How to Sell Linux

22 May

Sell- Verb (used with object)- to persuade or induce (someone) to buy or use something

That’s one of the many definitions of the word sell, it is also the definition which allowed me to use the word in this context. This post is all about how we (as a community of Linux users) could persuade or induce someone or some people to use Linux in many different ways; whether is be in an organisation or for personal use.

At the time of writing this a few big Linux based Operating Systems have just been released or are going to be release (Ubuntu 10.04, Linux Mint 9 and Fedora 13) however there is still a majority of Windows users controlling the OS market. Linux– along with Mac OSX, however, are growing in user base size: slowly but surely. The most used OS is Windows XP with over 50% and then Windows Vista with just over 21% then Windows 7 with just under 15%, Mac then makes an entrance here with about 7% if you include the iPhone OS which has a 0.75% share (not far from main-stream Linux), this is where Linux enters- with just over 1% of the global usage. See the pie chart below for a visual representation (sorry about the quality)

OS Usage

OS Usage Pie Chart

Okay I am going to present 3 possible options, which, in my view would help the growth of Linux in general, whether it be Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS. At the end I will display a poll for everyone to vote in, I would also greatly appreciate other peoples thoughts and ideas on the subject and I will post them together in one post and link back to your blog or website.

1.Firstly, I think that the Linux community should elect members of it to represent the community (i.e. Ubuntu or Fedora) in his/her local area, whose job it would be to visit kindergartens, elementary school, high schools or colleges and try and persuade the person in charge of the I.T. in the school to implement a Linux distro. They would be required to prepare presentations on why Linux betters Windows (or even Mac in some schools) and show the advantages of running Linux; such as the cost reduction and less support needed.

  1. The person/s who was elected would be paid using donations to the distro fund, which, I am sure is certainly not empty (may I point out that it is not full either and I will leave a link at the end for you to donate) and could spare a little money just to pay the person/s for their time (unless they chose to do it voluntarily). I am sure that most distros would be happy to supply the elected member/s with an unlimited supply of free merchandise or copies of the distro in question.

An example of this is the implementation of an enterprise edition of RedHat Linux at Stirling University in Scotland which has improved the speed of the entire system by 400%!

RedHat Logo

2. Another idea is that the entire Linux community picks a distro from the most used ones (see DistroWatch) which will be pitched to a large computer manufacturing company like Dell or HP as either the default OS shipped with the product (either laptop or desktop) or built in to the computer in a partition split equally between it and Windows. This would be a great option as the users could easily make a choice on which OS they wanted at the beginning without all the messing around downloading the distro then burning it to a disk or USB stick and then installing it and perhaps even making a partition on their hard drive in the middle. The user would be able to make an educated choice by reading the information which the company producing the computer would be asked to deliver showing the benefits of each operating system compared to other.

This could open up an entire market for the latest laptops and desktop computers which is based around two rival companies both trying to outbid each other to make the latest technology exclusive to their OS. It could even encourage companies like Apple to team up with Linux and try and expel Microsoft from certain sectors of the market.

Hp Logo

3. Thirdly and finally in my list of ideas is to set up an online store (if you can call it a store) which if you provide your address and/or email address they will send you a copy of whatever Linux distro you want. It would be funded by ads on the website as well as a one time promotional flyer through the post with your disk (which would be sponsored) and a single sponsored email- both of which would have been warned of from the beginning. It is a viable option financially as all expenses such as; disk costs and postage costs would be covered by the ads both digital and paper form.

This service could be publicised by Linux users themselves just by sending an email to they’re contacts or sending a message on Facebook to all the users friends advising use of the service. Naturally, most people would take anything they could for free. I am prepared to wager with you that the majority of non-technical users would attempt to install it if they understood the instructions and warnings. Of course we mustn’t forget what lots of bells and whistles can do in computer software and hardware.

Ubuntu Live CDs

Okay now is your chance to vote on what you thought was my best idea- here is the poll!

Well there is my ideas, if anyone has ideas please leave a comment here or send me an email. Remember to share this blog with your friends and tell them about it!

Remember if you want to donate the Linux you should visit your favourite distro’s website and donate there!

27 Responses to “How to Sell Linux”

  1. Mick May 23, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    How about an option for let Linux sell itself on it’s own merits, ie do nothing? Why do we need to actively persuade people to use it? If Linux works for those of us who use it, why do we need to go out of our way to convince others?

