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For Linux to succeed on the desktop, it needs to win only one more battle. This battle is to win over the non-geeks. Linux, though it pains me to say it, is still pretty tricky, if not difficult. I think if I invited my brothers at home to install it, I’d be doing tech support for weeks. Linux is used by daring people right now, though the reasons for that daring vary. The non-geeks (let’s call them “normal users”) that need to be won are what I call the third generation of Linux users.

Imagine three sets of people. The first  are the hackers- the genius programmers that solve major problems and create basic components. These are people like Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, and others who make the essential parts of Linux. The second generation, the developers, builds programs and adds things to the basic elements that make Linux more useful. The third generation are “normal users” of Linux. They don’t care that Linux is open source and powerful. They may not even notice how much more stable it is. They like that it’s cheap. And they just want to be able to use their computer.  Linux has to become something that simple.

Those users may  never give back to the open source community, but they will be the deciding factor in the battle for the desktop. Linux has to be on store shelves right there next to Windows-based computers. It has to just be there and work fine without any of that tweaking that hackers and developers love. There’s a lot of functionality that has to be improved, but it’s nearly there. It’s going to be great.

Want your app to be successful? Make it work for “normal users”. Something in the underlying system making things harder? Help with that other component too. The “normal user” doesn’t know about anything like the command line. They want to use your app, not follow a list of instructions to get installed. If installing takes more than one step- installing the package- it’s too difficult.

Yes, you’re right. Anyone should be able to follow these directions you’ve written. But anyone who is anyone is already using Linux. Now we need to convince everyone else.