Out of sight, out of mind.

by Rafael Peregrino da Silva

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Jon ‘maddog’ Hall and I once talked about how ignorance of important facts can lead to tremendous missed opportunities for proponents of worthy causes, and even for large markets. One illustrious example took place on January 12th, 2007, in an experiment devised by Gene Weingarten, a columnist for the American newspaper The Washington Post. He persuaded the acclaimed American violinist Joshua Bell to play incognito in a subway station in the US capital, looking and acting in every sense like a street performer, but playing the same repertoire for which a concert he had played in the city of Boston had charged an average of $100 per ticket the night before — a concert that sold out well in advance.

The experiment was recorded by a hidden camera. From the 1,097 people who passed by, Bell received a total of $32.17 during the 45 minutes of his performance, except for $20 given by a passerby who recognized him. Apart from this person, only 7 other people stopped to hear him play, mostly children. The article about it (Pearls Before Breakfast), which was published in 2008 in The Washington Post, granted Weingarten the Pulitzer Prize.

The very same thing has been happening in the world of technology for more than a decade. And the incognito artist has a well-known name: Linux! The operating system created by Linus Torvalds in 1991 has become ubiquitous at the two poles of computing technologies that move our world: cloud computing at the high end (including supercomputers) and mobile and embedded devices on the low end.

Android, Tizen, webOS, and a myriad of other operating systems designed for mobile devices and based on the Linux kernel dominate the market. This includes

  • ebook readers
  • in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems
  • GPS devices
  • game consoles
  • set-top boxes
  • multifunction printers
  • digital cameras
  • Projectors
  • Wi-Fi routers
  • home appliances: smart TVs from almost every manufacturer, home automation systems, cleaning robots and even refrigerators, and
  • platforms for electronic hardware prototyping (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Caninos Loucos, Orange Pi, Banana Pi, Libre Computer, PINE64, etc.).

However, almost nobody knows about Linux!

In the aforementioned conversation with maddog, we suggested the possibility of resuming an old marketing campaign, requesting all manufacturers of devices that have Linux as their base technology to label their products with a prominent “Linux Inside” logo.

This approach would bring numerous advantages both to the consumer and to the wider technology market. Consumers who see that Linux is being used in equipment would know that it uses a robust, standard, and advanced technology: a marker of quality. And the market, which is already experiencing an unprecedented shortage in the Linux professional workforce, would attract more technicians with this type of specialty, since Linux would be on everyone’s minds (both lay people and professionals).

How about we open our eyes and, although this campaign hasn’t been resumed yet, simply start spreading the “news”? By the way, the Upgrade to Linux project is a great place to start!