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Reality Check: Defining The True Success of Linux

Editor's Note: This is the second article in a new series by SUSE community marketing manager Brian Proffitt for Linux.com called "Reality Check" that will take a look at Linux in the real world. The first, 5 Linux Features You Want in Your Company, was published in May.

Brian-ProffittLet's talk about a touchy subject: the Linux desktop.

It's touchy because, by any reasonable measure, Linux on the desktop has yet to capture a significant market share of the desktop and portable PC platform.

This has to be said, right up front. It does not make me particularly happy to point this out, given all the great work being done on the desktop by openSUSE, Fedora, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and all of the environment and application projects out there.

But the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem, so here we are.

It is a common mistake to hear or read such statements and claim that they are the final word for the topic at hand: Linux on the desktop is not working now, so therefore that will always be the case.

Given the way things change on a daily basis, and not just in technology, drawing that line in the sand seems very premature. Already there are signs of progressing success in the marketplace for Linux-based devices like the Chromebook. Consumers in the marketplace are realizing that they don't need an over-powered PC device if all they want to do is consume content, thus the shift to tablet devices and systems like the Chromebook, which affords users some productivity tools that tablets can lack. Jim Zemlin himself blogged about this phenomenon, noting that the rise of Android and tablet computing has created the “Post-Desktop World,” after the release of Windows 8 last October.

In the face of this kind of user shift, there is clear evidence that the state of the Linux desktop is changing, adapting to use cases that don't have the same requirements as the old Linux desktop had.

Ah, but that's a cop-out, some would argue: Linux didn't win on the desktop, so you're changing the definition of what the desktop is. Putting aside for a moment that it's the market that's establishing the definition of the desktop, I can still admit that Linux has not established itself as a desktop contender… yet.

What is bothersome is that in light of this shortcoming, desktop Linux becomes the poster child for the overall failure of Linux everywhere in the marketplace.

This is, categorically, the dumbest assumption ever.

The success of Linux cannot be simply measured by its performance on the desktop. Linux is everywhere, running a majority of the servers on the Internet, powering integrated systems everywhere, being the platform for big data implementations, be it commodity Hadoop servers or in-memory databases like SAP HANA. Linux is, without hyperbole, one of the most successful software implementations in history.

So, if you want to label "desktop Linux" a "failure"--and we can argue about that narrow definition--then maybe we can live with that. Linux on the desktop has not succeeded--yet--but that in no way limits the overall success of Linux everywhere else.

 

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  • Christopher Wortman Said:

    Ok the problem with the Linux desktop is and I am quoting you here: "given all the great work being done on the desktop by openSUSE, Fedora, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and all of the environment and application projects out there" SEE THIS POINT, it works stop developing the desktop, and develop some much needed applications to make the Linux desktop a usable experience... HELLO I HOPE YOU ARE LISTENING BECAUSE THERE IS STILL HOPE. Just stop developing your distribution, take the entire development team, do some good old fashioned R&D and make some applications. The problem IS specifically all of the work being done to 9 million different variations of the desktop, there are more distributions than there are colors in the rainbow, and over 75% of them directed at the desktop. Reinventing the wheel is not the way to go about it, if all you focus on are the rims. You need tires, shock absorbers, tie-rod, ends, ball joints... etc. You need all the little amenities to make it worth using... Whats the point of using Linux on the desktop with no desktop applications? You have all these people tackling a problem that doesn't exist except in their own minds, saying "I can make the wheel rounder!" and nobody is working on the stuff people want. I could see if it was like it was in 2004 and you had broken sound, and installing a printer was like rocket science, but its not anymore, so stop developing all these desktops and make some applications. Even better put a price tag on them and sell them and make a living off of it... who knew you could make a living off of applications...? Ask Adobe, Sony, Alias, and all of these developers who develop for Windows and Apple for directions. Someone has to get the ball rolling...

  • Fred Said:

    So exactly what applications are you missing?

