is running and what makes up the OS, but for all of those people who think their Internet browser is something called Windows, not so much.

    @August 24, 2010 4:28 PM, I don't demand that you know what your are talking about, but it would be nice