Inside Out Marketing of Linux

A common perception is that Microsoft Vista is an utter failure. Yet the failure of Vista has not translated into the theory that Linux desktop installations would significantly increase. What appears to have happened is that home users who purchased new machines continue to use the pre-installed Vista. Business, that has mostly refused to upgrade to Vista, have remained on Windows XP. With home users accepting Vista, warts and all, and business remaining with XP while waiting for Microsoft to correct their ship, how can Linux installations increase?

An idea that I have been considering is not targeting home users or large organization deployments. Rather taking a historical look at Local Area Network (LAN) deployments, targeting inside out, instead of the two common targets, end-users and large organizations. LAN’s began by small groups within an organization getting away from the mainframe in the computer center, and installing and controlling their own small network. These small networks began by connecting what were previously independent Personal Computers into networks that could share resources. Small business could also take advantage of the lower cost of LAN’s, with the cheaper PC server and workstations. These early LAN’s ran on Artisoft’s Lantastic, Novell Netware and Microsoft Windows Workgroup Server and later Windows NT. Eventually PC’s became ubiquitous and started to appear in homes, running the workstation software, Windows. Windows just happened to be the same software home users ran at work.

Groups within an organization and small business gave rise to Novell and Microsoft. Eventually many mainframes began to disappear and these small LAN’s moved from the workgroup to larger deployments within a the company and interconnected offices. At the same time small business continued to use LAN’s and interconnected their offices if necessary. According to the Small Business Administration, small business represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms and hire 40 percent of high tech workers. Granted, not all small business employees are knowledge workers who utilize computers, but it is a significant amount of computer users.

Which leads to, what I call, inside out deployments of Linux. Instead of the historical breaking out of the data center and down to the group level, which eventually led to small business; start at the small business and work out from there. Microsoft Small Business Server, a packaged low cost edition of Windows Server, Exchange and other software, is a successful product for Microsoft. This ensures dominance of Windows server and desktop at multiple levels. It is possible to make inroads to small business who can be more receptive of the features and cost benefits of Linux.

A couple of scenarios are Linux server deployments and Windows workstations, Linux servers and Linux workstations, and Linux servers and appliances like firewalls, NAS, etc. More details on common configurations, distributions (both commercial and free), and appliances can be documented later. I believe a marketing push to this specific area can benefit not only Linux but the small business that is targeted.

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