  • Mrali Said:

    for example an office suit. i know there are many office suits in linux but non of them are compatible with MS Office. libre office and open office are the best linux office suits but when you compare them with MS Office, you will find that linux offices are like a joke!

  • Kjetil Kilhavn Said:

    Could you please be a little more specific? We are not in 2004, and I can't say I miss any features when I use Libreoffice. In fact I would say that any user who starts using a computer now - e.g children in any school - would find their needs covered by LibreOffice or another free office suite. The main software problem is specialised applications, where there is not a large user group. Businesses, and even schools, can run those virtualised, but that is not a realistic possibility for individuals.

  • Mrali Said:

    when i compare libre office with ms office i can see that ms office has more features and at the same time it is more polished (both of its interface and performance). in libre office even for doing a simple task such as adding page number, you have to do some tricky acts! or add some extension to it (i use libre office 3.5 in ubuntu 12.04).

  • sola Said:

    I don't agree at all. For a starter, that idiotic ribbon interface of MS Office is a total no-go for everyone who actually wants to work with the thing. The menu/toolbar interface is way more effective. LibreOffice and OpenOffice have 100% of the daily used features. It may not have some exotic little features that MS Office has but believe me 95% of the people just don't care about them. MS Office file compatibility of Open/LibreOffice is absolutely good enough for typical projects. Yes, it is no good for complex formatted documents in that case you cannot use both of them in the authoring process.

  • HALLOWDEMON.NET Said:

    This is the place where open source software fails. They wont agree that any of the open source office software available is polished and pleasing to the user. First of all keep in mind that most of the time the users of office suit is not techie people. They want a polished, easy to use, less confusing one. But many open source guys simply decide that Libreoffice or open office is enough for everybody... if that was true, why microsoft office products sell this much?.. its a fact that M$ office rules now. So without providing near perfect document compatibility, ease of use and UI similarity, none of these office suits are going to win the mass...

  • Vic Said:

    I'm sure most of us who use linux are largely happy with what we have, however, there is obviously a potential for really great linux development that is LOST because so many potential developers who would otherwise be available to make LibreOffice, Gimp, or whatever, the true killer app that no one could live without, are currently busy making there little tweak of Ubuntu that serves 46 people have unique wallpaper. I see a real NEED for a small handful of distros: A nice user friendly one like Ubuntu, a highly configurable one for power users like Arch, a server one like Debian, and maybe a really light-weight one for old machines, like Puppy. Perhaps I'd also add one that is pre-configured for business users. But that's about it. And preferably they should all use the same package system. More than that is just ego getting in the way. Linux, as we all know, is configurable enough so that if you don't find what you want out of the box with Ubuntu, you can easily change it - or in my example start with the minimalist distro and build up. All the other 95% of developers could then be freed up to improve the programs we all use, AND it would be less confusing to Windows users who consider trying out linux.

  • Bart Said:

    The only features "missing" have to do with scripting and some advanced features that no regular consumer would ever use. I can open and save to any office format and modify, save and open on any MS office using machine on the planet. So unless you design Access databases or use advanced script features of Excel or Word there is nothing MS Office does that Libre Office doesn't. and it is about $700.00 cheaper.

  • Elias Johan Said:

    LibreOffice is not lacking any of the features that an average consumer would require, and to succeed on the desktop, one will have to capture the heart of the average consumer, not the power-users of MS Office still living in their cave...

  • Rob Said:

    Actually, that was my initial reaction to the ribbon interface as well, but once you start using it and learn where to find things (which doesn't take long), it is actually much more effective and efficient than the old interface. The way things are presented just makes it much faster. I use LibreOffice for personal tasks, since I like to be in Linux, but the compatibility with MSWord isn't good enough for my work, so I'm unfortunately still stuck in Windows for work-related matters.

  • Chad Sutton Said:

    I find LibreOffice to be generally BETTER in most ways than MS Office. I find it difficult to believe you've actually used them in any way. I used OpenOffice for 18 months exclusively in a Fortune 100 company and had no issues. No one noticed and I had no problems converting documents or using Microsoft's native formats.

