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Has Linux on the Desktop had it’s day?

The stats are in, Linux is everywhere, the problem is, no one is mentioning this fact, and at the same time it appears that take up of the Linux desktop may be on the wane. Its a strange new world which this operating system now finds itself powering huge chunks of the internet and mobile devices. Yet evidently losing ground on the desktop.

Before I go on, lets make this perfectly clear this isn’t a troll piece it’s an observation of an Operating system i’ve been using daily for well over 16 years in one guise or another.

I’ve just been reading an article on ZDNET where the question was raised Why do Google or Ubuntu not use the word Linux? and it’s a good question which seems to boil down to this..

Think about it. If you’re a Linux user, what do you think of when you hear “Linux.” You think about stability, security, open-source, flexibility, power, and control. You probably also think about Tux, the Linux penguin.

But, now what do the 95% plus of the population who don’t use Linux directly think about it when they hear “Linux.” They think, hard-to-use, command-line, something that only a techie geek—and I don’t mean that in a fun Big Bang Theory kind of way—could use, never mind enjoy using.

A compelling argument if ever i’ve read one, even after so many years Ubuntu tried to make Linux simple for everyone, even the most technical of users i deal with on a regular basis are still scared of the command line and unable to grasp this OS. The press seems to be showing fewer and fewer stories of desktop migrations and Im the first to say that in the comms room Linux is king it’s not getting much traction on the desktop.

Where are the competing distros?

10 years ago the linux sector was buzzing with new and innovative distros from Ubuntu, Suse, Debian, Fedora and Mandriva to Gentoo, Sabayon, Knoppix and many others. While most of these distros are still around most of the desktop market which i’d suggest is now home users are using Ubuntu. While Fedora still appears to be trying it never has had the same traction within the blogs, posts and other visible areas that ubuntu has had.  Ubuntu’s biggest competition is Windows or OSX not another Linux distro.

Is it time for these other guys to pack up and head home? Certainly not Linux has never been about the huge userbase, its always been about the choice. There are plenty of people out there who just don’t like Ubuntu fro many reasons.. the Unity, the lack of giving back, the whatever read them up.

The point here is without competition there is no innovation, a distro which is not being pushed by other distros for that “top spot” is going to make changes and mistakes which don’t move the platform forward.

Why can’t Linux Adapt quicker to new technologies?

Linux seems to have also a hard time adapting to new platforms, you could argue that Android hasn’t had a hard time however the basic fact is Android is a proprietary OS in open source clothing and nothing more than that. Linux as a distro does however seem to not be able to grasp the nettle when it needs to be grasped tight. Recent examples of Phone, Tablet, Television and other than a few proof of concepts by the Canonical team nothing from any other major distro.  No alternative operating systems to kick off the Linux as a mobile platform and while again it could be argued that there is a GNU/Linux kernel at the hear of many of these devices they are not names you’d know or have used on the desktop. These are areas where Microsoft get it right as do Apple time after time. IOS being pitched as the same operating system under the hood as OSX and Windows 8 now actually being the same mobile and desktop kernel. It’s branding and potentially this is something Linux is missing.

The reason why linux can’t adapt i believe is its boiling down to a deep rooted inability for the Linux community to believe in anything.. they argue and bicker and slow the process down. When it comes to software communism doesn’t work, dictatorships do. Linux needs a leader, a direction and someone to point them in the right direction.

Has Ubuntu killed Linux?

There is an argument that the rise in popularity of Ubuntu has killed off any chance of Linux to become a major player in the Desktop arena. While there is simply no argument that this distro has pushed desktop linux forward light years from it’s root years ago. Hardware detection, installation, disk management, application installation, codecs and drivers can all potentially be traced back to Ubuntu being so popular and giving a reason for the third parties to gett hier linux on..

However with great power has come great responsibility and  maybe, just maybe the rise of Ubuntu has caused other distros to loose funding, donations and the ability to move forward.

What are the alternatives?

The question is, is there a place for Open Source in todays IT industry? We are moving away from the Desktop, it’s been predicted that by 2016 tablets will outsell desktops. As Setve Jobs graciously put it “the world will still need trucks” and it’s a fact that the Tablet as we know it today just isn’t powerful enough to be a development resource or be used for powerful CPU time processes like number crunching. However this won’t always be the case, farming heavy duty processes out to cloud farms will take on, and the sheer numbers of people rooting Android and Jailbreaking IOS tablets shows that there are still people who want that choice which Linux brings.

There are glimmers of hope projects like Ubuntu TV, Ubuntu for Android both show that work is being done, however I do have a feeling we are moving out of the age of IT as a tool and into the age of IT as a consumer item such as the TV or Microwave. In this age we are not so worried about the OS we used, that is being taken away from us. It’s the GUI and the App’s which are making or killing todays platforms as ar decisions ny by Dell, or HP but by Verisgn, Vodaphone, Orange or Sprint. Mobile right now is king, and mobile want s to sell a locked down device. Linux doesn’t fit into this role and arguments on price, portability and openess don’t carry much sway when you are looking to close down users..

Right now the alternatives are few and far between, however time will tell..

How can Linux move forward?

Let’s not bury our head in the sand here, Linux isn’t in anyway dead, Google Runs on it, VMWare is powered by it, Android has it in it’s heart, Linux is the cloud and you’ll be using a linux based service every day if you use the internet. The low cost and platform ease of use, the huge number of developers and the security of the OS make it an ideal platform to get products out there.. Linux has never been used so much and as such is actually in the server room has never been so big..

