openSUSE:Poweruser strategy

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openSUSE - For the productive poweruser

EDIT: The word "poweruser", might be too ambiguous. Perhaps this strategy should instead be summed up as "openSUSE - The powerful, professional, productive community Linux-distro", or similar.


openSUSE should strive to be the productive distribution for powerusers on modern PCs (workstation, laptop, netbook, server) and having a healthy balance of innovation and stability.

We cannot compete with Ubuntu for the übernoob segment, and we shouldn't compete with Fedora on being experimental bleeding edge - instead we should pick the middle ground.

This strategy would be nicely in line with SLE and what (open)SUSE has historically been, and what existing users expect from openSUSE.

The main purpose of the strategy in my opinion is to help developers, contributors and marketers all pull in same direction, and to clarify for users what openSUSE tries to be and do.

NOTE: In my mind you don't have to be a kernel hacker or a guru sysadmin to be a poweruser, in my estimation powerusers cover:

  • ~10% of all PC users
  • ~50% of all Linux users
  • ~75% of existing openSUSE users
  • ~100% of existing openSUSE contributors


We need to be excellent in the following

  • Making sure as much as possible just works out of the box
  • Having good and sane defaults so the user can do what he wants to do
  • Focus on providing tools for being productive/creative (IDEs, editors, authoring tools, graphics manipulation, office productivity, etc.)
  • Providing admin tools that are powerful yet (reasonably) easy

We will try to do the following effectively

  • Deliver a strong, general purpose distro that anyone can use without too much effort
  • Innovate and keep up with latest upstream developments

As project, we will not focus on the following anymore

  • Dumbing things down for Aunt Tillie
  • Going out of our way to support old hardware and non-mainstream architectures
  • Supporting form-factors that are not workstation, laptop, server or netbook

Who will do the work?

As this strategy deliberately tries to be quite close to the current reality of things, the strategy shouldn't require much extra work - if any.

Instead it would hopefully mean a bit less work in some areas, as it tones down the efforts made on Joe Sixpack and exciting new bleeding edge technologies somewhat.

By being fairly in sync with the goals for SLE (I presume), it should also mean that this strategy would benefit directly from the work done for SLE.

What will openSUSE actually gain from it?

  • A clear direction and identity (but that is/should be true for any strategy)
  • There would suddenly be a bit of "cool-factor" to using and contributing to openSUSE
  • Differentiation from Fedora, Mandriva and Ubuntu.

I personally believe there's a big craving out there, for a gratis, home-user distro that actually tries to be productive and professional. I see a lot of experienced, highly technical Linux people switching to OSX in the last couple of years - and I think a big part of the reason for that is that they don't find any other productive (desktop) Unix.

What may openSUSE lose because of it?

We might lose some of our Joe Sixpack type users. I don't think we have too many of those to begin with, and since this strategy is pretty close to the status quo, I don't think that many existing users would be lost.

We might lose some of the contributors whose motivation is spreading Linux to as many people as possible and competing with Ubuntu for marketshare. Maybe I should clarify that I'm personally one of these (e.g. I'm the author of and a translator). And I've strived for openSUSE world domination for several years now, and all the while the task has only gotten more and more futile, because of how the distro/project has developed - while competition from other distros has increased in the same period.

So I think these contributors would soon be lost anyway. And I don't think that very many of our big, core contributors care about Joe Sixpack, marketshare, world domination and such things anyway.

We also might lose people who are all about exciting bleeding edge and unstable things. But I don't think we have that many of those, and the OBS should allow them to go wild and break their systems as much as they like. So losses in this area should be limited too.

what will openSUSE look like in 2 years?

My vision of it is this:

  • "Powerful, productive and professional" will be the keywords everybody in the community has on their minds while developing and promoting openSUSE.
  • openSUSE will be the preferred distro for moderately technical and highly technical users who want to get things done with Linux. And this is "generally accepted knowledge".
  • openSUSE will not be considered a competitor for Ubuntu in the newbie segment.
  • openSUSE will not be considered a competitor for Fedora in terms of innovation and bleeding edge.

And finally...

  • The SUSE Linux Enterprise business is booming because a lot more sysadmins and developers have started using openSUSE at home, which lead to them buying enterprise subscriptions in their workplace. And even the most daft Novell execs realize that investment and growth in the consumer Linux space is a crucial part of growing the enterprise Linux business. This leads to Novell investing even more in openSUSE.