  • Scott Said:

    Opening the Insert menu, pointing to Fields, and clicking Page Number is tricky? Or am I missing a thread of sarcasm in your post?

  • Kevin Lynch Said:

    LibreOffice.org is no harder to use than MS-Office. I had to look up a help forum to find out how to "save-as" because that's no included by default on the ribbon with no obvious way of adding it. The simple fact of the matter is, if you are going to use any software properly. You will need to take on some sort of training and deal with the learning curve. Non-technie people figured out how to use productivity suits back in the days of MS-DOS, the Atari ST and the Amiga. Now talking of complex projects. LibreOffice.org's Writer can handle larger files than MS-Word because it comes from a DTP heritage. Word began life as a glorified text editor. One is for your receptionist. The other is for people who actually do some real work.

  • Bernd Paysan Said:

    When I installed a new (Windows) PC for my sister and her husband earlier this year, I installed Libre Office for them to try it before they decide to buy a new MS Office. They were happy with everything. The problem of Linux on the desktop is much more the fact that Windows still is pre-installed everywhere, thanks to Microsofts unfair contracts. Non-techie users just take what's on the PC, and don't want to fiddle and install another OS. The EU mandated a browser selection tool, but what you really need for fair competition is an OS selection tool. And that you need to pay for Windows, if you choose so (and you don't need to if you choose one of the several Linux and *BSD versions). That sort of regulation would be a game-changer, as people then could try Linux first ("doesn't cost anything"), and then, when they are not satisfied, go, pay the price, and install Windows instead. Chromebooks are accepted, because here, the thing is wrapped up by the manufacturer, and you can't buy a Windows Chromebook. But Chromebooks are crippled Linux systems. Well, most of the success places for Linux with end users are systems we would call "crippled" - Android, WLAN and Internet APs, NAS storage, all that stuff is Linux for end users, and it's not a Linux workstation. Maybe we should just stop calling the Linux systems from OpenSuSE, Fedora, Ubuntu, and others "desktop systems". They are workstation systems, they are for engineers, and they did replace all the other Unix workstations; that is a tremendous success here. It's just not a desktop system in the narrow sense of Windows.

  • Lee Said:

    This is really more of a "what I have been trained on" answer than an argument that someting is better. My experience with MS Office has not been good. However, when people say that MS Office has all these different features, I really wonder if they are aware that most people don't use most of the features in ANY program of this type.

  • Percy Said:

    Like to disagree with your comment !!! Libre Office are capable of more than ms office. Ribbon menu not that critical.

  • anonymous Said:

    It's lacking the ability to do half-decent backgrounds on a slideshow. It might have all the necessary features, but between icons that don't mean anything to me and the weird way everything is organized, I tried to change the background of a slide to test if it was improved on the new version and I couldn't figure out how to do it and decided not to mess with it. I might figure it out after 15 minutes, but that's not worth it. Seriously, I wish it was good enough but libreoffice sucks.

  • Martin Wildam Said:

    It's not so much the Office suite or some of the standard programs like Mailclient, browsing etc - the biggest problem is all the business(-specific) applications ranging from CAD to ERP and so on. Unfortunately another problem with every kind of software on Linux is compatibility with proprietary formats. Although you could use Libre Office also on Windows using the od* formats you get emailed those windows-formats by partner companies.

  • Bart Said:

    you obviously have never used any version of Linux in the last year or you wouldn't make such a stupid comment. I have used Linux as my main OS for 8 years and today the only App I know of that there isn't a drop in replacement for is Turbo Tax and some AAA games that haven't been ported yet (although a large number run under Wine). Office, Media, Browsers, streaming music apps, streaming media servers and clients, full productivity suites etc. I have been happily doing all of this virus free for 8 years. Can you say the same??

  • Mrali Said:

    when you compare some of linux applications with windows ones, you will find linux's are like a toy. for example: Libre Office vs. MS Office Adobe Photoshop vs. Gimp also linux has some other shortage comparing to windows such as more power consumption, heating problem in some laptops, graphics drivers problems etc. we should know: "first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem".