I’d just like to see a commercially viable Ubuntu Linux Tablet running Unity on it given a fair crack of a whip, and other such projects promoted and maybe, just maybe we can keep the world jut a little bit open?



9 comments on “Has Linux on the Desktop had it’s day?

  1. drdog09
    July 8, 2012

    Oh pleeeeeze.

    1/ I will grant Linux never made it big on the desktop. But go check some stats. Windows the desktop is cratering, big time.

    2/ Competition? Sure the big 4 are still there. But I guess you missed the jump of Linux Mint when Ubuntu switched to Unity? That Centos and Scientific Linux are giving RH a run for their money in the start up space?

    3/ Adaptability? You don’t follow the embedded system market obviously. RaspberryPi, variant of Debian. There are at least 4 linux variants that will run the ARM A8,9,10 core. There is no Windows or Apple OS for any of this. Fact in the embedded system market the primary OS are Dos, Linux and some custom cores. Neither Windows or Apple need apply. Your reference to Android is a side compliment that it is linux.

    4/ Funding. Go to yahoo finance and look up Red Hat.

    5/ Alternatives. Locked down devices only survive so long as you can maintain locked down content. But the genie is out of the bottle on the content never to be contained again. Once the market for the mobile space become mature getting rooted will be considered table stakes in the market. But why go rooted if one can load a open OS for the device? Just give it time.

    I don’t mean this as any thing personal, but quite honestly most of what you have written is down right wrong. Please do some research.

    • projectzme
      July 9, 2012

      If I may reply..

      Where windows is indeed crashing its not Linux picking up the slack it is OSX
      Linux mint is a fragmented distri which can’t make up its mind which GUI to use and as such has admitted its losing users. And I believe both red hat alternatives are making ground in the server room NOT the desktop.
      Raspberry pi is not a Linux desktop platform it is an educational and research platform, Debian while baing a great distro again is an example of a server distro, so good was Debian on the desktop they made Ubuntu.
      Linux doesn’t have time to get unlocked onto devices, as I said the day of the hardware manufactures is over they all are under the control of what the mobile carriers want, if they wanted an open platform open mojo would have sold.. As it is Mozilla are having to head for the Brazilian feature phone markeT to make a launch of a new smart phone os. It’s a market where even proprietary superior os fail, I prent you palm..

      As for redhat and funding, no one disputes that cash, but as the post said at the end this is servers not desktops, you ever used red hat on a business desktop..

      I have looked at the facts, I use linux daily.. I don’t think you actually read the article, you saw negative press and reacted. That is a normal response I have had that happen to me many a time.

      • drdog09
        July 9, 2012

        Just a note: I have been using Unix since the 80’s and Linux for over a decade.

        Raspberrypi. You provided a subheading in your piece titled — Why can’t Linux Adapt quicker to new technologies? Fact: the desktop is not the new technology, embedded systems are. I would also note that in order for one to use RPi as a educational tool one must inherently treat it as a desktop to use it in that fashion.

        “Linux mint is a fragmented distri which can’t make up its mind which GUI to use.” One can make that claim of any distro, even Ubuntu — Kbuntu, Ubuntu, Lbuntu.

        “Linux doesn’t have time to get unlocked onto devices”. Linux is not the issue, the users are. Like I stated, when the market matures locked devices will dissipate. Nor should one discount a black swan event software load for the tablet market that insists must be on an unlocked device.

        “you ever used red hat on a business desktop..” Actually yes. If you are a RH enterprise customer there is such a beast and I am not talking Fedora.

        I did not take issue as a point of negative press. It just appears your logic is circular and faulty.

      • projectzme
        July 9, 2012

        I’m going to reply to All of the comments in a new post, as the feedback has at least gone someway to explain what is wrong with the Linux desktop and the community as a whole..

  2. morgan
    July 9, 2012

    I work in an office that about 70% run linux.

    My non techie friends run it – they have MUCH less issues that with Windows. – you are talking about people who don’t know where the control panel is – even they can run and happily update Ubuntu (they have even accidently upgraded to the next version of Ubuntu. and everything still worked…. That has NEVER happened in the Windows world – i.e some non-technical person accidently updating Windows xp -> 7 …)

    My 64 yr old mother is also running it – its made her (old) pc into a machine she can use unlike the virus/spyware laden piece of crap that was windows XP before Ubuntu wa put on it – it used to be so so so slow it was unusable)

    There are no technical reasons why Linux cannot rule the desktop.

    It’s more things like this that have prevented the adoption (i.e not by Microsoft having a better product)

  3. grat
    July 9, 2012


    I spent the weekend digging through arcane links for ALSA and PulseAudio, in a nearly fruitless effort to get Alsa to downmix 5.1 to 3.1 (don’t ask). Eventually, I gave up, and handed the job off to my A/V receiver.

    ALSA is arcane, poorly documented, but works well. PulseAudio has “replaced” it, except PA was rolled out before it was ready, and it still doesn’t seem to be ready for primetime– Every time I’ve tried to use it, it’s been unstable.

    As someone who’s been using FreeBSD and/or Linux on the desktop for 20+ years, sound shouldn’t be as annoying as it is.

  4. Pingback: Why the Linux Desktop is dead.. a follow up post… « projectz

  5. Pingback: How to generat over 50 blog hits in 2 days.. Say something negative about linux. « projectz

  6. Pingback: How Ubuntu can save the Linux Desktop « projectz

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This entry was posted on July 8, 2012 by in comment, Google, Linux, Phones, Tablets, Ubuntu and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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