Software piracy of Microsoft Windows operating systems is probably pretty prevalent among geeks and non-geeks. It's illegal and arguably immoral, but many people do it anyhow with various excuses. Dave Gutteridge wrote a detailed and convincing argument that piracy of Windows is not only helping Microsoft's software get adopted, but it is also likely hindering the adoption of Linux and/or other open source operating systems.
A recent column on Zdnet, by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, discussed the reasons why people won't change from a retail operating system to a free one. The implication is that Linux can't even give away their software.
That sounds pretty dire. Windows retails for around 200 US dollars, give or take depending on which version and where you buy. If the above statement by Mr. Kingsley-Hughes was true, it means that Linux is so bad that people would gladly pay 200 dollars to avoid it. Do users really think Linux is that lame?
This article is not to defend Linux and counter the points that Mr Kingsley-Hughes made. Instead, the intention here is to simply use his article as a starting point to discuss in depth an issue which, so far as I've ever seen, is missing almost entirely from the debate over Windows versus Linux versus Mac.
Mr Kingsley-Hughes gives five essential points to explain what is so bad about Linux that it can't even succeed for free. On the whole, users aren't all that dissatisfied with Windows (I agree). Too many different versions of Linux (I sort of agree). People want certainty that hardware and software will work (I agree that's what people want, but I don't read the situation the same way that Mr Kingsley-Hughes does). As far as most people are concerned, the command line has gone the way of the dinosaur (It has for me, I love the GUIs. But, I'll get into this more below). Linux is still too geeky (Linux developers are still too geeky, sure. I totally agree that the people mainly developing and advocating Linux often don't see users' needs the way users see their needs.)
All the above reasons have some truth in them, but consider how the price comparison makes those points seem so much worse.
Want to read the whole article? It's longish, but important enough and the subject matter complex enough to need the detailed examples, anectdotes and explanations. Go read Windows Is Free (A TLUG Article).