    Pushing Linux on those who don’t want it is just going to negatively marginalize as many people as you persuade. Look on the internet, we already have enough zealots giving all of us a bad name. And if you annoy someone enough, they’re going to tell all their friends about the bad experience – a well known story in marketing, a negative experience can do a lot more damage to your brand than a few good ones can build.

    If you build it, they will come.

    • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 3:13 am #

      You make a fair point, however, many people have never heard of Linux (my friend thought Ubuntu was a type of phone) and thus would never get the chance to use it or even hear about it. Unless we, as a community, promote it without spending a fortune-like Microsoft or Apple, we will never get the user base which will; donate, develop and test applications and distros.

    • Abe May 23, 2010 at 3:23 am #

      You bring up a good point and it would be one item in the “Don’t do” list as part of a guideline that the volunteers have to follow.

      Again, many of the people who heard of Linux are hesitant to try it because they are afraid that if they change and run into some problem, they wouldn’t find any one to help.

      • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 3:46 am #

        Yes they are unaware of how stable Linux is due to very low percentage of computer users and most of which are quite tech-savvy and would rather not spend their time explaining to new users how to install new software or just telling them that their computer won’t break and the task bar is in the right place.

  2. Abe May 23, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    Why not do all options you presented! There are many IT retirees and many of them use Linux. They would be the ideal volunteers, not only to help on one of the options you presented, but also to help new users when installing Linux and offer phone/email support afterwards. Support is most important because new users would be hesitant to make the move without some sort of assurance and especially if they ran into problems.

    All three ideas are good but 1st & 2nd are best. 2nd option would be great if the OEMs are willing to participate. Good luck convincing them.

    Again, Support is extremely essential and would boost new user confidence and make them feel more comfortable.

    • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 3:39 am #

      Thanks for the comment and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.

      Firstly I am in the process of talking to the principal teacher in the IT department at my high school about implementing Ubuntu Linux in my school entirely or just in a certain computer room, as well as preparing a presentation for my headmaster on why we should use Linux

      Secondly I am involved in talks with a few people within the Ubuntu community in particular as well as one in the Fedora community about offering support for any schools which do use Linux over the web or in person depending on their location. I’m sure their are a few business opportunities here with live support for Linux however I am not in the position to do that.

      Thirdly I’ve been pondering on opening a store offering free live DVDs or bootable USB drives with Linux distros on them. Another aspect of this shop would be for me (along with my dad or something) could install a Linux distro on half of the hard drive.

      Lastly I totally agree with you about the support and I think that there should be more support available face to face in most areas.

  3. djohnston May 23, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    So you are trying to get Linux introduced in your high school? I hope you succeed. Be aware there are certain “market influences” which seek to control the computing environment in today’s schools, whether it is in Scotland, Peru, or India. And they don’t give up or give in easily.

    First, I agree 100% with Mick’s comments. Trying to convince someone to use Linux who has no interest in it is a losing battle.

    Second, you said, “Okay I am going to present 3 possible options, which, in my view would help the growth of Linux in general, whether it be Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS.” I hope you don’t really mean that. If it’s for the growth of “Linux in general”, you’d be leaving out Debian, the “parent” of Ubuntu. You’d be leaving out Mandriva, formerly Mandrake, the traditional “parent” of PCLinuxOS. You’d be excluding RedHat, “parent” of Fedora. You’d be disregarding the work of Suse and OpenSuse. RedHat and Suse engineers contribute quite a bit to the development of the Linux kernel.

    You certainly shouldn’t forget about Slackware, the oldest surviving distribution of them all. Slax is derived from it. And certainly don’t forget Gentoo or Arch. Puppy Linux has brought many a Windows98-era computer back to life. So when it comes to “Linux in general”, it isn’t a simple 2-party choice. Nor should it be. One of strengths of the Linux ecosystem is its diversity. It’s what allows Google to come out with Chrome and Chromium and Android.

    If you don’t lose your enthusiasm when faced with adversity, I think you could accomplish a lot of what you want to do locally. There is a man in Texas who has been getting Linux-powered computers to needy local children for some years now. He and local volunteers refurbish computers donated by businesses. He has experience in doing just the kinds of things you are advocating in order to “educate” the public. Many of the volunteers in his campaign are also from local businesses.

