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on Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Are Linux Users Cheapskates?

Due to the wide range of software freely available under an Open Source License, users of Operating Systems such as Linux and the BSD’s are often stigmatised as being ‘cheapskates’. However, is this really fair? The Humble Indie Bundle suggests that users of Linux may in fact be more generous than their Mac and Windows loving counterparts.



Very few home users of Linux will have paid anything for their Operating System. Whilst there are distributions that cost money, these are generally utilised by businesses.

Apple’s Macintosh Operating System, in sharp contrast, costs rather a lot. Microsofts Windows doesn’t come free either, so Linux users are often seen as cheapskates.

Whilst most Linux users will probably point out that perhaps Mac/Win users simply have more money than sense, a more empirical measure of the collective generosity would be to look at projects where financial contribution is voluntary, and the user can select how much they contribute.

Enter Humble Indie Bundle

Humble Indie Bundle is a charity gaming bundle that allows the purchaser to set their own price. Contrary to the popular misconception, it seems that Linux users have been far more generous than their Win/Mac loving counterparts.

The figures below show just how dramatic a difference there is between users of the Operating Systems;

  • Average Purchase Price: $4.80
  • Average Windows User: $3.87
  • Average Mac User: $6.42
  • Average Linux User: $11.08

It’s important to look at the average purchases because of the huge difference in size of userbase between the three systems. Overall Windows users have contributed the most money, but less per person.

The difference between the averages is very dramatic, with Linux Users contributing almost double that of their Mac Counterparts. A cynic could, of course, suggest that the difference is only because the Win/Mac users have unnecessarily blown a lot of money on an Operating System, but whether this really strengthens the position of the tightwads Mac/Win users is debatable.

The Point

Although interesting, the impact of this information on businesses is not as obvious as it may seem. What businesses should take away is that although it can be a factor, the cost (or lack of) is not the only reason Linux can be attractive to users.

Most Linux users didn’t switch to Linux because it was free, but because it was open source. My own philosophy, and that of a lot of people I know who also use Linux, is that we’ll pay for what requires or deserves payment. Many Linux users DO make monetary contributions towards the developers, and I personally am far more willing to pay an independent game developer or a freelance programmer than a large corporation, because my money is going to the person who wrote the code and not the company who owns the copyright on it. Other Linux users’pay’ for their operating system and software by providing support to other users, seeding Linux torrents, testing betas, etc etc – and consider this kind of ‘community service’ to be a far more meaningful form of payment than the transference of a few numbers from one bank account to another. Just my ten cents :)

Laura July 28, 2011


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