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In Response – Ubuntu: Re-Doing the Possible

I would like to thank Dr. Mo for bringing this subject to light as I was not brave enough to be the first to do so.

I wrote this post ages ago (saving it in draft) because I felt I really didn’t want the back lash that would come from writing such a post. You can read Dr. Mo’s post Ubuntu: Re-Doing the Possible.

First a diagram to get us all on the same page.

Ubuntu sits below the red dotted line – There is a product with features that currently exists in the world.

Ubuntu has not put in the time to address the core reason it’s not being spread virally by users.

The current community thinks it knows the needs and uses of its users when in fact the term ‘users’ only refers to current Ubuntu users (which is less than 1% of the market place). So what about the other 99% what do they say?

Well I did all the hard work for you I went on the street multiple times on multiple days and spoke to hundreds of people (don’t believe me – see my posts, Street Tested, Marketing Ubuntu, Ubuntu Slogan, Learn Grow Share Ubuntu) and they said: UBUNTU. WHAT IS IT?

After that they would say: WHY WOULD I NEED THAT? Trying to convince them that they have a problem that they themselves don’t believe they have – Is a problem. It’s a huge problem for Ubuntu – not the user.

Let’s recap what we know so far:

99% of people don’t know What Ubuntu is

99% don’t feel they have a problem with their current OS

99% has some dis-satisfaction with their current OS but the pain of dis-satisfaction is not enough for them to seek out an alternative solution

Ok so now what? Well – Ask them what they do want – Shut up and Listen. Stop trying to shove your ‘perfect’ Ubuntu Solution down the throats of the masses. Go out on the street and talk to the 99% of the people who are not on their computer reading this post.

I have been trying to get my girlfriend to convert to Ubuntu for a few years, she’s played with it and loves it but won’t change because Ubuntu does not have Netflix. She doesn’t have cable and watches Netflix when she wants to relax. I asked her if Ubuntu had Netflix would you change – Answer: Probably yes.

We are getting closer to a solution.

But she is just one person – what do those FUTURE 200 million Ubuntu Users want? Don’t ask the current community they are not your customer – you want 200 million users – get out from behind your computer – take a pen and paper and start asking people on the street – complete strangers. Then focus on delivering that!

I will admit I have been using Mint exclusively since May and I feel it does a better job of delivering what users want. I don’t know if they got lucky by copying a Windows layout.

You don’t need luck, you can actually know and the only way is to talk to strangers. I know I’m sounding like a broken record and I’m sorry but it really is the only realistic answer.

Is the Ubuntu Shopping Lens a good idea? Go on the street and ask someone – stop asking the people who have already ‘bought’ into Ubuntu.

Dr. Mo’s post says:

“Instead we have an attitude that Ubuntu is done, we’ve made all the giant leaps that are possible and it’s time to settle down into a mature market place and polish the bits we already have. This is no time for ambition or experimentation! We have tea to make and feet to put up next to a cosy fire!”

And as a user I feel this very true.

Ubuntu Community what are you going to do? Sit behind your computer fighting and arguing amongst each other? Or rally together, get on the same page and start listening to the future users of Ubuntu?

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12 thoughts on “In Response – Ubuntu: Re-Doing the Possible

  1. If only all the Ubuntu Community, Canonical and managers there would only listen to that, Ubuntu would have a chance to be more popular and reach the objectives they have about bringing more people in. However, as stated they just like arguying between geeks what is the best application. As a standard user, who cares what is best as long as it works and does the job YOU want and not what they want… I entirely agree with that 1 million times and more. The post was great and hope someday maybe somebody would use it wisely and not geekly as I suspect will be the case …
    (By the way, I am an everyday Ubuntu Users so don’t be mistaken I love Ubuntu, but that does not mean every random guy out there does…)

  2. I’m confused. Everything you said is correct, but you are missing a vital point. WHY would we want 200 million more users? That many more idiots yo support on the forums and other sites…for free no less. What’s the advantage? Most developers are writing software they find useful themselves. We need not concern ourselves with attracting more users, only more developers. We all benefit from adding more developers who bring with them new ideas. It Canonical wants to increase their user base as a corporation, they can worry about that. As a community, however, Ubuntu’s primary objective should be to serve its current, highly technical, user base.

  3. I think some really good points are made. However, if I were to try and think like Canonical and Ubuntu, I would say something along the lines of, “We have over 20 million users. I think we’re doing a pretty good job and figuring out users needs.”

    I’m a HUGE Ubuntu fan. Been using it for years now. I even support and promote it. But the ONE thing that seems to a big hinderance (other than the Netflix thing mentioned above) is iTunes. Specifically, the music and movies purchased through iTunes. You may or may not believe how many times people are ALMOST ready to switch UNTIL they find out that their purchases from iTunes won’t play natively in Ubuntu. I stress that this isn’t a fault of Ubuntu (or any other linux distribution), but Apple’s. It doesn’t matter. I explain that the music can be converted to mp3, but it doesn’t matter. It’s too much work (trust me, I did my wife’s library and it took about 40 CDs and 3 days of editing the content, it’s a lot of work).

    So, by taking the logic (and great info) from this post, Apple shouldn’t have exploded onto the market. What happened is that they brought a product to the market (iPod and iTunes), convinced users to buy into it, and THEN CHANGED THE WAY IT WORKS. To my knowledge, they didn’t do any of the research mentioned in this article to attract new users but people have continued to swarm to their products. It seems to me that Ubuntu is doing a similar thing.

    A similar things goes for things like, computers in automobiles. Did they go out on the street with a pen and paper and ask people what they wanted? Perhaps. But, for everyone else, they just brought something to market and the masses have to figure out how it works.

    Ubuntu is not TOO far out for new users to grasp. In fact, in the tests that I’ve done with users who have NEVER used it before, they’ve had no issues at all at doing the basic things.

      • What I mean, Martin, is that, yes, companies do research and testing (even Ubuntu) but people outside of the testing group, that is, when they release the product, the “changes” are then “forced” on the populous.

    • People are always about to switch until you fix one last important things. And each time the one last thing is fixed, mass switch do not happen ( for one ) and people are still ready to switch with one different last thing ( each being more unfixable than the previous )

  4. I think that’s disingenuous. Ubuntu isn’t missing Netflix because Ubuntu developers haven’t realised people want it. It’s missing Netflix because Netflix don’t see enough users to make it worth supporting. Catch-22. Ubuntu has to try to attract users other ways until we can show Netflix it’s viable.

    The other issue is that what users say they want isn’t always a good guide to what they’ll choose. For example, every time Facebook changes its layout, there’s a storm of complaining about how much better the last interface was, and then it keeps getting more users. Of course, you still need to listen to what users (and potential users) say.

    • Nah, Netflix supports paltforms with smaller user bases than Ubuntu. There are only three possible reasons: Netflix are waiting for outreach from Ubuntu’s company, they’re involved in a conspiracy to exclude Linux desktops or we seem like a much smaller set of users than we actually are due to low profile and zero advertising.

  5. Incisive post, Charlene. I haven’t run into the NetFlix issue, but iTunes is a blocker for most people. They’re saying “yes, yes, yes”, and then I ask them if they have an iPod and then they go, oh yes, I need iTunes. One person has transferred to using gtkPod as he doesn’t want to be locked in to Apple, but gtkPod is too technical a tool.

    These days, I’m showing people both Ubuntu and Kubuntu, and all so far have chosen Kubuntu. After I’ve customized it to them, they are invariably happy with it, though it still needs what you are describing: asking people what they need and following through with it.

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