  • Bart Said:

    There is no problem. you are comparing apples to oranges. You say Linux sucks because it isn't exactly like Windows.... Duh... thank God it isn't exactly like Windows otherwise Linux would be plagued by over 2 million viruses/malware/spyware and would cost hundreds of dollars to purchase and we would be forced to have it installed on computers we bought at the store. Again, you have never ever, ever even used Linux Mrali, that is obvious by your comments. So, if there is anyone reading this that is interested in trying Linux. Don't listen to Bill Gates cousin Mrali. There is virtually nothing Windows has or can do that you can't do just as well using Linux. End of story.

  • MrAli Said:

    dear Bart, i want to add that i am using ubuntu in my laptop exclusively for more than two years. i formated my laptop hard and erased its windows vista (factory built) in favor of ubuntu. also i have some month experience with openSUSE before ubuntu. but in my office in a company with more than 10000 employees i should work with windows XP and MS Office 2007. therefore i know both of them completely. you said i am comparing apple with orange, No! i am comparing an office suit (or and Os) with another one (in fact, both of them are apples). now, please answer to me: how do you add page number to a document in libreoffice? i bet it is a daily task that is needed in simple documents most of the time and is not a professional task for professional documents. i think Libre Office

  • MrAli Said:

    continue: ... i think Libre Officever even used windows and MS office Bart! that is obvious because you think Libre Office=MS office!!! Brat, if they are equal and have the same features and abilities why most of people and organizations pay so much $ to buy MS Office over free and open Libre Office?

  • Lee Said:

    Are you aware that most governments, including the US, and major corporations around the world are switching to the Linux desktop? And for reasons such as cost but also, more importantly, they are tired of all the necessary security upgrades to keep intruders out. Linux doesn't have much of a security problem and viruses no problem at all. They also appreciate open source software which can be easily modified to fit their needs. I have used Linux for more than ten years now and have never had to reboot due to some programming error or system glitch. Even MS will tell you that for Windows to operate effectively it must be rebooted regularly. I think you have made it clear that, no matter what the difference, you will not give up your Windows, and that is your choice. But don't act like it's the only real OS and Linux is just a toy -- the Linux OS runs the majority of the world's servers.

  • Chris Said:

    Just to prove your point, here is the output from uptime on my PC: 18:50:21 up 41 days, 1:26, 3 users, load average: 0.34, 0.35, 0.44 41 days and counting...

  • Mrinmoy Said:

    I have been using Both Windows and Linux for last 5 years. The only reason I couldn't use Linux as main OS is Adobe CS Suit. Yes, there is GIMP and Inkscape, but they can never replace CS Suit. I really wish for a true alternative in Linux. And I don't understand why people mention virus all the time. I installed MSE in Windows 7 and it did the update in the background. Right now I'm using Windows 8 and Defender comes along with it. I don't have to do anything manually. And like that I have never got any virus in the last 4 years. If a computer gets virus these days, the person using it must be dumb. The more serious things these days are online account hacking and privacy invasion (NSA). So get over with the whole Windows virus thing. There may be hundreds of Linux distro. But look wise, most of them feels like they were build 10 years ago. Even the latest KDE icons (specially the system tray icons) looks horrible. Why can't they make them look polished and elegant? I think the developers are not concerned about the looks, they build things according to their needs. If so, why bother about making Linux popular. Let Windows and Mac OS take over the world.

  • Kevin Lynch Said:

    I wonder if you'll be so keen on Adobe software when it's all cloud based. Because that is where they are headed.

  • Mrinmoy Said:

    According to my knowledge, Adobe Creative Cloud is not web based software. You need to install it online on your computer, The software will be present on your machine like now. But to use it you need to subscribe online, eg. $50 per month per application.

  • Kevin Lynch Said:

    Well if Adobe are forcing you to subscribe on-line. What's the difference? You still need a web connection to get up and running. It might as well be hosted on a server a 1000 miles away. And I reckon Adobe will quickly come to that realisation.

