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Thread: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

  1. #1
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    Question Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    I'm interested to know if people see a real market for Ubuntu desktops? I asked this in another thread but it got a bit off topic and I never got any feedback.

    What I've considered doing is offering a few different models (terminal w/ liveCD, mid-range desktop, high-end desktop) all with linux compatible hardware and all preconfigured with Ubuntu, and then offer new models in sync with the Ubuntu releases (once every 6 months). I'm currently thinking a more low-tech theme, "less confusing options make things easier". Most high-tech users will want to build their own system anyways. Is there a niche of users between "so low tech they want windows" and "just high tech enough to build their own"? Price, obviously, is a big factor there, but I'd like to hear any ideas/personal experiance anyone might have.

    Mini-itx boxes look appealing but with Damn Small Linux offering good deals on mini-itx systems I don't see much market there for me. Any thoughts on DSL v Ubuntu as a terminal? Or as a mini/micro?

    Probably my biggest concern is support. What level of support, beyond the basic hardware warranties, do you think people would expect/require?

    Any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, etc are appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    Quote Originally Posted by gylf
    I'm interested to know if people see a real market for Ubuntu desktops? I asked this in another thread but it got a bit off topic and I never got any feedback.

    What I've considered doing is offering a few different models (terminal w/ liveCD, mid-range desktop, high-end desktop) all with linux compatible hardware and all preconfigured with Ubuntu, and then offer new models in sync with the Ubuntu releases (once every 6 months). I'm currently thinking a more low-tech theme, "less confusing options make things easier". Most high-tech users will want to build their own system anyways. Is there a niche of users between "so low tech they want windows" and "just high tech enough to build their own"? Price, obviously, is a big factor there, but I'd like to hear any ideas/personal experiance anyone might have.

    Mini-itx boxes look appealing but with Damn Small Linux offering good deals on mini-itx systems I don't see much market there for me. Any thoughts on DSL v Ubuntu as a terminal? Or as a mini/micro?

    Probably my biggest concern is support. What level of support, beyond the basic hardware warranties, do you think people would expect/require?

    Any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, etc are appreciated.
    Well, as far as the support goes, how about a remote administration kind of option to fix their b0rked systems w/o having to go 'to them'?

    Non-profits or small operations might be a good market to approach...small budgets, but employees need computers for office work, clients need to work on resumes, search for jobs, fill out forms, do research, etc. etc.

    The terminal/liveCD combined with one or two complete systems loaded w/ Ubuntu might work. Somebody not doing what they're supposed to be doing? Master Computer (nod to Tron) reboots Program (nother nod) and when Program comes back up, w00t! clean install, no badness.
    Or more realistically, at the end of the day, all computers off. Begining of a new day? Fresh, clean terminals w/ no pr0n, previous client's leftovers, etc.
    Last edited by lordofkhemenu; March 2nd, 2005 at 11:47 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    You would not target the typical linux user, since we just love to put linux on boxes and do it all the time ourselves. If you had a ton of linux compatible hardware at low prices, that would be attractive to the typical linux user.

    I think you should look for an opening where people want the ease of not having to think about computer stuff and just have a computer that works, but are wanting to avoid proprietary OSes.

    If you can market the advantages of open source software (Your rights as a user - like a car with the hood welded shut- you know..., security, stability, cost of upgrading and keeping up with viruses, works and spyware) you may be able to attract the non-technically oriented buyer.

    You can offer support in a lot of ways. That should be the money-maker, actually. You probably would not make a killing just selling the hardware since prices can be crazy. But people would probably pay to have a free os installed and maintained by someone who knows what they are doing. You can offer support afterwards, too.

    Use Ubuntu to run a website to advertise. Have a technical support forum on your site. Guarantee a really appealing response-time for problem-solving. Recruit people who can help you offer support.

    These are just a few ideas.

  4. #4
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    my opion i think it could be like cases with linux compatailibity hard ware
    then ofer cd distro of there chusing??
    just an idea tho

  5. #5
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    This is some great feedback, thanks to both of you. I'm currently in my second year of law school, which provides me with both advantages (knowledge) and disadvantages (time).
    Quote Originally Posted by lordofkhemenu
    Well, as far as the support goes, how about a remote administration kind of option to fix their b0rked systems w/o having to go 'to them'?
    I've strongly considered this and I think its a great idea. I'll have to do more research about the best way to go about it, but its definatly an option.
    Quote Originally Posted by lordofkhemenu
    Non-profits or small operations might be a good market to approach...small budgets, but employees need computers for office work, clients need to work on resumes, search for jobs, fill out forms, do research, etc. etc.
    Definatly, it was actually one of my first thoughts. A "turn-key" linux solution for small businesses. When and/or if I get a plan for something like this laid out I'll post it here for some peer review.
    Quote Originally Posted by lordofkhemenu
    The terminal/liveCD combined with one or two complete systems loaded w/ Ubuntu might work. Somebody not doing what they're supposed to be doing? Master Computer (nod to Tron) reboots Program (nother nod) and when Program comes back up, w00t! clean install, no badness.
    Or more realistically, at the end of the day, all computers off. Begining of a new day? Fresh, clean terminals w/ no pr0n, previous client's leftovers, etc.
    Cyber cafes must be loving LiveCDs, I only wish I had the time/resources to run one

  6. #6
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    Quote Originally Posted by azz
    You would not target the typical linux user, since we just love to put linux on boxes and do it all the time ourselves. If you had a ton of linux compatible hardware at low prices, that would be attractive to the typical linux user.
    Just like you say below, prices are crazy. Its nearly impossible to compete on a small scale with computer hardware, as everyone and their brother is trying to sell a discount part. My strategy (pending my ability to secure distributors) is to sell the hardware assembled at cost, and make a little profit on the labor of configuring. I won't get rich, but if nothing else I'm making a little something and contribute by helping spread Ubuntu.
    Quote Originally Posted by azz
    I think you should look for an opening where people want the ease of not having to think about computer stuff and just have a computer that works, but are wanting to avoid proprietary OSes.

