Recent Large Shifts in the Market for Technology

Probably the biggest event in the software wars was the evident dominance of Android/Linux v iOS in smart thingies. While Apple came to dominate this space with slick gadgets and promotion, Android/Linux had inevitable advantages:

  • It wasn’t from Apple so consumers got a break on the hardware being able to buy what they want in very wide price-ranges from ~$0 for subsidized prices to ~$600 for those for whom price was no matter. Apple sold to a much more narrow market. Their buyers were early adopters and had no need of a newer gadget once the old one was bought…
  • You can’t beat the price of the software and the availability of huge numbers of applications inspired by the name of Google made tiny gadgets replace significant numbers of personal computers. The slump in the Wintel PC market is the crater from nuclear tests of Android/Linux devices. The world will not put the Nuclear Age back in the bottle. Ditto the Android/Linux world.
  • You can’t beat the usefulness of the software. The FLOSS basis and the fact that the OEMs and Google were not interested in selling software licences made Android/Linux work for everyone with no one holding a monopoly and being able to mess with competition. This is great for consumers, OEMs, retailers and Google whether or not they are cognizant of the principles of Free Software.

Here is the result:

“Desktop” GNU/Linux is really moving along according to Canonical who expect 5% share of “PC”s shipped in 2013. They are having huge growth and good relations with many OEMs and retailers. It does pay to have salesmen when the opposition has a lock on OEMs, retailers and consumers… How far Canonical can ride this wave is unknown but Ubuntu GNU/Linux has a lot of the same advantages as Android/Linux if you replace smart thingies with x86 thingies and Apple with M$.

One of the interesting trends to watch is whether or not the success of Canonical’s brand will spread to other distros. I really would prefer Debian GNU/Linux rather than Ubuntu GNU/Linux on any future PC that I buy. Android/Linux is cool but native code is better in performance and I like to get maximum performance from investments. Still, I think OEMs who use Ubuntu GNU/Linux may well want to offer choice as long as the cost stays low. Ubuntu and Debian are so similar there should not be much difference in cost and Debian has better defaults for most. Canonical is not the only player in GNU/Linux with OEMs. Linpus is doing quite well in China…

Similarly, OEMs are building factories in Brazil to get past a stiff tariff barrier. GNU/Linux is selling well in Brazil.

The strange release of “8” has prompted many game developers to produce for the GNU/Linux platform. Performance with the latest video drivers seems worthwhile to gamers. M$’s hold on global IT was shaken by Vista and “8” seems to be an even bigger fracture because M$ is adding restrictions even as consumers are wanting lower prices and fewer restrictions. GNU/Linux can step right in and replace most IT within a few years if this shift generates positive feedback. That’s what happened with Android/Linux and there’s no reason to believe GNU/Linux will not enjoy the warmth.

Virtualization has taken over the world of servers and even a fair share of clients. The movement to cloud services is closely connected with everything. One can use tiny thin clients if some hulking server on the web is doing the work. No one wants to be mobile with a hair-drying PC. No one needs heat and noise in the work-place. No one needs a huge box when a small one or even embedded clients will do quite well. To watch young people browsing, navigating, communicating and scheduling their hectic lives using a pocket-PC is just amazing to me, an old man who gets out of breath just on a small grade.

The last big shift I see counting is the youth, the future of IT. A decade ago when Wintel PCs were the main choice available, folks thought 5 year old children could think of hunting and pecking on a keyboard and clicking on “large” icons. Today with smart thingies appearing everywhere like table-cloths, children as young as 3 can do more faster. The teenagers are simply scary. Small cheap portable computers are soon to be implanted in their brains to increase the bandwidth… A young person today sees no limits in IT. They can have an idea, post it and see a million hits in 24h. There’s no dependence on M$, Intel, Wintel, “big/hot/noisy” or anything at all that doesn’t work for them. Today, ~15% of all users of personal computers don’t even need/want/have a Wintel PC. Instead they have some smart thingy, either running Android/Linux or iOS and this wedge into the heart of Wintel is sharp and moving quickly. Every year, the world creates ~100 million teenagers who have no need of Wintel and at least 10million who may never use Wintel again. It’s a brave new world, moving too fast for old dogs like me and M$. I am retired. I can just hire a teenager if I need one. M$ cannot buy all the consumers it will need to remain relevant.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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8 Responses to Recent Large Shifts in the Market for Technology

