View Full Version : The secret to Windows', and Ubuntu's, success

October 16th, 2007, 05:05 PM
I read something a little while ago that stayed with me, and got me thinking. I'd link you all to it, but unfortunately, I forgot the URL. >.< The point is a valid one, though. And while you may already know it, I wanted to apply the principles that I'd learned and articulate for myself why Ubuntu is taking the world by storm.

How come Windows is so popular?

It's a well-known "secret" that Microsoft is not really a tech company. What they are is a marketing company, with a well-funded legal department and a horribly kludgy product. But it's one that keeps getting sold, because of their OEM deals and because of their marketing.

Marketing is not something weird and arcane. You don't have to lie in order to market, and it isn't a "necessary evil" -- because it is necessary, and it's not inherently evil. In fact, it can enhance the user experience. Just visit any Microsoft website; (http://www.microsoft.com/athome/default.mspx) they're shiny and streamlined, designed to help users feel good about buying a Windows PC and to show them neat things they can do with it.

Why is it evil when Microsoft does it? Because the message they're trying to send is wrong, and is tainted by their ulterior motives. Behind every "tips and tricks" article is the message that you need to buy Windows Vista and Office 2007, and use IE and Windows Media Player. Oh, and get Windows Defender to block out the inevitable spyware.

But the fact that Microsoft's ad campaigns are designed to promote their monopoly doesn't mean that ad campaigns are bad. Whether an ad campaign's bad or not depends on the motive, and on the message.

In Ubuntu's case, the motive is to share and to help others, and the message is ... what? Stay tuned, and find out how you're already a part of the biggest pro-Linux ad campaign ever.

Sending the Wrong Message

In some markets, like, say, laundry detergent, the ads are all about how THIS brand does the job better than THAT brand. You've probably seen the commercials.

The best ad campaigns, however, aren't like that. Why? Because those commercials remind the viewer of the other product. The thing that you're marketing becomes, in essence, the same as the other product -- just "better." And this is a claim that invites challenge.

Tell someone that Ubuntu is better than Windows, and the answer is not usually "Wow, tell me more!" For someone who's grown up on Windows, the answer is quite often skepticism. "Can it do this?" they ask. "Can it do that?" And so you tell them about Wine, and OpenOffice.org, and the more they hear about it the more they think it's like a copy of Windows that doesn't work right.

Sending a POWERFUL Message

The best way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is to focus on your strengths, not their weaknesses. Instead of sending the message that "This is what I am not," you need to send the message that "This is what I am."

Take Apple. Their Mac ads are an example of a weaker message. Everyone remember "Hi, I'm a Mac / And I'm a PC?" (http://www.apple.com/getamac/ads/) The message is "Macs are better computers." A lot of people are frustrated with Windows, so this message is powerful for some. It's the kind of thing you remember next time you have problems with Windows. I used to keep quoting an older commercial of theirs -- "I'm going to Jimmy's, he has a Mac" -- because that kind of situation kept coming up in real life. But most people put up with their PCs, like I did, because they don't think it'd be realistic to switch to a Mac. The Mac's market share is growing, but not nearly as fast as Vista's.

Now look at the iPod ads. What do they tell you? I don't remember who first spelled it out for me, but their message is "iPod = Music." And that is a message that took hold. Along with their product's clean and elegant design, those ads helped the iPod take an 80% market share. In today's marketplace, iPods are music. It's that simple.

Microsoft's Strategy

In Microsoft's ad campaigns, Windows is computing. Just look at their online Microsoft Home Magazine (http://www.microsoft.com/canada/home/default.aspx) ... it's all about how to do things with "your computer."

Even when they mention Microsoft software, it's like "Use Windows Media Player to do this with your computer," or "Use Microsoft Office to do this on your computer." The fact that your computer is running Windows is a given, because Windows = computers. Their writers don't have love/hate relationships with Windows XP, they have love/hate relationships with their computers. (http://www.microsoft.com/canada/home/whoweare/6.1.0_contributors.aspx#70) Linux? What the heck is that? Is it contagious?

Part of the reason Vista uptake has been so slow, aside from OEM copies, is because Vista does not equal computing. Vista is "a better Windows XP." Aside from the fact that it just plain isn't, most people don't want to "upgrade" when what they have already works.

So what is Ubuntu?

The reason Ubuntu has caught on so fast is because you have a strong identity also. Windows may equal computers, and iPods may equal music, but Ubuntu is ...

Wait for it ...


You're the reason Ubuntu is so successful. Ubuntu is the community.

I know you could've told me that, but it bears repeating. Because this is the biggest thing that sets you apart from Windows and Mac, and from all other Linux distros. It's what you have that they don't, and it's what all your marketing emphasizes. "Linux for Human Beings!" Pictures of smiling people holding hands!

The spirit of Ubuntu is a natural outgrowth of the best parts of human nature. And it has become contagious, as the community members reach out to friends and family and share Ubuntu with them. You may not have much of a marketing budget, but you've definitely got an ad campaign going, and every one of you is a part of it. And thanks in part to your efforts, Linux use on the desktop more than doubled in the past year (http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/10/07/1215245).

Keep it up. ^.^ And remember that what you have isn't "Better than Windows," "Better than Mac," or even "Better than other Linux distros." It's Ubuntu, and it can stand on its own.