    If you can market the advantages of open source software (Your rights as a user - like a car with the hood welded shut- you know..., security, stability, cost of upgrading and keeping up with viruses, works and spyware) you may be able to attract the non-technically oriented buyer.
    I agree, and I guess that is where I'll have to really put forth the effort: a nice looking webpage that really sells Ubuntu. There is also the fact that very few places sell Linux desktops for the average user. Most are geared for high-end workstations and are sold by places that really focus on selling Linux servers.

    Quote Originally Posted by azz
    You can offer support in a lot of ways. That should be the money-maker, actually. You probably would not make a killing just selling the hardware since prices can be crazy. But people would probably pay to have a free os installed and maintained by someone who knows what they are doing. You can offer support afterwards, too.
    And here is the real kicker. If I sell to the low-tech user, I have to support the OS to some extent I think. I did notice that Ubuntu provides paid support, with discounts to system builders here. Anyone ever use this service? Any experiances with it?
    Quote Originally Posted by azz
    Use Ubuntu to run a website to advertise. Have a technical support forum on your site. Guarantee a really appealing response-time for problem-solving. Recruit people who can help you offer support.
    Having only a few models (as I mentioned in the first post) and supporting a single OS, might actually make that managable.
    Quote Originally Posted by azz
    These are just a few ideas.
    And good ones. Thanks again.
    Last edited by gylf; March 3rd, 2005 at 07:52 PM. Reason: spelling

  7. #7
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    Quote Originally Posted by zenrox
    my opion i think it could be like cases with linux compatailibity hard ware
    then ofer cd distro of there chusing??
    just an idea tho
    A lot of places are already doing this. Its a great idea, but its a problem for me personally because I would have to support every linux flavor and have a good understanding of each one. I've got a limited startup budget and limited amount of manpower. Plus, one of the main reasons for doing this is to help promote Ubuntu, because I like the project and the community.

    Thanks for the input.

  8. #8
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    About remote administration, that is the last thing you want. It would be a tremendous security hole. Anyone could hack in.

    Other than that, great idea

  9. #9
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    Quote Originally Posted by markw
    About remote administration, that is the last thing you want. It would be a tremendous security hole. Anyone could hack in.

    Other than that, great idea

    You can always turn it off and only enable it if there is a problem.

    You can also make something like a custom live-cd (no x, just an ssh client and server) That the client can boot if there is a _big_ problem.

    An E.T. phone home disk.

  10. #10
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    Re: Market for Ubuntu Computers?

    Quote Originally Posted by gylf
    I'm interested to know if people see a real market for Ubuntu desktops? .......Probably my biggest concern is support. What level of support, beyond the basic hardware warranties, do you think people would expect/require?
    Funny you should ask this now. I'm in the middle of reading Eric Raymond's _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_, and I just stumbled across a great line in chapter 4: "...software is largely a service industry operating under the persistent but unfounded delusion that it is a manufacturing industry."

    I think that applies to your situation here.

    Yes, a computer's a manufactured product. But anyone can sell me a computer, hand me a warranty, and scoot me out the door. You are proposing to sell a computer on which you've taken care of some extra work for me by setting up a Linux suite--you're providing a service. I need that. But I also need some other services--and without those other services, that computer you're selling me will be nothing but a frustrating hunk of junk.

    If we were in the same state, I would be one of your prime sales prospects. Here's my customer profile:
    • working parent stuck in a Windows job
    • not impressed with closed-source operating systems
    • absolutely in love with CSS, experimenting with ASP and JavaScript, following the web standards and accessiblity news, able to fearlessly FTP a hand-coded site in a single bound--in other words, more of a clue than the average bear--but still clueless about /chmods and /apt-gets
    • not enough time in the day to get that clue as quickly as I need to; it's on my dream list, but I need a system now
    • want the security of knowing I can call someone who's prompt and trustworthy if something goes wrong with the hardware or software--or if I just get lost
    • will want to keep up with the software releases, experiment with the system and get more self-sufficient over time
    • want to purchase a high-powered laptop or notebook that I can expand on as needed; not interested in buying a new computer every six months, or leasing and changing out (my life is too varied already!)


    That's what I need, and why. Others will have heard of Linux, but will have as little time as--and less computer savvy than--I do. Such people would love to be able to talk with someone who doesn't sound like they're trying to teach the customer a computer language--they want to be able to use their computers with as little hassle as possible.

    I think the open source community is overdue a consumer-oriented users' movement. My local LUG appears to be full of people who know Perl and PHP and run Apache on their dedicated home custom-built boxes. Most of your target customers' eyes glaze over at the very thought! If you could find a way to start a true consumers' group, your customers might just provide some of the support they need to each other.

    Maybe offer free study groups, free intro lessons, low-cost software training, free meeting space? Donate some time or equipment or training to your local public school?

    Yeah, there are those of us out here who know that Linux is the way to go. But we can't do it on our own. We need ongoing service and support; it's not the old "sell it and reap the profits" model.

    My 2-cents (2 bucks?), FWIW.

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