Re: 7 reasons why Linux won't succeed on the desktop20 Sep 2007 A friend of mine sent me the following link:
The article is titled "7 reasons why Linux won't succeed on the desktop" and seems to be written from a typical user perspective.
While I agree that most of these reasons are valid in their own sense, I'm not sure they combine to form a sufficient reason why Linux wouldn't succeed on the desktop.
Let's have an overview
- Prohibitive application porting costs
- The Fanboy alienation factor, or how Linux's biggest supporters drive away potential new users
- You can't make money on the operating system
- Resistance from average users
- Linux is "simple"; Windows "just works"
- There are way too many Linux distros
- No powerful evangelist for Linux comparable to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs
Prohibitive application porting costs
The article suggests that there is no support from popular applications for Linux, because Linux is too fragmented for developers to be able to develop an application that runs on all Linux distributions. And therefore, it would be too costly.
Where do I begin with this one...
Yes, linux is fragmented. And yes, it would be a pain for developers to create an application that runs on all these distributions. However, this is a more or less direct result from the fact that the application is not opensource. Suppose the application is opensource, then distribution maintainers would be able to fix the application so that it fits in their particular distribution. That's why the automake and autoconf tools were made in the first place: to find out what versions of different software are installed on the target machine and in what locations files should be installed.
Furthermore, Linux has standards like the Linux Standards Base and the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard which handle issues like this. Vendors need to only support those standards and their software will work automagically on a lot of Linux distributions (and frankly, they can just ignore the rest!)
Many software packages exist on all Linux distributions. For example vi, a text-editor, can be found on almost every Linux distribution. Gnome or KDE are more examples. OpenOffice, same thing. GIMP, Evolution, Firefox, InkScape, QCad and plenty of others can do it, so why can't commercial vendors find a way ?
Lastly, I would like to stress that there are many many free software alternatives to pretty much any closed-source software package you can buy. If vendors don't want to port their software to Linux because it costs too much, then that is no problem. Linux-users will find a way around the problem. If a piece of software doesn't exist in Linux and if it's needed, then it will be created using opensource tools, with open protocols, free of charge and with all features required by it's users. But maybe more importantly: Without all the unwanted features (you know, like license keys, absurd limitations, spy- and ad-ware and all that.)
The Fanboy alienation factor, or how Linux's biggest supporters drive away potential new users
I'm not even sure what this argument means. I suppose Linux Fanboys is a name for those "I am cooler than you" people using Linux and basically being asses on the internet. But how does that relate to the acceptance of Linux on a desktop ?
The article states that people who would like to try Linux, are put off by the jackasses on the internet. Well, maybe this is true if you're hanging around in the wrong places. But the same can be said for pretty much every other community. I have very bad memories of trying to get help for a Windows-related problem from the online Windows-community (If such a thing actually exists), which should prove that the "I am cooler than thou" jackasses are not just some Linux users...
That being said, let me clarify something for those of you who would like to try out Linux but are afraid of hungry wolves in shadows.
Ubuntu Linux (possibly the most popular Linux Distribution for the desktop at this moment) has a Code of Conduct for its community that basically states they should not act like jackasses.
Most Linux newbies who have just switched to Linux from some other OS believe that they are worth so much more than the average joe, and like to show it off whenever they can. This is childish or juvenile behavior. I have witnessed how such people can grow up and become friendly and helpful people.
And indeed, most experienced Linux users on the internet are kind people who will help where-ever they can, as long as they (sense that they) are not being abused.
I suggest reading this article on How to ask questions the smart way for more information.
You can't make money on the operating system
Like the article says, since a Linux desktop is free by design, you can't make money off of it. But is that really an issue ?
I like Linux so much just because it is free. I don't want to pay for something I can just download of the internet legally and use legally as well. Even better, I can just look under the hood and modify anything I want. Or I can just ignore all the details and just use Linux without knowing how it works and without making modifications.
Not being able to make money off of Linux might be an argument for corporations not providing Linux-support for their software, but not so for the users.
Users don't care about making money with their operating system. And since users are the ones using the Desktop, I believe the above argument is not valid.
Resistance from average users
To summarize this argument from the article: users are too brainwashed by years of Microsoft propaganda that they only want to use Microsoft.
That's a really short-term view of things. Yes, Microsoft has a lot of marketshare and it has infiltrated in all layers of society (including all the schools). But that is changing. A couple of governments have already converted to using Linux and I'm sure schools will follow too. Why shouldn't they after all ? Schools use computers to teach their students how to browse the internet and use a word processor. Both Windows and Linux come with those things by default. The difference is that you don't pay for Linux. So to save money, schools would be sane to let their students work with Linux.
If Linux is used more in schools, then we will see Linux's marketshare rise everywhere. After all, students of today are the employees of tomorrow.
Linux is "simple"; Windows "just works"
The argument here is that some people have problems booting Linux and that such problems don't appear in Windows.
That's true. I have experienced this myself with theadvent of the Core 2 Duo processors and the 965 chip that no longer had IDE support. But this was resolved as a kernelbug.
I agree that Linux still needs some work, but that doesn't disqualify it from being on a desktop...
There are way too many Linux distros
Unlike Linux, there is only 1 kind of Windows or MacOS and that's it. If the feature you want is not in it, you're screwed. If the bug you are experiencing is not fixed, you're screwed. If you have some special operating environment (if you're blind, or you edit video, or you work with robots or ...) and Windows or MacOS doesn't recognize the need for such platform, you're screwed.
Not so with Linux. Instead of having 1 "one size fits all" distribution, there are indeed a coupld hundred. Linux and Linux distributions grow organically. This is because of the opensource nature of it's software. Anyone can start a new distribution and hope people will like it. If it's a good idea, it will stick and other distributions will copy the new features.
Just like in nature, the strong survive. It's called evolution and just like in evolution, there is a pool of source material that mutates and copies material off of eachother and recombine it. The best specimens survive and make it to the next evolution cycle.
Why would it be a good thing if Linux was just 1 distribution and everyone used the same thing ? Such a thing implies strict leadership and decisionmaking. And decisionmaking invariable results in dissatisfaction of a small percentage of users.
In my opinion, it's a good thing that there are so many distributions. If I see some interesting feature in another distribution and I like it enough, I can try to get it adopted in my Linux distribution of choice (or even ALL Linux distributions). As a Linux user, I have that freedom, and I have that choice.
Nature has worked like this for billions of years and it still works. Who are we to argue with nature ?
No powerful evangelist for Linux comparable to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs
I don't understand this need to associate oneself with some famous person. "Oh look, Paris Hilton has new shoes, I just need to buy those too". Noone with a mind of their own cares what famous people do or don't.
The same thing goes for Gates or Jobs. I don't but Windows or an iPod because they sell them or have them. If I were to buy it, I would do so because it's useful.
Linus is in his right mind to remain a neutral person in all of this. There is no need to push Linux onto the desktop. It has all the elements to be there (as Ubuntu obviously proves). If people want it enough, they will use Linux on their desktop. Like I said, it's all about freedom and choice.
The article makes it look like Linux should be something people WANT to use on their desktop, while it isn't. In my regard, Linux is about freedom and choice. I don't care who does or doesn't use it. But let's not make claims about the future of a software that is constantly changing. That would be like saying that noone would ever need more than 640KB of RAM in their PC...