  • Martin Wildam Said:

    I don't know any company that is not using a branch specific software that is Windows-only. And the chance is good for any private person to have some hobby or work specific Windows-only program. That's always my primary problem with migrations: Find substitutes for the more specific programs.

  • Kevin Lynch Said:

    That's not as relevant a point as it used to be. Alternatives are available for most things. It's really only the highly specialised obscure tasks that might need software to be specifically written for them. But hey, the same was true for all OS's at one point or another. Windows wasn't born into the world with an application for every scenario. And even with all the inertia Windows has. It still doesn't have an application for every scenario. Which is why writing software for Windows still brings in a pay cheque. So here we have our imaginary situation where we need to write some software to do a specific task? I don't see that as being a migration problem. New software gets written all the time. It's more of an attitude problem. Businesses have forgotten that once upon a time, they used to write all their software in-house. It would also really benefit smaller businesses with common interests to band together and commission software as a group. They can each then adapt that software to their own specific individual needs. And they can even do that on Windows if they want to. ... well at least for the time being.

  • Oz Said:

    DAMN RIGHT! Take for example GNOME, I can't recommend it for anyone. But just an example application, PDFViewer. The PDF format is REALY important for anyone writing academic papers, and many people writing comments. And sharing the PDF with their comments. This is a feature that waits on the EVINCE Bugzilla for ages. Yes, since lately, you could create comments. But not edit them, or remove them. So it is a half baked feature in June 2013. And this is just an example. Most Linux app are crappy. Because the big Distros don't focus of that. I love Linux and a FOSS. But most of my Application in Linux don't come from GNOME or KDE, rather from small development projects, which don't have the ability to reach the masses. If SuSE did focus on the APPS instead of reinventing again YaST in Ruby, maybe we had some chance. Frankly, who needs another YaST? I work for a company which administrates ca. 10,000 SuSE machines in Germany. Believe me, no a single user of our clients cares about YaST, and we don't we administer the machines using a SALT\CHEF like product. Our users also don't want GNOME3, hell some of them are still in love with their classic TWM. But they do want a decent "Outlook" like suite for Linux, or other decent apps. SuSE for exmple should fight back and by shares of Dassault system and put back CATIA on Linux, because right now most CAD for Cars is done by CATIA[1]. And M$ did a smart move to kill the Linux native client by partnering with Dassault System. The Linux Foundation SuSE and RHEL should really fight against that, instead of waisting resources on GNOME3 or KDE4. [1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CATIA

  • Paula Hunter Said:

    I have written about this myself, and it is not just an application issue, it is an ease of use issue. Developers must consider the end user, and if that is a consumer, then assume they know nothing about "distros" and are not interested in learning. I recently downloaded Ubuntu on my Dell laptop. Unfortunately, there were no drivers for my wifi. After reading some very detailed suggested work-arounds, I simply gave up. You cannot succeed in a mass market if the basics are this problematic. That said, I could not agree more, Linux has been hugely successful on servers and embedded in all kinds of devices. If you follow the money and margins, it is evident that the desktop market will not see investments to remedy the problem for the consumer segment.

  • Ken Said:

    If you purchase a Linux system from the start, then you would not have issues with drivers. In that case, the vendor would not sell you hardware that has no drivers. Just like you purchased your system most likely with Windows, there would be drivers for all of the hardware components with the version of Windows you purchased. In your case you are trying to convert a system to run under LInux and expecting everything to work perfectly. The system was designed for Windows. You might even have problems trying to get that system to run with another version of Windows because the various hardware vendors for the components in your system may not have drivers for all versions of Windows. Linux is extremely easy to use if you consume it on a system which contains the hardware that was chosen specifically for Linux.

