(Column) - Newswires are buzzing with Wal-Mart's Linux PC and its sold out status. This news alone should be enough to prove the viability of Linux in mainstream households for people who don't need a mega powerful PC for word processing, e-mail and Web browsing. I can go on and on about the same old issues and solutions, but I don't need to. Wal-Mart's success proves that very well. Of course, naysayers could argue about the limited supply, but again, checking out the product reviews on this page prove otherwise. Beginners and advanced users alike absolutely love the new product and why not? It makes sense, it's reasonably priced and it gets the job done. Everything is rosy so far.
...these users need technical support. Wait until someone messes up a configuration setting or a device stops working, and they try to look for help. Many big box retail stores with tech support will have a difficult time finding Linux experts to help beginners deal with a problem like this. Not to mention, the average cost of fixing a Linux PC would be far greater than fixing a Windows PC. If I'm a technician, more than likely, I know what is causing the problem, or I could quickly use Google to research and fix the issue. Within minutes, actually. For Linux distros, however, I would assume that because I'm so specialized in my skill set, I value my time considerably more than a Windows technician. Naturally, as a result, I would charge more on a per service or per hour basis. On top of that, since the supply of Linux users is so limited in the market, I would have to compensate for that as well through high prices.
Why Microsoft's Flickr Will Fail
Not only will this spike in tech support prices annoy a lot of beginners, but the effort it will take to find a reliable tech to fix their problem (no, reformatting and reinstalling the OS doesn't qualify as reliability --- I'm looking at Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA and the likes.) is going to be brutal. Sure, the mainstream users are delighted to have a low cost PC for now, but are they ready to and have the desire to learn to fix their own issues, at least the most normal ones with an abundance of information online? Are they ready to pay considerably high rates for quality tech support? How cheap would the Linux PC be then?
The demand for low cost Linux PCs is obvious, but a lot of people are missing the overall cost that's associated with owning a different platform. While I applaud these users to take the initiative to skip on Microsoft, let's sit down and think through our decision, instead of hurrying to get the cheapest PC available. Sometimes money spent upfront on a widely accepted platform is well worth it. And (un)fortunately, this is where Microsoft comes in and sweeps the market.
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