Jared Spurbeck, aka Murrquan, is a webserial author (http://www.snowglobestory.com), who loves Linux and has way too much time on his hands. He tried Ubuntu a while back, and while he went back to Fedora soon afterwards he was highly impressed with Ubuntu's community. He wrote up this essay in Notepad, because he thought of it while booted into XP and waiting for the Halo demo to download.

October 16th, 2007, 05:33 PM
Well said.:)

October 16th, 2007, 05:37 PM
I liked your post because it was aimed at me :).

October 16th, 2007, 05:46 PM
VERY good writing. And I agree with your points. Well, all except those about marketing not being "evil". It is my opinion that most modern marketing is definitely "evil" in that it is designed to be deceitful or twist facts.

October 16th, 2007, 05:51 PM
man seem like u were reading my mind..i aways say it that what attracted me to Ubuntu was the community..and that is what will keep me to Ubuntu..till time ends

October 16th, 2007, 06:09 PM
Brilliant. I would vote for you. :D

Everyone who wants to bash on these forums should be made to read this.

Erik Trybom
October 16th, 2007, 07:30 PM
Nicely written. I agree with everything except the part about Microsoft not being a tech company. But sure, I get the point.

The last part saying Ubuntu being about you is great. That's exactly the kind of message we want to convey. Technically Ubuntu is Debian with a handful of things changed, but the community and the spirit of the users makes all the difference. These forums, for instance, might be the best free support forums in the world. You can always get help here.

(I shouldn't bash Debian users, it's just that I read a thread over at their forum with the title "Debian turns 14 today!" and after seven posts it had erupted into a flamewar over some formulation about Ubuntu.)

October 16th, 2007, 08:46 PM
I'm feeling ya
For me I'm just staring to transition to Linux. I 'm going with kubuntu because it installed easily and is at a stage of maturity that it can do most of what I need it to.

I have to say I think Microsoft's amazing success is in large part due to Steve Jobs failure. In the beginning apple was ruling it. But they were and are greedy.They felt they had to control everything OS, hardware and applications. Bill Gates wisely limited him self to just controlling the OS. Yes originally MICROSOFT REPRESENTED FREEDOM. Manufacturers could build computers that could all run the same software. So under MS dozens of computer makers built computers that ran the same software. A business could outfit it's whole company with MS computers for fraction of the cost of using mac's. when It was time upgrade they could buy a Texasinstruments Instead of IBM.
YES MICROSOFT REPRESENTED CHOICE. Because of it's stunning success it has become an oppressive monopoly. So When your cursing the day Bill Gates ever touched a keyboard remember his success only ever happened because Steve Jobs was even greedier than him.

October 16th, 2007, 10:01 PM
Very well written. Like the other people have said, I love the "Ubuntu is you" feel to it. It takes something simple and twists it into something so incredibly powerful and human.
Ubuntu- "The Human Element."
It literally is. It has this freedom, and customization ability very much like a human being, You make it about you, pure and simple.
That made my day.

October 17th, 2007, 12:16 AM
that was a good read

October 17th, 2007, 12:48 AM
very well said

October 17th, 2007, 12:55 AM
Well-written, friend. That's unusual on the interwebs.

Mr. Picklesworth
October 17th, 2007, 01:05 AM
Sir, you have just changed my thoughts on this. I have always thought of the system in a way that imposes a unique presence upon the user, itself trying to act like a person (which is really quite difficult to achieve).

Why not have it work the other way? Have something that encourages creativity in an open and standardized way, such that everything someone creates in Ubuntu can quickly become a part of his desktop. Really easy theme customization and screensaver making springs to mind here...

October 17th, 2007, 02:35 AM
Wow, thanks everyone! I personally use Fedora, so I kind of speak as an outsider here. I did convince someone else to switch to Ubuntu, though, and I've let several others borrow my Live CD. It seems that the biggest way that Ubuntu is spreading right now is by word-of-mouth, which is only natural.

I first heard about Ubuntu when I was on a big Web 2.0 kick. I was planning and making my website (http://www.snowglobestory.com), and it just amazed me how much there was available to me if I wanted to build on top of others' accomplishments. I got a content management system from Wordpress, high-quality photos from Flickr (properly licensed via Creative Commons), and even a desktop OS and office suite, all for free. And with all of it together, I could contribute my own voice to the world, and enhance other people's lives as they already had mine.

I think that's what people have wanted to do all throughout history. It's the spirit of Ubuntu, and it's why you people are the future. Thank you. ^.^

Sir, you have just changed my thoughts on this. I have always thought of the system in a way that imposes a unique presence upon the user, itself trying to act like a person (which is really quite difficult to achieve).

Why not have it work the other way? Have something that encourages creativity in an open and standardized way, such that everything someone creates in Ubuntu can quickly become a part of his desktop. Really easy theme customization and screensaver making springs to mind here...

I always thought of Ubuntu as the product of a community of people. You're right, though, anything that makes it easier to contribute and customize helps! That's one thing I love about Linux -- there's so many options for everything, and it's all made by real people.

October 17th, 2007, 04:40 AM
The secret to MS' success is the Exchange and Active Directory combination. Once a company is hooked by those two the bond is impossible to break.

The Active Directory bond is stronger than cyanoacrylate, stronger than decade old chewing gum stuck to a city pavement, more tacky than spiderman's silk, worse than **** on a woolen blanket...

February 6th, 2009, 07:37 PM
I have been looking for this post for a while time, i read it once long ago and never forgot it, now i have bookmarked it, its great, i think it should be stickied or something!