  • Scott Said:

    It doesn't matter if end users don't know how to deal with installation and driver configuration; they don't know how to do that with Windows, either. That is not the starting point for those people. They start from a properly installed and configured Windows system and start pointing and clicking to their heart's content. They can do the same with a properly installed and configured Linux system without having to learn anything different. Your Dell laptop was designed for Windows. If you had done what I did, buy a computer designed specifically for Linux, your experience with installation and configuration would have been far different. Your experience has nothing to do with what would happen with Linux computers created for a mass market. Mass market computers are not sold with the expectation that the buyer will install their own operating system. You seem to be assuming that if a computer works with Windows, it ought to work with Linux, but that is simply not a valid presumption. If you follow the money on Chromebook sales on Amazon, you might come to a different conclusion.

  • Kevin Lynch Said:

    Except the desktop market has seen that investment. Dell sell Ubuntu pre-installed in Asia as do other OEMs. And I'm talking on the shelf retail here. Not Dell's weird hidden in the bowels of it's website nonsense western customers have to put up with. The issue is not the software. It's the users or rather the decision makers and their stubborn refusal to change. It's only when cost pressures force the issue do we see change. And there have been a number of high profile Linux deployments in the west that show this. Munich being one of the most recent.

  • Lee Said:

    Not sure what wifi you have but there is generally no problems; most wifi systems are not "problematic". BUT that was one situation where even Windows has problems. You can't tell me that Windows operates on all systems w/o any problems. If all it takes is a problem with your wifi to give up on a system then I'm not sure how you operate on an error-prone system such as Windows. Ubuntu is VERY user friendly and has a great community if you have any problems.

  • Bart Said:

    Then you should try Linux Mint which is an Ubuntu variant that has a lot of the commercial driver support that Ubuntu requires you to install, already installed. http://www.linuxmint.com/

  • Bart Said:

    you should also check this out as well as any of Spatry's other videos to help you out. http://youtu.be/HD6nqQrJx78 this is a welcome to linux.

  • joncr Said:

    Linux has been successful in the space where users are skilled and knowlegable: The enterprise and server arena. Linux remains a distant also-ran in the desktop arena, which is populated by people who have no more interest in making an effort to get their computer to work than they do in making an effort in getting their TV to work. Indeed, the difference between the two appliances is minimal, in their eyes. Every time a a Linux flavor makes an effort to appeal to Typical Desktop Users, it is attacked and savaged from within by people for whom the Linux learning curve seems a treasured rite of passage. As long as that attitude persists, as long as too many Linux enthusiasts find traversing that learning curve to be an important ego boost, desktop Linux will trail the pack.

  • Fred Said:

    No one is "savagely attacked" Linux is easy to learn. Install is the problem. If it came pre-installed then users would be able to adapt. They adapt to Chromebooks and W8 and Android tablets.

  • Bart Said:

    Bingo.... That has always been the problem. If the default OS was Linux people would catch up quick. The problem isn't lack of applications or quality of applications it's that most people won't switch because they don't want to learn something new. That's why windows 8 is having so many problems but even that will eventually win because people don't have the option of buying a PC with windows 7 or Linux on it so eventually everyone will use win 8. Being in a Monopoly position has it's benefits but it certainly doesn't make your product the best.

  • Perry Said:

    After windows vista corrupted the boot sector on my wife's hard drive, I installed CentOs, and she uses it daily. Only problem is web based games that have memory leaks and cause the machine to freeze up... She likes everything else..

  • nycat Said:

    Perry, may I recommend Fedora over CentOS? CentOS tends to have very old versions of applications.

  • Kjetil Kilhavn Said:

    If that was MacOS it would be marketed as "with built-in features to prevent your kids from spending too much time playing online games" ;-)

  • Chris Said:

    @Bart: The issue that Paula has with Ubuntu is more then likely apparent in Linux Mint as well as it is based on Ubuntu(uses the same kernel). The Broadcom driver(b43) has to be blacklisted before boot of the live cd then install the OS then b43. The workaround should not take more then 5 seconds for the experienced. For the avarage Win/Mac user however, it could be frightening. @Paula: For this you can blame the hardware manufacturers such as Broadcom and the likes, don't wanna say names but thinking of you Nvidia and AMD/Ati. They don't realize that they are not a software company and we don't need their stupid software suite we want the OS to handle all hardware without all the unnecessary bloatware running in the background "strengthening their brand" and slowing our computer. Managing hardware is the domain of the OS(kernel to be specific). Installing new hardware on Linux is much easier then on other systems, if the hardware company is willing to cooperate. For instance when I got my HP printer I did not need to mess around with a CD/DVD or download anything at all, just to connect my printer to my router and add the printer in the settings, where it was already visible from the network. Took me less then a minute without reading any manual/howto whatsoever. I wish all hardware companies had the same attitude as HP.

