Why the LG MyPC failed

Linux-Based Desktops Fail to Excite the Market

It isn’t very surprising that LG’s MyPC failed to make any significant inroads into the Indian market. It’s not just cost alone which is going to make users shift from Windows.

LG has been bundling Red Hat 7.3 along with it. A default install of RHL 7.3 would make any Linux newbie cringe. It isn’t even as good as Windows 98 as far as looks and ease of use is concerned. (Not that I’m blaming RH for the whole thing.) They ought to have tried Mandrake 9.0, ELX Linux, SuSE 8.whatever, Xandros, even RHL 8.0 (but Bluecurve’s got too corporate a look for the home desktop user). But RHL7.3?!

It just seems to me that this entire exercise of Linux-based PCs was a failure because of complete and total lack of planning. Short sighted opportunism on the part of LG and Champion Computers led them to introduce such PCs into the market. No one is going to shift to Linux just because it’s cheap – least of all the individual home desktop user. He’s got to have compelling reasons to do so.

More than anything else, I find the reactions of the managers of these firms particularly disgusting:

Manikandan, deputy general manager, LG Electronics India said, "We have not been getting very encouraging response for our Linux-based 'My PC' in the metros, whereas the response has been a little better in the upcountry market.

"One reason could be because the upcountry market is more open to new things," he explained. "The second reason is obviously, the low awareness of Linux, and users' comfort level with other operating systems".

According to Kapil wadhwa, who is the director of Champion Computers,

"We have been using Windows since the last 10-12 years. So how can you expect somebody to simply start using Linux overnight when it has no visibility at all?"

"In India, acceptability for Linux is still to come about and it will take some time before the end user is comfortable with it," he said.

True, but weren’t efforts lacking on your part? You need to bundle a better OS than RHL 7.3 (at least, a better-looking OS ) if you want to realistically compete with the pirated Win2K -WinXP market. 99% of your target market uses their machines essentially as a games and entertainment machine. Ever thought of the fact that users wouldn’t be able to run these games? Ever thought of bundling Transgaming or some other such software along with it and using this fact as a marketing ploy?

"Wadhwa said that it is only after educational institutes begin teaching Linux, that users will begin feeling comfortable with it."

To say that people will start using Linux only if educational institutes start teaching it is ludicrous! Surely people don’t use Windows just because it’s been taught in school?! Did people start to use Windows simply because institutes started teaching Windows, or was it the other way round? MS has spent billions of dollars into user-interface research just so that any ordinary person can use their systems. What about the 40yrs+ generation? They use computers at home and at work without them being taught any of this in school. Computers are easy enough to use without them being taught.Don’t blame the people for your faults. You will alienate your market faster than you can say “GNU!”.

What about the visibility factor? This is what Kapil Wadhwa of Champion had to say:

"However, our technical staff tries to handle basic Linux queries from customers. But more has to be done to create some kind of visibility," he said.

And who, dear sir, is going to create this visibility, if not you? If you want your PCs to sell, and if you know that Linux’s visibility is low, is it not up to you to create it? I would never have known about this LG MyPC thing if I had not been flipping through an obscure channel by the name of TMG Enter where this was a 1-minute report.

Basically, these comments sum it up for me:

"I believe some government sectors are beginning to train their employees in Linux. Also, a few educational institutions have begun to impart Linux knowledge. It will take some time before it gains some visibility and helps us push our Linux-based PCs in the market," said Manoj Kumar of Champion Computers.

These are people who care nothing at all about the real advantages of Linux. They neither know, nor do they care, about the GNU, Free Software and Open Source movements. For them, Linux is nothing other than a cash-saver. Free as in speech, control over software, means nothing to them. That is why they will eventually fail. If they use their marketing skills and money power to highlight the correct aspects of Linux, then they will be able to convert even those who have been using pirated Windows for years.

What about support? How about manuals, guides, included simplified documentation, always-available helplines? What about marketing? Linux-based PCs came and went, leaving quite a bitter taste in the mouth as regards India Inc., views on Linux’s advantages.

A short essay on education

The Book Is Not Enough

“Never let school interfere with your education”, quoted Mark Twain once. His words ring true even today, even perhaps more so now than then. There is no doubting the fact that the quality of education being dished out in today’s schools, even colleges and professional courses, leaves much to be desired. For far too long now, we have focussed on the theoretical aspect of education, ignoring its practical face.

Education is meant to prepare a child to live in the world around him. How much of theory can help him to do that? Sadly, very little. We all must work towards reviving that forgotten art of practical training. Rather than trying to drill textbook content into a student, let us expose him to the world around, so that he himself seeks textbooks in order to glean more knowledge about what he’s just seen.

This shift in teaching philosophy is especially crucial among the younger students. For Science, do away with classroom teaching altogether. More can be learnt about the atmosphere, and air and wind (things that we were taught in the 1st and 2nd standards), by spending a day on the field, than a week indoors. For Mathematics, forget the practice of ‘formulae’ and ‘rules’ and move to examples from daily life. A book from the Childcraft series contains this stunningly insightful example to demonstrate the concept to Units, Tens, Hundreds…

“Once upon a time, before man knew of numbers, a shepherd used to take his large herd out to graze everyday, and return at sunset. To make sure none of them went missing in the meadow, he let them in through a gate that allowed only one sheep to pass at a time. Every time a sheep passed, he would lay a pebble on the ground, in a line. Whenever there were ten pebbles in the line, he would lay one pebble in another line, and start the first line once again. The shepherd knew that he had enough sheep to fill three pebbles in the first line, and two in the second.” (Meaning that he had twenty-three sheep). Wasn’t this an ingenious idea, and what better way to explain to a child this concept?

As a child moves into higher standards, his subjects change, but the modus operandi of teaching remains the same. He learns about the solar system. Does he look at the diagrams in his textbook? No. His class is taken to a planetarium where he looks at 3-dimensional, moving model, and grasps the concept. For learning about the earth, they are taken on field trips.

Robert Kiyosaki, business owner and teacher, lamented the fact that “… we do not learn from history. We only memorise historical dates and names, but not the lessons.” We need to rectify that immediately. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. If indeed they do not learn from history, it will be a tragedy.

Along with this practical shift, we have to prune useless theory too. In the tenth standard, we had to memorise most of India’s railway network, along with every single place in this vast country where mica, bauxite, copper, and a few minerals I haven’t heard of since, were mined. We forgot all of that right the day after the exam. What the purpose was of teaching us all that, is still a mystery to me.

Hope springs eternal, though. The world acknowledges that India has some of the world’s finest teachers. There is no doubt that, sooner or later, the next generation will be learning by experiencing the world, not by reading about it. Clearly, the book is not enough!