Too much choice

Have you ever walked down a supermarket aisle and wondered at the huge variety of all products on offer? Probably not, unless you’d just arrived from Zimbabwe. The fact is, we are spoiled for choice. And what do we do with all of this choice? With groceries, in any event, we choose a brand and cling deperately to it for years.

Only two things will make us change our brand. A better sales pitch by another brand or a bad experience (price or quality) with our favoured brand. But the bottom line is this. There wouldn’t be 23 brands of baked beans if consumers only bought one or two. Someone is buying the other brands, albeit in smaller quantities than the “brand leaders”.

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The same applies to cars. Why do we need 50 manufactuerers and a gazillion model derivitatives? Because someone is buying all of these models. And those manufacturers and models that don’t achieve a certain level of sales? Well they are kicked out of the nest.

Now, follow me closely here.

Picture this car. It has four wheels and a spare wheel. It seats 4 adults in safety and comfort. It can reach 120km/h in a reasonable time and 140km/h in an emergency. It is literally impossible to crash, steal or hijack. It has zero greenhouse gas emissions. It comes in 3 or 4 basic colours. You can however, customise it to make it unique. (if this is what blows your skirt up.) It does not have ABS, ERF, JMB, XYZ and HIV. Now here’s the kicker !! It is FREE. Just pop in and fetch one. Oh, and it’s fuel, servicing and maintenance costs are also FREE. On the down side, there aren’t millions of experienced mechanics for this car YET.

Now, would you drive one of these cars, or still spend R200 000 on a basic family sedan?

I’d get one of these cars. My reasons, price, functionality, safety and security issues. So would many other existing owners of conventional cars. But more importantly, so too would millions of ordinary South Africans, who to date, have been denied the joy of mobility.

A computer system is made up of three basic components.

The Hardware – this is the actual metal and plastic bits. The Chinese are making these things cheaper than their scrap metal component. At a push, everyone could own one of these, even if the State subsidised it heavily in the National interest.

The Operating System – this is that magical program that drives the hardware. You never see it, or use it directly, and it costs a lot. Microsoft <spit> makes one of these every 5 years or so, then makes 500 million copies of it at about 50c each and then sells it to us at R1000 or more. You are probably using Microsoft <spit> XP.

Applications Software – these are the programs that enable you to write a letter, browse the Internet, send and receive emails etc. Microsoft <spit> uses the same philosophy here as with it’s operating systems. There are obviously millions of other applications sold by other software vendors, and they’ve all learnt from Microsoft <spit> so you get to pay through the nose for these too.

What is the effect of this system on a developing country like South Africa? Simple, the rich who can afford computers, operating systems, applications software and broadband connectivity, get smarter. And as they get smarter, they get richer. The reverse applies for the poor. They don’t get smarter and they stay poor.

Wake up South Africa. Go Linux and Open Source Software. It’s free, it’s stable, it’s virus-free and there are no strings attached. We will only achieve the governments growth targets if we educate our children. Here is what I use;

Operating System – Ubuntu 6.06 FREE
Office Tools – Open Office (Word-processor etc.) FREE
Browser – Firefox FREE
Email Client – Thunderbird FREE

Let’s start now. GO GET IT !!!!

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