Why is Linux the coolest erector set in the world, that you should be willing to pay for? In part because Linux lacks the kind of freaky design oddities that arise when the makers of the software must go to meetings with a marketing department and a bunch of liability conscious lawyers, alternatively. In part because the fundamental design of the system is such that it is powerful yet lean at the same time. In part because basic security is so much easier to manage in Linux that it is not necessary for the processor to spend a sizable amount of time (using big chunks of memory) fighting viruses and other threats.
You know how spam works: It does not matter if one in one thousand people are annoyed by spam, as long as one in a thousand responds in the way the spammer wants. If you send out a million spamoids, that will yield one thousand positive results. Not bad.
If a committee of managers and marketers sits down and makes decisions about how the software everyone will be using works, how it looks, how it operates, they will sometimes (often, perhaps) make decisions that actually cause harm. They will opt for features that will annoy many users, if they know they can get away with it and that it will produce some positive effect that may have nothing to do with what the end user is looking for. A relatively innane example, but one that illustrates this principal well, is the feature of Window’s Help that provides, as an answer to almost any question (sometimes as the only answer) “Would you like to tell if the software you are using is pirated?” WTF?
In contrast, OpenSource software is designed, built, and deployed in an entirely different manner. Yes, there are committees, or small groups that actually are making most of the decisions, but these groups are generally open in their communication and anyone can get involved. The decision making process is fundamentally different for OpenSource than it is for Commercial software.
(Note: OpenSource does not equal Linux. Linux IS an OpenSource operating system, and Ubuntu Linux and a couple of other versions are especially well designed for people just cutting their teeth on the penguin, but OpenSource software is also available to run on Windows and Macs.)
If you want to see how this works, and get a feel for how open this process is, pick up a copy of Linux Journal (the one meatland computer mag I read regularly) and read the column they have every month on what is going on with the Linux Kernel. If you are like me, you’ll understand a very small percentage of the technical detail, but you will see things being discussed of the type that are not discussed openly in commercial context. If you came apon a document discussing this sort of detail for Windows, you would either be a very very deep insider or you would be followed by guys in a black helicopter until they hunted you down and killed you. Like in that movie.
That is a pretty remarkable difference. And it is one of the main reasons that Linux is better.