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Disagree with Linus

I've never personally met Linus Torvalds, the much heralded man behind Linux. Of course I have tremendous respect for what he's done, since I'm building an entire company with the goal of bringing Linux to the desktop. He's clearly a brilliant engineer, so I'm always interested in his viewpoints. I recently read an interview with him where he talked about Linux on the desktop. He said it would take 5-10 years for "normal users" to start seeing a Linux desktop. I'm going to have to politely disagree with him on this point. A major new development that has happened over the last few months that maybe has escaped his attention is taking desktop Linux from theory to reality. In spite of Microsoft's intimidation and threats, some computer manufacturers are now shipping computers preinstalled with desktop Linux through major retailers, making it practical for average or even new computer users to embrace Linux.

A great example is a rural area of Mexico, named Sierra Mazateca, where a group of students have 50 PCs running LindowsEspañol. More than 800 stores in Mexico now have Linux computers on their store shelves which will fuel similar installations. Until very recently, Mexican computer buyers were only able to buy computers with Microsoft software. While the most technically savvy users can download Linux software, make CDs and install their own operating system, most people have neither the time nor technical skills. It's essential that computers come preinstalled with Linux to reach the masses and that's exactly what's happening throughout North America.

Building a network of Linux retailers has been priority number one for over the last year, and our efforts have culminated the last few months with a series of announcements. It's a tremendous amount of work to educate retailers that desktop Linux has the capabilities to satisfy consumer and business computing needs. At the same time, we're working with hardware companies to certify their equipment for Linux. This entails working closely with their engineers to ensure that every component (sound, modem, video, Ethernet, WiFi, etc.) of the PC works as expected. Naturally, there are also questions about ongoing support for buyers. By doing all of these, we've been able to form significant partnerships and put desktop Linux on the storeshelf as a practical option for the first time.

Behind the scenes, Microsoft is continuing to threaten or extort companies to try slowing the adoption of desktop Linux. I often receive communications from people whom Microsoft has contacted in an attempt to dissuade them from working with us. Microsoft will threaten lawsuits, downgrade technical support levels, or use some sort of financial leverage. It's disappointing that such a well-established company cannot compete on their merits and instead resorts to bullying tactics to try precluding us from the marketplace.

Linus is right that the first adopters of desktop Linux are technical people. I believe that the next wave comes from the other end of the spectrum. These are computer users looking for affordable basic computing -- a sweet spot for desktop Linux. Computers are now coming to store shelves, which means the mass market won't have to to wait 5-10 years for desktop Linux. I'll be sending Linus the latest copy of LindowsOS so he can try it out. Hopefully he'll agree that the technology is ready today. We just need retailers on board, and desktop Linux will happen today in a major way.

-- Michael

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