  1. d. wrote, “Ubuntu is not an icebreaker, it doesn’t help the other distros, the community or the ecosystem. It creates buzz and fame for ubuntu, there are probably already people who use ubuntu who don’t know what “linux” is. It doesn’t contribute to upstream. “

    You’re looking at the boat from the wrong end. Canonical is breaking the ice-dam created by M$ with OEMs. M$ suckered the OEMs into thinking doing things M$’s way was a road paved with gold even while M$ shrank their margins to nothing. Canonical has knocked on those doors and opened them to thinking M$ is not the one true way. That’s huge.

    Further, users will know they use GNU/Linux one way or another. They will find that out by reading about various applications, searches of Google for Ubuntu, etc. First hit on Google for “Ubuntu” is

  2. d. says:

    Ok, fair point, but at least around here the main use for them is opening up routes.

    What I’m trying to say with this is that Ubuntu is not an icebreaker, it doesn’t help the other distros, the community or the ecosystem. It creates buzz and fame for ubuntu, there are probably already people who use ubuntu who don’t know what “linux” is. It doesn’t contribute to upstream. It forks things for its own use that are no use to the rest of the ecosystem.

    It’s not all bad, I still think it’s a good first distro for some people. But the direction it’s going is highly worrying. The whole amazon thing, unity, upstart, but those weren’t even enough… now, they talk about creating their own display server (instead of wayland). And so now they have valve developing games for ubuntu. So ask yourself: what happens if there’s two competing and mutually incompatible display systems: wayland and whatever ubuntu uses? Developers (of games especially) will have to choose which they support, and in most cases they’ll probably just go with the “most popular” distro, and the rest of the ecosystem goes unsupported.

    That’s why I don’t like the direction ubuntu is going. They’re too focused on their “vision” and not enough on their users, they’re too bent on making a profit and are forgetting the values of FOSS that made their success possible.

  3. d. wrote, “without other ships they would be entirely unnecessary”.

    That’s not exactly true. Some ice-breakers are cargo ships and have their own built-in use year-round. Also, whale-lovers find ice-breakers useful when whales get cut off from the open ocean by ice. Human-lovers find them useful when folks need rescue near the poles.

  4. d. says:

    No. I know about icebreakers, there’s one sitting in harbour not 5 kilometers from where I’m sitting.

    What icebreakers do is they open up routes accross the ice so that other ships can use those same routes to travel. They offer a service for other ships, yet without other ships they would be entirely unnecessary. They have a symbiotic relationship, one could say.

  5. candtalan says:

    d. said: ‘their current direction is….’
    Think of Canonical as an icebreaker ship, trying to create a passage into unpenetrable terrain. It has limited resources, limited size. It has limited choice of route – ice must be actually breakable. Not all such ventures succeed. In the real world, ships fail, get icebound, people even die. Support the venture if you can? The business model is quite unique and unprecedented.

  6. d. says:

    Ubuntu is more and more looking like it just wants to use linux to become the “new old apple”. They have little concern for collaboration, upstream or the ecosystem. They seem to be moving towards this mentality that they need to differentiate by making everything themselves and that they don’t need to care about compatibility with other distros.

    Ubuntu will always have a place in my heart, but their current direction is just something I can’t abide. I just hope they’ll get their act together and start caring about the desktop users again.

    I recommend Linux Mint. It offers all the good sides of Ubuntu without any of the bad. The Cinnamon desktop offers all the good sides of GNOME3 (the horses under the hood) without the bad (the interface).

  7. ram says:

    You hit the nail on the head in this article. I think the Linux game consoles, that also can be used as general purpose Linux computers, will do extremely well. It will also help induce some of the motherboard manufacturers to again make Linux compatible motherboards. The rapidly increasing number of Android/Linux portable devices is also boosting the demand for Linux servers – from small to large. Now if they would just abolish software patents IT would really take off.

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