    His blogsite is:

    • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 9:26 am #

      My headmaster and the IT principal teacher are both interested in another option as Windows XP is slow and buggy, meaning they are always getting complaints.

      Perhaps I misspoke when I said Linux in general what I meant was unix-like distributions whether it be Ubuntu or Mandriva. It’s great when a new user starts using unix-like distros because there is a chance s/he is a developer or a webmaster which will do work on the distro or offer support on the web.

      Puppy Linux was the reason I tried Linux in the first place actually- I had a computer, which in it’s day was the best you could get, with a 100gb hard drive and 256mb of RAM. That was more than enough to run Puppy Linux. From their I was fascinated by unix-like operating systems and have tried many different ones.

      Don’t for get to sign up for the email announcements, Sandy!

    • Mick May 23, 2010 at 9:39 am #

      Was going to mention Helios myself, but got beaten to the punch. The OP is probably well advised to get in touch with him in person, could learn a lot about what does and doesn’t work with trying to advocate Linux.

      If you follow his blog, Ken has probably been burnt more times by the very people he is trying to help than any other logical person would care to put themselves through. And yet he keeps going, with the knowledge he is making a real difference to kid’s lives and education. Gotta respect that.

      • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 10:07 am #

        Yeah I think it’s amazing what he’s doing and I’m going to get in contact with him and ask his thoughts.

    • Abe May 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

      I don’t think the idea here is to force Linux down the throat of any one, especially not those who have no interest. After all, Linux is about freedom and it is anyone’s prerogative to use whatever they chose. That should be respected.

      The objective here is to introduce Linux not to make Linux experts. What determines which Distro to use depends on what a volunteer is most familiar with. One wouldn’t want to complicate things for support purposes and certainly not to a new user. Hardware also plays a roll in selecting a distro.

      • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

        I totally agree. Do you have an email address I could contact you at?

  4. dude May 23, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    1. schools – you’ll find that a handful of mid-sized companies are responsible to IT solutions in the schooling sector, most of which are Windows addicts. Unless you set up a company (for liability purposes) it is very unlikely that schools in your area are going to go FOSS.

    2. Ubuntu already does that, in fact the companies that support certain Linux OS would be quite cross with you for interfering with their brand. Besides, you can’t just use names like Ubuntu, RedHat, etc. simply because of the copyright and branding laws.

    3. Major Linux OS (Ubuntu in particular) and DistroWatch do this already.


    • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

      Certain schools will be locked in a contract with a company such as RM however others are not.

  5. opentechdiva May 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Good suggestions & they are already underway in different countries. Before i go there, however I would like to comment back to Mick…it is that elitist attitude about Linux “If Linux works for those of us who use it, why do we need to go out of our way to convince others?” that has hampered the efforts to bring it mainstream to the desktop. Give me a break…it is not a choice, but a matter of showing that there is something other than MS. Most people don’t get it that their PC can even run without Windows.

    option #1 -sounds good but due to restrictive MS licensing,even if the PC is loaded with linux or mac OS, school still has to include in hardware inventory and pay MS. Becta in UK is fighting back so advocates have hard time convincing school admins to try alternatives, since there is no savings on OS software.

    option #2 – While there are so many flavours of Linux available, there are a few who have risen to the top, and will get the attention of OEM’s. Ecuador recently purchased a large number of HP PC’s which came pre-installed with Ubuntu for deployment in education. Your suggestion of the dual boot is already on the roadmap for Canonical, see Mark’s keynote

    option #3 – for those of us who have access to unlimited bandwidth, we can pitch in to help with this. a hold back for adoption in many regions is that the bandwidth is managed or of such poor quality that downloading an ISO is impossible. My friend in Ghana has the same intent as you
    Also, projects such as Freedom Toaster ( can go along way towards adoption. Bring the unit to every event where FOSS is discussed.

    On a final note, my comments are based on extensive experience with advocating and deploying Linux in Africa and Latin America. I have been derailed numerous times by the ‘incentives’ offered by MS despite government mandates to adopt & use Open Source (read: Pakistan & South Africa)

    Good blog and I am glad I started to follow you on Twitter. You are on the right track.

    • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

      Thanks for the comment- very interesting.

