From The Art Of Community by O'Reilly (http://www.artofcommunityonline.org) by Jono Bacon
Every year without fail, an article bubbles its way to the surface claiming that this is the “year of the Linux desktop.” Each time, a new journalist steps up to the plate, and each time she gets it wrong. Although once an exciting and testy headline, today it is one big cliché.
The so-called “year of the Linux desktop” is commonly understood to indicate when Linux seriously threatens the market share of Microsoft and Apple. Year after year, we see these claims, and to be honest, I don’t blame the journalists. We are bombarded with articles claiming huge growth in Linux. We hear about people migrating; new deals; large companies and governments switching over; and Linux features in magazines, books, and even television shows. It is easy to feel like those of us on the Linux side of the fence are rocking the world.
In our scramble to find party hats and shot glasses, it seems the analysts want to rain on our parade. Some cite 1% market share, some 5%, and some 20%. Whichever you choose to believe, the analysts are far more conservative. This rather predictably sets off a lengthy debate about whether you can count software that can be freely copied, over and over again.
You know what? In the end it doesn’t matter.
Some vector within the great mythic noosphere, the “sphere of human thought,” probably knows exactly how many Linux desktops there are in the world, but actual usage doesn’t mean a bean in the scheme of things. What really matters is mindshare.
Mindshare is perception. It is a global gut feeling. Mindshare and perception is the magic that wins hearts and minds. It is also the explosive, seductive substance that clears the path for change, and it is mindshare that enables communities to have a voice.
The Mindshare Opportunity
Jamie Oliver is a television chef. Known in England for his young and fresh approach to cooking, he has always been popular with foodies and amateur cooks alike. Despite career success, Oliver was not content. He wanted to change something very specific: school meals.
The UK faced serious health problems in school kids. Obesity had doubled. Eighty percent of kids predominantly ate junk food, and the food parents were giving them was not exactly healthy. In a typical lunchbox, 55% of kids got potato crisps, 40% got a chocolate bar, and 33% got a carton of drink.
A significant part of the problem was the meals served to kids each lunchtime in school cafeterias across the country. Every day, 3.2 million kids were served on a budget of merely 68p. Unfortunately, that 68p was seemingly funding fried food and other junk.
Oliver wanted change. Although he had a television show about the topic and a reputation, he knew that he couldn’t change this alone. He worked hard to make the issue one that the nation cared about. Articles, blogs, radio shows, and other media were behind Oliver’s campaign. After a few months, it seemed that healthy school meals were the hot topic all over England. Oliver achieved mindshare.
With mindshare came change: meetings with the Prime Minister, new government guidelines, and better school meals for kids. Oliver got the entire country behind his crusade, and kids now have a better shot at a healthier lifestyle.
Mindshare has two potential outcomes, depending on which side of the topic you sit. If you agree with the campaign, it reinforces and strengthens your will and perspective. For those who are not on board, mindshare often causes them to reevaluate.
This harks back to our earlier example of Linux. In recent years, Linux has generated tremendous mindshare. The software and its formation have inspired a generation of technologists, who have in turn inspired others. This mindshare has caused many to reevaluate their choices in computing.
This was particularly the case around the time Windows Vista was released and a new buying cycle opened. Many organizations faced stiff hardware requirements for Vista, so it was a great time to evaluate alternatives, and both Linux and Apple prospered.