GNOME Marketing Brief

Market Analysis


GNOME ships three distinct products, each focused at a different audience. The GNOME Developer Platform includes a full software stack used to develop GNOME applications on multiple platforms for the PC desktop, including operating systems like GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows, OpenSolaris as well as the GNOME Mobile Platform. The GNOME Mobile Platform is a set of software and tools that is focused on the developing hardware markets for mobile phones, mobile internet devices, and netbooks. Lastly, the GNOME Desktop Environment is a full featured graphical user interface for Linux and Unix operating systems.


GNOME's customers are typically thought of as end users, though GNOME's customers are much broader, including GNU/Linux distributions, free software and open source developers, OEMs and ISVs. GNU/Linux distributions, such as Fedora or Ubuntu, are usually the primary customer acquisition channel for GNOME's end users. GNOME also serves the GNU/Linux development community, through tools in the GNOME Platform, such as GTK, that both foster development of the GNOME Platform and the applications included in the GNOME desktop and in distributions. Lastly, GNOME's customers should include hardware original equipment manufacturers and independent software vendors. OEMs and ISVs utilize the GNOME Platform to create or deploy applications using GNOME software, to run on specific types of hardware including computers, mobile phones and internet tablets, GPS devices and medical devices.

GNOME moves from through the ecosystem from GNOME development to Linux distributions to OEM and finally to end users.

End Users

Almost all end users for GNOME are acquired through the end user choosing to download and install a new operating system that ships with GNOME, including GNU/Linux distributions like Fedora or Ubuntu or a version of Unix such as FreeBSD or OpenSolaris. Hundreds of GNU/Linux distributions exist for users to choose from, including distributions sponsored by corporations, including Novell's openSUSE or Canonical's Ubuntu, to community distributions powered by small to large groups of developers, such as Debian or Gentoo.

GNOME has two types of end users, active and passive. Passive end users include those end users who use GNOME, and may not be aware that GNOME is the technology powering their device. These devices include netbooks, GPS units, tablets, medical scanners and more.

Active end users who choose to download and install GNU/Linux distributions that feature GNOME tend to be a more advanced user than the average computer user. These users know how to download an image, burn it to disc, and install it over or side by side with Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. These users choose to run GNU/Linux, either due to a belief system centered in free software and open source, or to save money. These users choose to run GNU/Linux and GNOME, versus those users who run their operating system due to it having been pre-installed on their computer at time of purchase.

A number of GNOME applications are also available cross-platform on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. These applications, including GIMP, Banshee, Inkscape, Tomboy and more, can be the first introduction to GNOME for some users. According to a recent survey of those who donate to Friends of GNOME, 30% of those who donated use a GNOME application on a non-Linux platform.

Historically GNOME has not been available in mass produced computer hardware, though some OEMs, including Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, have experimented in offering GNU/Linux distibutions with the GNOME desktop as an alternative to Microsoft Windows. With the rise in shipments of Netbooks, small form factor laptops with limited hardware specifications, GNU/Linux (and GNOME) have seen shipments rise since 2007, though Microsoft is now aggressively offering WindowsXP to OEMs to combat the rise of GNU/Linux on netbooks. As of early 2008, Dell and Hewlett-Packard are now offering select desktops, laptops and netbooks with Ubuntu and SUSE respectively pre-installed as an option for consumers.


(Insert information on developers as a target market here)

OEMs and ISVs

OEMs, including Dell, Asus and Hewlett-Packard, among others, ship GNU/Linux to a limited degree. Shipping a GNU/Linux distribution can save these organizations and customers $50 or more by not having to license WindowsXP or Windows Vista from Microsoft. To combat this, Microsoft offers OEMs advertising money through market development funds and has extended the life of WindowsXP and reduced it's cost to combat this trend. Long term, it can be a challenge for an OEM to add GNU/Linux as an option, as it can increase training costs for their support and quality assurance teams in having to cross-train multiple operating systems, and sales teams on selling the benefits of a new technology. Additionally, the OEMs retail partners may not be familiar with GNU/Linux and GNOME, and have the same challenges around training and cost. Stephen Lim, the General Manager of Taiwan based Linpus Technologies, estimates that GNU/Linux could attain 50% marketshare of the netbook category in 2010, as does ABI Marketing, though they estimate it occuring by 2012. (1)

(Insert ISV insight here. Examples? OpenedHand prior to acquisitions? Collabora? GNOME Mobile developers? How is the stack being used and by whom?)

[One of the big challenges I see here is there isn't an obvious vendor to work with. It used to be when a hardware company had new hardware, they called up Microsoft, sent them a few boxes, worked out some bugs and they had Windows running on it. Now they have to either work with a distro, like Canonical (Dell) or Xandros (Eee PC) or they have to do it themselves (HP) or they have to pay someone to do it. Instead of having one downstream supplier, they have multiple downstream and upstream partners.]

