Posting Date: August 28, 2003
Linux vs. Windows: Choice vs. Usability (DevX) -- "The average user doesn't know—or care—about the underlying operating system, the idea of GUI interfaces, the various types of file systems, or about any other "technical" aspect of using a computer."
And therein lies one of the biggest conceptual gaps between techs and regular users, which explains why Linux is wildly popular among the former and almost unknown among the latter. (Hint: It's not just superior marketing, guys.)
Want to know the REAL difference? It's the techie notion that "choice is good." Well, for users, it isn't. Choice is bad. Choice (or its popular euphemism among coders, "control") is a nuisance because it adds another barrier, another level of complexity to wade through before you can get on with your task.
This has nothing to do with the miracle of the free market or the evils of socialism--it has do with how much crap users are willing to put up with just to use a device. And the answer is always "surprisingly little." A LOT less than gizmo-tolerant lovers of technology would suspect, or even understand.
Linux offers a choice of interfaces? To geeks, that's a major plus. To regular users, it's one of the most staggeringly huge negatives imaginable. "What do you MEAN it won't look the same everywhere I go and every time I pull it up on any random PC? How will the tech support guy be able to answer my questions if---wait a minute... What do you MEAN, 'What tech support guy?'"
This is what so many Linus enthusiasts are missing--an understanding that users want standards more than creativity. They want stability, not choices. And they want reliable, predictable, dirt-simple interfaces far more than any amount of "power and control."
People want choice, creativity, and control - - but they want it where it matters to them. For system admins this is in the O/S and the associated tools. For people who use the system to do other tasks, such as composition, editing, number crunching, communications, variety in the O/S is a distraction not a benefit. But when dealing with the tools they use in their tasks of most importance, and plenty of passion surfaces. "I want to use (name of some program). Oh, it only runs under Windows? Then I will run Windows, leave off talking about this Linux thing, I'm not interested if it doesn't run my favorite program, and I don't want to talk about something almost as good."