Adoption Chasm

If like me you were paying close attention to Mark Shuttleworth’s key note introduction to UDS you may have noticed he used an adoption graph like this one:

The idea is that right now we’re stuck between 15% market share of early adopters and the magic 20% market share of the early majority… after which the adoption momentum will be a self sustaining. What I took away from this graph was that there are a spectrum of people in the world who progressively need great numbers of friends to already be familiar with the product/idea and the more happy people the more of the majority can be won over.

But hang on a second we need to know what we’re talking about first. If we’re talking about computer desktops then Ubuntu (and all other distros together) could barely be said to be 3% of the general population market share, far short of the 15% of the adoption chasm that Mark was targeting.

Of course we might be talking about a subset market, maybe netbooks where I think Ubuntu does better? Perhaps we’re at the chasm of early adopters, perhaps we have 15% of the market of Innovators and Early Adopters (2.25%) maybe going after the general majority shouldn’t be attempted until we’ve conquered even a significant proportion of the early adopters in this model.

That would mean that we need to stop serving the innovators (the programmers in this case) and start pushing early adopters, people who will put up with a bit of grief but will if they fail forever label the brand as a reject (and will be sure to tell the early majority it’s to be avoided).

Perhaps this is what I find when I go out into the street, the early adopters know Linux is failure, it didn’t work when they tried it 10 years ago and it’s certainly not going to work now. On the other hand Ubuntu is new, a fresh brand… it doesn’t help perhaps that there is a lot of marketing promoting the link between Linux and Ubuntu, dragging Ubuntu down.

Then again perhaps Ubuntu really is that crap that it should be rejected. There’s a whole pile of support questions in my email archive that are from frustrated early adopters who can’t get their printer working, their scanner, ipod, wacom tablet. Or perhaps it was that website, that game or something else. A computer is a very many to very many device and we’ve decided we’re audacious enough to attempt to service the greater proportion of those combinations without any very many to very many organisational procedures to test any of the combinations above casual testing.

I’ve heard that some have said Ubuntu won’t take off until we’ve stripped away some of the excessive expectations and slimmed down what is possible to do until we have a manageable subset. Perhaps netbooks and similar small devices are an aim to do just that. I believe that Canonical knows this well enough and is preparing a solid system for a very small set of functionalities which can be supported by an individual company.

Perhaps it’s up to the community to bring in the rest of the possibilities that we’ve vested ourselves to.

Your thoughts?