Competitor Analysis


Within GNU/Linux, KDE and XFCE are the major competitors in the Desktop Environment space. There is currently no quantitative information available market share between desktop environments, but anecdotal information shows GNOME's share growing since 2004. KDE focuses on the same end user as GNOME, while XFCE focuses on customers who may have older hardware, and want a DE that uses less resources than GNOME or KDE.

GNOME and KDE both offer a full featured desktop environment for users, including file managers, internet browsers, office applications and more.

(Feature comparison? Applications comparison?)

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft dominates overall PC marketshare of operating systems. With the exception of Apple, Windows is the default operating system shipped on almost every single computer sold worldwide. In the retail and consumer market, Microsoft Windows retails for approximately $200 - $400 USD, depending on version, for consumers who wish to purchase and install it as an operating system, and releases a new version every 3-4 years. In the governement and education markets, including developing nations, Microsoft is much more aggressive in their pricing reducing it to almost zero.

Mac OS X

Mac OS X is only available on Apple hardware, and has approximately 8% market share in the United States. Apple's market share has grown substantially since the first release of Mac OS X in 2001. Apple releases a new version every one to two years and charges $129 for upgrades, though the Snow Leopard release, scheduled for fall 2009 will only be $29, due to the fact that there are very few changes that are directly visible to the user. Apple users are perceived as hard core fans of the Apple brand. Apple has earned a reputation in driving innovation in user interface and design, helping users switch from Microsoft Windows to Mac OS X with a little perceived learning curve. They have achieved this without having to copy Microsoft's user interface to make it "easy" to switch.

GNOME Analysis

(Insert self analysis here) (How do we compare on translations and accessibility to KDE and Windows?) (GNOME has also benefited from the rise of Ubuntu which has mirrored the rise of GNOME's share in the GNU/Linux DE space. Our rise in marketshare mirrors the adoption of Ubuntu and it's aggressive marketing campaign, including things like sending free Ubuntu CDs to groups, Linux user groups, and individuals and Ubuntu LoCo teams)

[The a11y team could help here.]

Marketing Objectives

Current State

Due to the distributed and community nature of the GNOME project, marketing objectives have been discussed a number of times in the past, but as of 2009 a concrete plan has not been agreed to and acted upon. A number of brainstorming activities have been documented on the wiki at over the years, including slogans, market analysis, mission, message and more from a number of contributors.

As part of the GNOME 3.0 release plan, the GNOME Foundation plans on completing a market analysis, definining GNOME's mission, and also defining GNOME's target audiences. Earlier research included on the GNOME wiki will be consulted and used as relevant.


The objective of the GNOME Marketing plan is two-fold. Short term, over the next 12 months, GNOME will partner with downstream Linux distributions to understand their plans for including GNOME 3.0 and help introduce and educate end users to the changes in GNOME 3.0. Additionally, GNOME will develop a marketing plan to focus on GNU/Linux developers highlighting the benefits of working with the GNOME Platform for the development of software applications. A secondary goal is to increase fund raising for GNOME from end users through the Friends of GNOME program.

Long term, over the next two to there years, it is GNOME's goal to increase GNOME's brand awareness with end users, governement IT organizations, developers and OEMs and ISVs. A marketing campaign will be built focusing on each of these groups, as each group has a different core message focusing on GNOME's features and benefits.

Marketing Plan

End Users


The GNOME Desktop is a free software desktop environment available to everyone featuring innovative applications that makes the computing experience easy to use. By using the phrase "Available to everyone" helps highlight that GNOME has a number of features and benefits that are applicable, including: GNOME is free software, GNOME applications includes accessiblity features that are built-in, not bolted on to help users with accessibilty needs, and lastly, GNOME is available in many different languages. GNOME's choice of included applications, including music management, photo editors, office applications and internet applications including instant messenging and a browser show that GNOME is easy to use.


With the launch of GNOME 3.0, the GNOME marketing plan should focus on introducing end users to the new features OF GNOME 3.0 and assist users in adapting to the change in the user interface and new features, such as GNOME Shell and GNOME Zeitgeist. The GNOME marketing plan should introduce users to the GNOME brand as the technology that powers their choice of GNU/Linux distribution or hardware.

(What learnings can we take from the perceived failure of the KDE 4.0 launch?)

Promotional Strategy

As GNOME is a distributed, free software project, the promotional strategy includes a number of guerilla marketing campaigns and tools that can spread the message with zero marketing spend, including blogs, social networking, user generated content, and a press kit for online technology publications, such as Ars Technica, Linux Journal, and others. User generated content, including ideas around a video campaign and blogs should be encouraged.

A number of individuals within the GNOME Foundation will be recruited and provided with speaking points and made available to members of the press.

The GNOME website ( will also be revamped in October, 2009 and should feature and support the GNOME 3.0 marketing campaign.

Information regarding potential marketing campaigns are available in a separate document.


(Highlight GNOME's growth, developer community, innovation (Moblin), strong distribution support (Ubuntu) and need for a marketing campaign around GNOME 3.0



  2. 2001 Linux Journal Awards:

  3. 2009 Linux Journal Awards:

MarketingBrief2009 (last edited 2009-06-25 12:29:10 by ClausSchwarm)