05 January 2006

He Gets It - But Not What You Think

The head of Mozilla in Europe, Tristan Nitot, has an interesting post about the French Gendarmerie National switching to both Firefox and Thunderbird. But the real story is not the obvious one of another Firefox and Thunderbird victory. After all, Firefox in particular benefits from a typical virtuous circle: the more people who use it, the greater the incentive to follow suit as more sites start adopting open Web standards.

The real kicker comes right at the end of the quotation from an interview with the man in charge of the move, Général Brachet:

Our first goal is to migrate all the upper layers of the workstation to Open Source Software to be independent of the Operating System.

Yes, he really gets it.

The real breakthrough for GNU/Linux on the business desktop will come from the combined power of the Fab Free Three: Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice. Once users are familiar with these programs on Windows, they will have no problem switching to GNU/Linux, since the applications - which are where they spend the vast majority of their computing time - are the same.

And just as private use of Microsoft's Office suite is largely driven by its dominance of businesses (helped by some "borrowing" of work copies to use at home), so GNU/Linux among general users will be propelled by its increasing penetration of the business market, not vice-versa.

We'll know when that is happening once large numbers of games that are currently Windows-only start appearing in GNU/Linux versions. Their absence remains probably the biggest single obstacle to converting the average person on the Clapham Omnibus to a totally open source solution. Children are Microsoft's secret weapon here. The rise of third generation consoles will also help by providing another way of satisfying the gaming urge in the Window-less family.

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