Updated: June 19, 2010
Yes, everyone. Even the most hardcore Linux hater should run Linux. While this sounds absolutely contrary to simple logic, it aligns perfectly well with cunning logic, as I'm going to elaborate here. We're not talking politics, ideology, zeal, Borg-like assimilation, or anything of that sort. We're not talking cutting your costs in dire situation caused by some would-be financial crisis. We're not talking freedom, free software or replacing existing business models with one that revolves around open-source.
We're talking money.
Oh, you won't get any money from running Linux, not in most cases, anyway. But you will save money. And not by spending less on Linux. You will spend less on Windows. Sounds tricky? It's not. Follow me.
Explain, dear sir!
Definitely. Here it goes:
If you're using a product that is directly competing with another product, you're making a statement. Even if you're using both products, competing companies are not comfortable with you using an alternative solution to theirs, because, come the day, come the hour, come the push becomes shove, you may abandon them and join the other team.
With software, this is even more apparent, because switching software is very easy. This makes the digital warfare all the more ferocious for the people's vote.
Sometimes, companies will do everything in their power to keep you their customer. For instance, Microsoft is not really fighting piracy that seriously. They prefer hundreds of millions customers running Windows rather than running Linux, even if that Windows was obtained illegally. Because there's always a chance one of these free-riding customers may turn a paying customer.
Even non-paying Windows customers will still be forcing the hand of the software world into making products for their operating system, and this is something Microsoft can control. While they cannot influence users running counterfeit versions of Windows, they can certainly work closely with software vendors, game developers, hardware manufacturers, music and video companies, online stores, and tons of other firms. It's kind of a silent democracy, the power of the majority, even if the majority does not really like you.
The most important thing is to grab the masses, to jam your foot into the market doors. Just be there, exist even as an echo to the din of commerce. You will sort the payment afterwards.
Now, how does this example relate to my theory?
Very simple. Microsoft, as well as any software giant, can afford to bully their customers if they know the customer has no alternative but use their software. This is quite typical.
Now, imagine what would happen if Microsoft knew that any customers could, at the snap of a finger, defect to the other side. They would have to make a much greater, more personal effort to engage their customers in a loving embrace, lest they convert to a foreign religion.
And why would anyone care? Well, as someone who has to pay for software, i.e. you, you definitely care. Windows costs money. What if I told you the price could drop to a fraction of its current tag?
This has happened many times before. A good example is the AMD vs. Intel fight somewhere in 2005. With AMD running strong, the customers enjoyed better quality of devices at a cheaper price. Everyone's a winner.
Another example is the ongoing browser war. You have more browsers than ever.
When Internet Explorer was the lone wolf in 2003-2004, Microsoft never considered even developing another browser. Look now, they are aiming at Internet Explorer version 9. Furthermore, Internet Explorer 8 is more secure and has better support for W3C standards than its predecessors. It may not be a good browser, but it's a far cry from version 6 that was supposed to be the last Redmond browser. Would this have happened if Firefox did not come along? No. And it gets better. With Google Chrome entering the arena, users are bound to enjoy even greater and cheaper variety. And cheaper means by-products, codecs and online services.
The same goes for the cell phone market and the smartphone market. Android is good for everyone, because it threatens the competition. Google Chrome OS is a great thing for bringing the netbook prices down.
Outcome = you win
If the scales of computer operating system usage tipped, so that Mac and Linux covered about 25% of the market each, you would seen an instant drop in prices of both Windows and Mac, you would see a surge in high-quality, low-price software and games for the other two platforms, in addition to Windows. And who benefits from this the most - you, the user.
Fierce competition to Microsoft is in everyone's interest. You will still be able to enjoy your Windows operating system, but it will be better, smarter and cheaper, with more software than ever before. Survival brings out the best in humans.
What you need to do
What you need to do, even if you're not really keen on Linux, is start downloading various distributions and using them, even as little as one hour a day. Just browse, go to Youtube, listen to some online podcasts, try a few open-source games. Write a few documents in OpenOffice and send them to your friends.
Now, here's what will happen. Various companies that specialize in web trending will start gathering their monthly reports and see a drastic change in usage statistics. They will then sell their reports to companies like Microsoft and Apple. And the marketing folks will start taking notice.
They will realize there's a change in the market mood and will do their best to squash the opposition. This will include lots of advertising, slander, some legal action, and more. But eventually, if you persist, you will force their hand into lowering the prices of their products. You might even get free stuff.
We do not want to topple the giants, because this will create new giants and then it's the same cycle all over again. We want to keep the giants humble and afraid, on the brink of greed.
Using Linux has its other merits, but even if you just run this other operating system for the sake of boredom, exercise and spite, you will still make a very important statement. Linux will help you use your other operating systems more efficiently. As weird as it sounds, it's the most astounding truth there is.
Take existing examples of CPU wars, browser wars, mail service wars, and any other market segment where you have numerous contestants fighting for survival, and you'll notice a clear trend of increasing quality and decreasing prices.
Help yourself save money - make an impact.
I am not trying to make you convert to Linux. Far from it. I'm trying to convert you to all products, at the same time. Use everything and you'll enjoy the highest degree of digital freedom available. You will have the flexibility of thought and choice to make changes any time you please, without worrying about losing productivity.
Do not let your incredible power as a consumer go to waste. Make your bold statement and let your voice be heard. In this case, it's as simple as letting your software vendors know you're eying the rivals. That should do the trick.
In the worst case, you will master another operating system. In the best case, in addition to newly harvested knowledge and experience, you'll see huge savings in your annual expenditures of software. It does not have to be free. It just has to be cheaper.
That would be all. Pure genius.