Certification Survey Extra: The top asset of Linux for PC users

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Certification Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Certification Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.

How come more individual computer users don't cotton to Linux? And what might convince them to switch over?It’s been said that Linux is the backbone of the modern internet, running most of the computers that do the heavy lifting of providing a web for all of us to surf. Nearly all supercomputers, whether operated by governments or universities, use some flavor of Linux to manage operations. And many businesses rely on Linux to keep individual computers and company networks running smoothly.

Most individual computer users already have some a Linux distro looming large in their live by dint of the popularity of Linux-derived OSes among many smartphone and tables manufacturers. Just don’t talk to those same folks about using Linux to operate their desktop and laptop computers. Most sources estimate that, of the 275 million personal computers sold each year, only a fraction end up running Linux.

Microsoft’s Windows operating system, prepackaged into retail PCs and laptops for decades, is clearly standing in the way. And while some of the stronger Linux distributions have spawned entire corporate empires — think Ubuntu, or Red Hat — that could probably move the needle, the open source nature of Linux limits the ways that corporations can profit from it. Which limits their interest in picking around the edges of the individual use ecosystem.

If personal computer users are ever going to get with the program, so to speak, and become large-scale Linux adopters, then the merits of Linux itself are probably going to have to do the heavy lifting. What is it about Linux that might potentially sell it to individual home and office computer users?

For our recent Linux Certification Survey, we identified four “big picture” characteristics of Linux that might be appealing to the PC crowd. Then we put the same question about each of these potential assets to certified Linux professionals: Is this the value proposition that will (gradually) bring personal computer users into the fold? Here’s what we learned:

Statement 1: The stability and reliability of Linux is its greatest potential asset to personal computer users.

Most distributions of Linux are noted for their stability and reliability. While Windows has largely moved on from its notorious Blue Screen of Death era, Linux tends to be far less buggy and persnickety than its foremost OS rival. How much does that matter to the average home or workplace user?

Quite a lot, actually, at least if you ask certified Linux professionals.  More than 90 percent of those surveyed either agree (65.2 percent) or strongly agree (26.1 percent) that the “Like a Rock” metaphor Bob Seger has been using to sell Chevy trucks for decades is what will eventually win people over to Linux. About 9 percent took a neutral stance, but nobody registered a scintilla of disagreement.

Statement 2: The ease of use of Linux is its greatest potential asset to personal computer users.

Is Linux easy to use? It probably depends on who you ask, as well as on which Linux we’re talking about. For many individual users, the ease of use question probably boils down to “How much will it remind me of Windows?” And some distros do an excellent job of providing that familiarity.

Whatever you take it to mean, a majority of certified Linux professionals are either on the fence, or plain aren’t buying that ease of use will convert the unwashed masses. A notable 17 percent of respondents put a check mark in the “neither agree nor disagree” column, while 43.5 percent disagree and 4.3 percent strong disagree. Among yeasayers, 4.3 percent of respondents strongly agree and 30.4 percent agree that ease of use is the magic bullet.

Statement 3: The flexibility and programmability of Linux is its greatest potential asset to personal computer users.

Linux, to some extent, can be what you want it to be. The more familiar you are with the distro that you’re using, the better able you will be to bend it to your will. Of course, that assumes a degree of fluency with system operations that could exceed the grasp of many personal computer users.

Somewhat surprisingly, certified Linux professionals by and large are not concerned that many personal computer users might be (not to put too fine a point on it) dummies. A tick more than 65 percent of those surveyed either agree (56.5 percent) or strongly agree (8.7 percent), that the ability to mold Linux to their own purposes is what will bring individual users over.

A neutral 21.7 percent of those surveyed took no position for or against, while 8.5 percent disagree and 4.6 percent strongly disagree that a highly customizable OS is what users really want.

Statement 4: The low cost of Linux is its greatest potential asset to personal computer users.

Dude. Linux is, like, free. They say that money talks, and we’re willing to bet that most consumers, could they be cornered on this point, would readily concede that paying zero dollars to run Linux is highly preferable to, for example, paying $139.00 (U.S.) to run Windows 10 Home, or $199.99 (U.S.) to run Windows 10 Pro.

Believe it or not, certified Linux professionals are also catching the vibe here.  Not surprisingly, nearly 70 percent of those surveyed either agree (35.6 percent) or strongly agree (34 percent) that cost is what will ultimately move the needle. A bit more than 17 percent of respondents are neutral on this point, while fewer than 15 percent either disagree (8 percent) or strongly disagree (5 percent).

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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