A Linux user switches to Windows

Writes Tony Collins:

After three and a half years of trying to make GNU/Linux work on the desktop, I’ve decided that it’s simply too hard for the average home user. Before I go into my reasons for going back, let me outline what I believe an ‘average’ home user is. Mr Joe Average is someone who wants to install their OS, boot it up, and it works. He wants to be able to upgrade his PC , and have the hardware work in a few short minutes. He wants to read email, browse the web, talk to his mates online, and play some games.

Three and a half years; that’s how long I’ve been trying to make Linux work on my desktop computer. Hear now my sad tale of why Linux isn’t suitable for my desktop.

Also see: Slashdot comments on the story

Emergic’s Markets

It is important to understand the entry barriers for using Linux on the desktop, and then work on breaking down each one of them. The key thing to note is that in Emergic we are not trying to switch users from Windows to Linux (or thick desktops to thin clients), but open up computing to the non-users.

In countries like India, 9/10 people in the workforce do not use computers. Thats the target market. The first-time user. The goal should be to delight a new user, rather than disappoint an existing user. Linux will never match Windows with the full functionality. But it is a “good enough” solution with an amazingly attractive price point.

We don’t want to create a world of pirates in emerging countries. We want them to respect and pay for software. But the price has to be right. Not many can afford to pay USD 1,200 for a new thick desktop with Windows and Office. However, if we can bring down that price to USD 200 for a Thin Client with Linux, it can now become attractive for the mass market in SMEs.

That is the key to Emergic: opening up new markets for computing, getting the next 500 million users in the world who are all in the world’s emerging markets — at the “bottom of the enterprise pyramid”. What we need to think of is how we address the needs of this market.

We need to find the people we can delight with the low-end solution. It is a market which can pay pennies, not dollars. But it is a hungry market. It too wants to taste computing. Emergic is about creating solutions for these segments.

Quanta’s Barry Lam looks ahead

Quanta, based in Taiwan, has emerged as the world’s leading manufacturer of portables. It is, as the Economist writes, “is a contract manufacturera company that designs and makes gadgets but leaves the marketing (and increasingly only that) to companies with famous brands.” Quanta shipped 15.3% of the laptops in 2003.

Quanta’s CEO Barry Lam looks ahead to new areas:

His latest target, storage systems, makes some sense. Most people accept that computing power and storage are moving away from desktop and laptop computers, and on to servers stacked in back rooms.

The other two areas of interest: wireless gadgets and artificial intelligence.

Microsoft’s CRM market entry

From News.com:

The tool tracks leads, accounts and orders–features he said can improve sales force productivity and customer satisfaction. Microsoft CRM will also help service reps track and resolve customer service cases.

Microsoft CRM will be priced from $395 per user to $1,295 per user, depending on the features people pick, the company said. It will run on a Windows 2000 server.

The software maker’s CRM is tailored for companies with between 50 to 500 employees. Microsoft said it’s looking to compete with FrontRange Solutions’ GoldMine, Interact Commerce’s Sales Logix, and products from SalesForce.com and Upshot.com.

Adds WSJ:

Small- and medium-size businesses are a target of Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, who faces declining growth in Microsoft’s core Windows and Office software franchises. But he has already had to perform a delicate balancing act with Great Plains.

Although Microsoft insists the new customer-relationship management product won’t compete with higher-end software sold by current business partners such as Siebel Systems Inc. and SAP, many analysts said they believe Microsoft will eventually try to move into the higher-end market.

Microsoft’s next battleground is the enterprise software arena. Two-thirds of Microsoft’s revenues still comes from the desktop (Windows and Office), a market whose growth is slowing. Recent acquisitions of Great Plains and Navision have given Microsoft a base to enter into the SME segment in developed markets. Emerging markets need software which is much much cheaper. That opportunity still lies untapped.

TECH TALK: Server-based Computing: Complementors

To build a deep and pervasive platform needs complementors organisations which can build around the core platform and thus enhance its value. The base platform in this case — the Linux-based Thin Client and Thick Server is available in Open Source. But to make it valuable needs many entities to come together to build a grassroots, bottom-up movement. Here are examples of some complementors and how they can make a difference:

Assemblers: Worldwide, the white box sellers (non-branded PC sellers) account for over 50% of the market. In India, their share is 46% for the year ended March 2002. These PC Assemblers have relationships across the spectrum and are thus a key component of the IT value chain. They can not only create a viable used PC market through buybacks from their customers, but more importantly they can drive adoption by the end customers through the support services they provide. For assemblers, the attraction is increased margins. On new PCs which have become completely commoditised, most assemblers make less than Rs 1,000 per unit. By adoption the server-based computing platform, they can not only sell more units (by a factor of 5-7x), but also make a percentage of the software and support charges.

Software Developers: The server-based computing platform needs applications tailored to local businesses and languages. This is the opportunity which the Indian software industry has been waiting for the creation of a domestic applications market. Companies can build enterprise applications frameworks or components that can now be leveraged by a much wider base of customers. Indian can also provide a huge fillip to the open source movement by contributing back to the community.

Communications Companies: Internet connectivity is going to be an important aspect, since email, instant messaging and web browsing are key applications on the desktop. Telcos, ISPs and the cable companies thus have an important role to play in providing good connectivity. Their dream of tens of millions of new customers can become a reality. An interesting aspect here is to think in terms of using WiFi for the last-leg of the connectivity pipe. As one of the readers (Mohan Narendranath) pointed out, the re-use concept can be extended to 802.11b cards which are going to be available aplenty within the next few months as users in the developed markets shift to the higher speeds of 802.11a and 802.11g.

Training Institutes: In the past two years, the training centres in India have been decimated because of the slowdown in software. The result is that there is already an infrastructure set-up in terms of computers and instructors but few students to teach. If they can start offering training programs for Linux and the various applications (Evolution, Mozilla and OpenOffice), they can now attract a whole new set of users the ones who begin adopting the Thin Clients. In fact, a 1-day training program can be bundled in with the purchase of a Linux-based Thin Client. This market may be smaller in terms of course duration, but is many times larger in terms of size.

Government: Three things are expected from the government if it wants to be a complementor: agree to use Linux and only Linux for its users (the slogan can be: Independence from Proprietary Software), eliminate duties on the import of used PCs, and open up the 2.4 Ghz and 5.7 Ghz spectrum for use without the need for licences. If they do this, entrepreneurs will take over. Anything else the government does would make it an obstructor!

India and Indians has an opportunity to create a new and cost-effective computing platform through the use of Linux-based Thin Clients and Thick Servers. This can later be extended to the worlds emerging markets countries like Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, China are likely to have the same set of challenges we face in terms of the cost of computing. What is needed is a change in mindset to thinking rather than trying to invent new things, let us see how we can best use the existing technologies and assimilate them better anyone else in the world.