The Dell and Ubuntu deal was announced a while back and to be honest I’m pumped about it yet a little scared at the same time. I’ve been using Ubuntu for some time now and I’ve said many in the past it’s the most user-friendly Linux distribution out there. My sentiment is shared by a lot of other people too so that it’s a comforting to know that an easy to use Linux distribution will be the guinea pig.
To better understand my fear we have to break down users into categories. While there is no official break down, these are mine:
The Grandma knows what a computer is but if she has to spend more than 5 minutes doing something she’s going to get flustered and give up. Grandmas check their email, write a document, and like to see photos of their kids via the “interweb”. Grandmas will go to the “not so” Best Buy or Dell and get the biggest piece of crap that is way too much computer for them. Ask them how big their hard drive is and they’ll give you a blank stare and eventually make a shape of an ‘L’ with both hands and hold them up to make a rectangle.
Teenagers are Grandmas on crack. They understand the basic concepts of the computer, know how to locate files, and don’t panic if they get an error box. They use the computer day in day out and play a lot of pop-cap games and are always on Myspace or Youtube.
Adults know what their doing. They use the computer for work, can add-remove programs and hardware, know how to navigate their way around a computer, some can install an OS, and some have been known to help grandmas and teenagers on rare occasions.
Last but not least we have the Geeks. Geeks are also knows as “computer gurus” and “family tech support representatives”. They know the ins and outs of a computer, how to fix them, how to get them to run as fast and smoothly as possible. Now there are many levels of “Geekdom” but that’s a topic for another post.
My small fear that I mentioned earlier mainly deals with Grandmas and Teenagers. Now, when I said that Ubuntu is the “most user-friendly” distribution out there I stand by it. It’s easy to install and easy to run. However most of the users I mentioned aren’t going to install an OS but they are going to use it and expect it to work just like their previous computer. The issue that I have is that while I believe Grandma can run Ubuntu, it’s going to be a drastic change for her/them. Grandma and teenagers alike are so used to Windows that when something changes they usually freak out and call the Geek. This is same behavior happens when you take a Grandma/teenager and put them in front of a Mac. These users are set in their way and to ask them to adjust is asking for a lot. I’ve seen a lot of people get flustered as something as simple as having the “start” menu at the top left instead of the bottom left.
I’ll admit that my argument is rather weak at this point. However if you’ve ever actually seen Grandma or some teenager use a computer you’d know where I’m coming from. Most users will be able to “overcome” the subtle differences and begin to enjoy the Ubuntu experience. Despite how “user-friendly” Ubuntu is, every once and a while you have to break out THE TERMINAL!!! Let me just say that Grandma and terminals don’t mix. The average computer user, Grandmas and Teenagers, don’t want to use a terminal, they want to point and click their way to happiness. Asking these users to edit a config file, or run this command is asking for a lot.
It’s the subtle differences and editing files/opening terminals that scare me. Not a very big fear and I’m probably just being paranoid however there is merit behind my fear. If I had to pick a Linux distribution and say, this is “Desktop” worthy, Ubuntu would be it. It is user friendly and works very well. Will this deal succeed? I think it can and will. If you asked me a year or two ago, I would have said no in a heart beat. Linux wasn’t ready for the desktop back then but it was pretty darn close. Even now, it’s not 100% IMHO but it’s ready to be used by the masses. All in all, I’m pumped!