Will Open Source Ever Become Mainstream? is the topic for a discussion thread on Slashdot initiated by this comment from Prabhu Ramachandran: “I am a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley and as part of a course project I am trying to gather comments on the following question: Will the Open Source and Free Software communities develop software that will find widespread adoption amongst the mainstream, or is such software, by its nature, suitable only for sophisticated users? As part of my literature survey I found an academic perspective that seemed to indicate that open source projects do not reach the mainstream because the developers tend to listen only to their smartest customers. There also seems to be a lack of detailed documentation and an easy-to-use interface which normally attract the not-so-sophisticated users.”
There is a very interesting point here: Microsoft talks to and listens to its most-ignorant users (who comprose the mainstream), while open-source seems to be listening to its smartest customers (who make up the early adopters).
This is a very crucial point to remember as we seek to create solutions to target the next 500 million computer users. People like us (so-called power users) should not be the influencers of what goes into the solution.