    • Mick May 23, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

      Why is it elitist to question the point of arguing over market share? Linux certainly isn’t going backwards, and certainly isn’t going to disappear thanks to the GPL. There is already a “freetard” sentiment amongst a reasonable slice of the internet, thanks to all the dorks trying to push adoption hard. It can – and does – do more harm than good in a number of situations.

      The problem with trying to drive adoption is a chicken-and-the-egg situation. People are reluctant to use Linux because some apps they want don’t exist (and there is no alternative). Developers are reluctant to target Linux because of uncertain market. My point is, we’re at a stage where forcing adoption will do more harm than good, and natural growth is probably the right strategy. If someone takes the initiative and it works for them, fantastic, if it doesn’t work for someone, they’re probably more likely to check it out in another couple years because they weren’t given some false hope that it would be “better” than the alternatives. They knew what they were getting into.

      So what is the reward we get for higher Linux use numbers right now, as opposed to in 10 years time? A few warm fuzzy feelings?

      • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

        Well the reward would be (including a few warm fuzzy feelings) that the more users who come to Linux means more developers and companies *will* want to target us as a great market.

  6. ghabuntu May 23, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    Nice ideas you got penned down there. But, and a big but. Implementation is another thing altogether. I tried the third option and was shocked at the response I received from the community. Looked like suddenly I was the only one using Linux on this Earth.

    Save for just a handful of some really dedicated people who want Linux to succeed, I found that we have lots of people that just pay lip service to spreading Linux and nothing else.

    • linuxandall May 23, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

      Before I talk about your comment I would just like to tell you it’s amazing what you are doing in Ghana with Ubuntu. I am in the process of burning 10 disks of Lucid Lynx and I’ll send them to you, sorry I can’t give more but I will talk to a computing teacher at my school and see if we can all donate like £1 or a disk for the cause. I’ll contact you with more details.

      Yes only this afternoon I felt like a reject because of my dad’s stupid friends calling me a nerd because I knew about something apart from Windows.

      • ghabuntu May 24, 2010 at 8:55 am #

        Thanks man for your support. Feels very difficult trying to get stuff as good as Linux to people amidst all the frustrations. I believe with more serious and dedicated folks like you, we can collectively make a big difference 🙂

  7. Micro-Shock May 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    good thoughts … and the IT sector needs more folks like your self …

    I have too run into animosity regarding the implementation of Linux as a workstation, normally with servers I have had very good success in “marketing/Campaigning” in the company I work for… for every project that gets launched I suggest an open source solution , this tactic has worked very well for me… however with that said … be prepared to defend/debate tooth and nail.. and yes my IT department hates me more then words probably could summarise on a blog, however market to those holding the money… and the game ensues, they really really do not like giving money up, it is a tough road … but for the passion of those writing it … be as equally be as passionate about marketing it and placing it in as many places as possible.

    as per your dads friend… “be a Nerd/Geek loud and proud” … never let that get yea down … chicks seem to dig it now … and when you are buying your first house/boat/cottage remind him that being a nerd/geek/promoting self education … enabled you to acquire those items.

    • linuxandall May 24, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

      That’s interesting about the IT department: never thought that would be taken that seriously, considering you are trying to help them.

      And yes I am Nerd loud and proud I’ve recently ordered some pretty awesome t-shirts with quotes like – “There are only 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t” and “Linux inside”. 😀

      I’m going to do a post about how I would go about implementing Ubuntu in a school environment.

  8. J S May 24, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    It’s really difficult to get people converted. They buy a pre-installed machine and use it like an appliance – your toaster. They just want to get on the internet and print email – or eat toast.

    Where I’ve seen the most success is in: someone needs to consolidate all their storage (NAS, like FreeNAS) or reinstall an old pc for the kids (‘they can run Linux’). Most computer users are not into installing their OS, many who are due to that being the best way to rid viruses from Windows, just like to put Windows back on because they’ve done it a few times.

    Which indicates that marketing more ‘solutions’ to people may be more effective than trying to get them to switch from one generic desktop OS to another.

    GeexBox or Ubuntu Media Center
    Complete Website-in-a-box CD to host your own website
    Rescue your Windows virus-infested HDD
    Anonymous TOR Pr0n surfer Torrent Box
    and so on.

    People will go after appliance solutions.

    • linuxandall May 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

      Yeah I’ve noticed what you’ve mentioned about the pre-installed machines


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