India Can Be Ubuntu’s Impenetrable Fort

Ubuntu has come a long way in these 8-9 years. The Linux-based distribution which started in 2004 has created a unique identity of its own which sets it apart from the ‘traditional’ and often negative image of Linux distributions.

I was talking to a new friend the other day and when I mentioned Linux he said “I tried it in 2006 and it was very hard to use. All those command lines and things.” He never tried it again. Unfortunately people still carry that impression of Linux, even in 2012. I showed him my Ubuntu desktop and his remark  was : “Is this Linux?”

That impression of Linux is one of the reasons why Google and Canonical avoid the word Linux in the marketing material of Android, Chrome OS or Ubuntu. SJVN explained it very well in his recent post.

The image that Ubuntu has created makes it easier for it to ‘mingle’ with the typical Indian users who, like most of us, are usually not very tech savvy. Indian market makes it easier for Ubuntu to invade the traditional Windows market.

Unlike the US, where the delivery of content (such as Netflix) is one of the major hurdles in the adoption of Ubuntu, India doesn’t pose the same challenge because this sub-continent lacks such services.

Let’s see the areas where Ubuntu has an edge over Microsoft Windows and the areas where it’s behind.

If you live in India, Ubuntu is not for you if:
1. You are a hardcore PC gamer and want to play the latest edition of Crysis.
2. You are a professional filmmaker and/or sound artists and want professional grade applications.

If you are none of the above then you are a potential Ubuntu user. But, why would you use Ubuntu over Windows? There are numerous reasons:

Ubuntu is free of cost.
The chances are you are using unauthorized software (which some people also called pirated) on your machine. It is really expensive to run a Windows machine. If you want to work in the language of your choice such as English, or Bengali, or Hindi, you need Windows 7 Ultimate license which costs 11,448 on Flipkart. 11,448 is the cost of Nexus 7 tablet. What do you want – a tablet or a Windows 7 license?

MS Office Home Edition costs 5,000 & if you’re thinking about getting the Professional edition then please be ready to shell out about 15,000. Then you need a decent antivirus to protect your system (even then you won’t have any guarantee that your system will be safe). So, you end up paying around 25,000 for running Microsoft products on your system. If you are running an unauthorized copy of Window not only is your data at risk but also you are doing something wrong and illegal.

With Ubuntu you get everything for free — the OS, applications and security.

Ubuntu is free of viruses
Though no system is immune to attacks, not even Linux based systems, the open source nature of development and UNIX-Like design of Ubuntu makes it extremely secure. That is the reason stock exchanges and big organizations use Linux over Windows. On Ubuntu you don’t have to worry about viruses or any attacks ever again in your life. You won’t have to think twice before connecting a USB stick worrying that there can be virus on it.

All the apps you need
It is extremely challenging under Windows to find and install trusted applications. Most apps are adware and you never know when you are installing a malware or spyware on your system. Just hunting for apps on the Internet takes you to sites which puts your PC under risk.

Under Ubuntu there is an App Store called Ubuntu Software Center which allows you to install apps from trusted source. It’s just like the Google Play Store — extremely easy to use. There are thousands of apps which can replace your Windows apps – VLC for movie, Rhythmbox of music, LibreOffice for Microsoft Office, GIMP for Photoshop and much more. The great news is all these apps are available for free of cost and you get all the upgrades for free too.

No Need To Buy New Machines
Windows is resource hungry and you may need powerful machines to run the latest version. On the contrary Ubuntu can run on the latest and the greatest hardware as well as old machines. So, you can bring your old machines to life with Ubuntu.

Ubuntu vs Windows: The Shrinking Gap
If we look at the disadvantages Ubuntu has over Microsoft Windows we see a very tiny market. Hardcore gaming is a very tiny fragment of the Indian market and most of these gamers are moving to consoles. According to a recent study the Indian gaming industry was estimated at around 790 crore in 2009 and out of this console accounted for 580 which is more than 75% of the Indian gaming market. For casual users and kids there are a lot of popular Windows games which can run on Ubuntu using a program called WINE.  So, Ubuntu does cover a little bit of casual gaming. That leaves the professional film or audio editing market, which once again, is a tiny market.

That leaves a huge market for Ubuntu. A market where Microsoft Windows has no real value to offer.

Managing your machine
From a user’s point of view Ubuntu is far more easier to manage and maintain than Windows. You don’t have to worry about drivers for devices like printers, most of the devices should work out of the box. One thing that a user needs to keep in mind is to buy Linux supported hardware. This is not an uncommon practice. When we go out to buy stuff we do look for compatibility. You don’t go and buy any shoe, you buy the one that fits you well. So, when you go to buy hardware such as printer or scanner or web camera just make sure it works under Ubuntu and you will be fine.

However India poses some challenges which are non-existent in the western world. One of the challenges is the lack of high-speed broadband and Ubuntu’s dependence on the Internet to install the needed drivers and applications. If you want to install Windows on your aunt’s machine, who doesn’t have a decent or any Internet, it’s no big deal. All you need is bunch of CDs with drivers and needed apps.

That’s not true with Ubuntu.

What will really help users is the availability of Ubuntu DVDs which come with all needed drivers and main applications, so when you install Ubuntu on an offline machines everything works out of the box.

To solve this problem the company can work with local vendors to sell Ubuntu CDs. This can also create a business model for small PC shop keepers as they can sell such DVDs for 20 25(a DVD costs around 5 10 so they will still make a profit of 15 per DVD. It will still be more than 11,400 cheaper than Windows.) The good news is these DVDs, unlike Windows, can be used on multiple machines.

Another good news is that Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu, is exploring the Indian market through partnerships with Dell to bring Ubuntu pre-loaded PCs where everything works out of the box.

I have always criticized Ubuntu for entering markets too late with too little to offer, but in this case I do believe that Ubuntu can turn India into its impenetrable fort. They have made the right move and Windows 8 will give them the little push they need to capture the Indian market.

Note: A series on how Ubuntu can be your perfect desktop is coming so keep an eye on this site. And feel free to suggest what kind of Ubuntu related articles you want to read.

Edited by: Tarun Brari, Salih Emin

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About Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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