Are Linux Users Cheap?

A while back I saw a post (a very old post) on the Inmatrix forums where someone ask whether or not there would ever be a Linux version of Zoom Player. The answer was basically "nobody with Linux wants to pay for software, so it will be a lot of development with little or no income". This got me thinking as to whether or not this is true.

Whilst I don't have the zeitgeist for the entire Linux community I'm willing to bet that this is not true. I think that this "myth" is something that Windows users would think because all the software that Linux users use is provided free of charge (free as in beer). Contrast this to Windows where Microsoft makes quite a lot of money selling something as basic as an office suite. Linux users would turn this around and ask why Windows users automatically assume you have to pay for things like this.

This is also not factoring in the fact that plenty of people pirate Windows software and so aren't paying for it even when they should. So Windows users are meant to pay for something but often don't and this is better than Linux users who never have to pay for their software but sometimes donate anyway? There's something wrong about there.

I guess one issue is that there are many Linux users who use the platform because they're free software advocates and would never use proprietary software. Does this mean they're not willing to pay for software? This I can't really answer but I'd hazard a guess and say that they might pay for free software but it's quite difficult to create a traditional software business that just sells free software.

The simple fact of the matter is that people are only willing to pay for something if it's worth the cost. On Linux this is often not the case as software to accomplish most tasks reasonably well already exists and is free in all senses of the word. Why would someone hand over $30 for an email client when Thunderbird or Evolution does almost everything you want? You would if there were features in the commercial client that the others didn't have.

I think a prime example is the GIMP. Now, this software is good enough for a lot of tasks and I'm not debating that it's not suitable for professional graphics work but most people agree that it's missing several critical features and the interface is complete shit. A professional artist would have no problems justifying the $2000 or so for the Adobe Production Suite and a copy of Windows. Hell, these people actually spend the money to get Apple hardware and software, which is anything but cheap and really only does the same thing as the cheaper PC stuff. If you're getting your money's worth then why wouldn't you do it? If there was a version of Photoshop available for Linux then I'd seriously consider buying it since it would end up saving me so much time and effort in my web design work.

As to the original spark that set off this post, Zoom Player is far ahead of every single Linux video player in terms of usability. It also has the legal authority to be able to include restricted media formats (they can pay for the licensing fees) so I, for one, would not mind in the slightest if I had to pay $40 for a Linux version. I'm sure a lot of people would feel the same way too: pay a small amount of money for a great video player and the ability to play every format under the Sun without hassle? There must be thousands of people who'd hand over the cash without a second thought.

So, I don't think it's a case that Linux users are cheap bastards who refuse to pay for software, rather that they're immersed in a world where most software just happens to be free of charge and works well for most things you'd need. Gone are the days when people expect to pay money for any software they want to use. If companies want to sell commercial software then they just have to make it better than what's already there!