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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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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?