Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Disruption In Progress

It's embarrassing to repost something found in Slashdot, but here we go. First ASUS started shipping Splashtop, which lets you boot Linux and some apps from flash memory for instant-on Web surfing and media playing without having to launch Windows. Now Dell's in the game, this time with SLED10. I hope Dell's responding to market demand for this. It's an excellent path for Linux to eat Windows desktop share in a disruptive way. And of course, since they're shipping Firefox, it's effectively OEM distribution and market share for us. Benefits are flowing both ways; if Linux didn't have a decent Web browser --- or we hadn't held the Web open enough for non-IE browsers to be viable --- then this couldn't happen. Hopefully our branding helps them too. Fun times.

One more idea though --- if Firefox is already on the machine, and users are using it for instant-on, wouldn't it make sense to have it installed in Windows as well, for a more consistent user experience? Think about it, OEMs!


Gen Kanai
OEMs have no immediate financial incentive to ship Firefox as default installed software when all the rest of the 3rd party pre-installed software come with payments from the software providers. This is the cold, hard fact why there's only been 1 OEM (Packard-Bell) who's shipped Firefox as pre-installed software.
If you want to be utterly disgusted, Sony now has an option that you pay for ($50 or something) which gives the customer a "clean" OS with no installed software. Imagine that! Paying for the privilege of a clean OS install (on top of the Windows tax no less.) The day I next buy a VAIO is... well this is polite company so I won't finish that sentence.
So many people suggest the OEM route for Firefox but in reality I believe it's a fool's errand. Mozilla is much better off spending the time and energy to convert users one by one than going the OEM route. The users we convert are much more loyal to us (and hopefully will help share the Firefox news with others) than a user who might use Firefox because it was in the default install of their new machine.
Gen Kanai
Robert, I tried to post a comment and got an error. Not sure if it made it through?
does splashtop allow security updates?
If you want OEM's create an OEM financial incentive to ship Firefox.
- Split the revenue from Google ads earned through distribution.
- Allow them to co-brand the browser
- Allow them to set the homepage, etc.
Similar to Gen's comments, they won't do it for emotional reasons larger OEM's need business reasons.
The IEAK (Internet Explorer Administration Kit) made it easy for OEM's and IT administators to deploy and customize builds of IE. A similar well supported, up-to-date solution for Firefox doesn't exist.
Robert O'Callahan
I didn't suggest doing it for emotional reasons. I suggested doing it for a more consistent user experience.
Gen, I'm not a fan of OEMs any more than you, but I thought I'd make the point anyway. I think it would be helpful to be preinstalled; sure, converting people is great, but there's always going to be a market segment that's too hard to reach that way.
basic: no idea, but there's no fundamental reason why they couldn't.
Frankly, the people that buy these machines, especially the ones trying this specific function, are a mere handful in the scheme of things. The next battleground for market percentage points is the enterprise.
Convince three or four people in large enterprises to switch to FF or add it as an option next to IE and you could win hundreds of thousands of installs with just the few "yes" from them.
The company I work for has offices in 40+ countries, the group that owns our company has 60+ other companies in about 100 countries. Top-level IT is managed by the groups' IT. They decide the minimum level that they buy licenses for or has to be installed on the 120,000+ desktops they ultimately control. Convince the people that call the shots there and you could add 120,000+ desktops to the installed base.
By far the biggest hurdle for them is the absence of an MSI install. No IT administrator of over 5000 seats in multiple countries will want to install a browser that has no centralized install, maintenance and lockdown ability.
Want to increase market share? Want to go after the last stronghold of the dreaded IE6? Add an MSI install option...
Why isn't "Splashtop" running on Firefox 3.0 yet? Maybe it is coming soon and we just don't know it yet. Anyone know? The "Splashtop" web site doesn't give out too much info.