The news today is that USA-Cuban relations will return to something more like normal rather than cold war-era. It’s about time. The folks who annoyed USA to the point of madness are mostly dead or teetering on the brink. A whole new generation was being punished needlessly by sanctions for the sins of their fathers.
It hasn’t gone quite there yet, just exchanging prisoners and opening embassies in the near future, but the liklihood is that sooner or later the barriers to ordinary economic/social/political interaction will fall. This really ticks off some so-called “conservative” thinkers in USA but it raises interesting possibilities for me.
The Wintel monopoly could not latch onto Cuba for several reasons:
- the cubans could not afford it
- some PCs built by USAian OEMs could not legally be shipped there: HP, Dell?
- M$ and others could not just open up an office in Havana and go to work…
That leaves Cuba as a somewhat pristine testing ground for the hypothesis that GNU/Linux is “good enough”. StatCounter shows Cubans use GNU/Linux ~6% of page-views. Will this increase or decrease if the embargo is officially lifted? Presumably, eventually, Cubans will be able to afford all kinds of IT. What will they choose? I expect the Chinese will sell/give them whatever they want. There are also some South American OEMs who can cater to their Spanish-language preferences. Will they order up Android/Linux smartphones and tablets or legacy PCs tied to Wintel or GNU/Linux? I would bet that Android/Linux will get their vote because they have no lock-in and Android/Linux is affordable. They may want servers and desktops too, but without lock-in, I would bet the share going to GNU/Linux will be relatively huge, especially considering they are already getting around 6% share of page-views by GNU/Linux. They have a lot of in-house expertise, something that has held back adoption in other places. I think anything over about 10% will unleash a flood of further adoption. It’s not like they are stuck at ~1%.
I expect reforms will allow wider access to IT and to the Internet so in a few years we should have the answer to this question. I don’t think Cubans are locked into Wintel-only applications, nor knowing only that other OS, nor thinking software costs $0, nor requiring compatibility with M$ in any way, so I am optimistic that GNU/Linux will get space on retail shelves, IT departments, and mindshare. It will be interesting to see whether or not global businesses can compete against friendly local operators who have been supplying contraband IT for decades. It will be interesting to see whether or not M$ can compete in a rapidly developing and tiny market. In a country dominated by ’56 Chevies (I’ve driven one…) a lot of market-shifts will come suddenly. I’d bet smaller and cheaper will appeal to this instant market.