  • Bart Said:

    Granted some hardware is difficult to work out of the box but that isn't an issue with Linux per se' but with that specific Broadcom driver. Mint, however, does include a number of drivers that aren't included by default on Ubuntu itself and may already have the open source b43 driver included. The advantage Windows has is being installed by the manufacturer who then makes sure all the hardware works properly and all drivers are properly installed as well. I have installed Windows from scratch on machines before that I couldn't get hardware to work because I needed to first download a driver for it and install it. So the benefit is being a monopoly and pre-installed, not because it is inherently better.

  • iamtiger Said:

    Not enough people, now or ever will really care about Linux... They feel like its nice that its out there.. (More choices than ever) However most people don't want that headache... They want something that's commercial, widely used, updated on a regular cycle, heavily supported and recognizable... Linux will probably always have its small community of supporters, but that's about it... The amazing thing is... That its done as well as its done..

  • Scott Said:

    It's only amazing if you accept the premise that very few people use Linux. It has a huge pool of developers who apparently have no audience. Yet, new versions of the kernel, of distributions, and of applications for it are released at a faster pace than in either the Microsoft or Apple ecosystems. And for a system with so few users, it has no problem generating buzz. Other dead and dying operating systems never had it so good.

  • Jeffrey Davidson Said:

    Perhaps some have unrealistic expectations. Linux may never replace Windows on the desktop but that does not mean it is not successful. Ask any Mac user...it is a very successful project in its own right with its very loyal and happy users but it will never replace Windows on the desktop either. I look at Linux as a third party alternative to Windows or the Mac and in its own right is already successful. I have not used Windows since Ubutnu Warty and have been happy ever since.

  • Jay Elem Said:

    *Is* Linux such a failure on the desktop? I've been using Linux as my main desktop OS since 2006 an since then it *seems* at least like Linux has gained huge numbers of desktop users. I don't disagree at all that there could/should be many more desktop users but from where I sit desktop Linux usage looks very healthy. I see tonnes of forums and websites for Linux desktop users and I think it would be hard to find a person who thinks it a strange or novel idea that people use Linux as their main OS. Sure, many of those people might still think of it as 'the geeky' OS or have some other common misconceptions but they know what linux *is* and aren't surprised that many people use it. And it seems to be growing in popularity. Linux on the desktop has lots of room to grow still, but i don't see things being in too sad a state.

  • edmondt Said:

    There exists a basic problem here: the creation of a problem which SHOULD exist, but which--in all reality--was the victim of circumstances and never got a fighting chance to exist. Linux came along, and matured, as Microsoft was tightening its grip everywhere, including the desktop. Linux was maturing EVERYWHERE, but rightly due to market forces, not able to make any headway on "the desktop", whatever that is now that we're in the grip of one gigantic paradigm shift. While Microsoft was gloating about its stranglehold on "the desktop", we users who saw our salvation from Microsoft in the form of a 'Linux revolution' were continually bemoaning the fact that there was no "Linux on the Desktop". All the while, really major advances to Linux has resulted in its being adopted by an extremely large part of the world where ANY form of computing is used. All this, right under Microsoft's nose. REJOICE in the fact that by being a dinosaur, Microsoft has won a pyhrric victory, from which they will never recover. REJOICE in the fact that Linux has won; just quit fixating on "The Desktop". Simply put it

  • salparadise Said:

    Linux has been ready for the desktop for years. It's the Desktop, currently controlled by narrow minded money addicts, that isn't ready for Linux. When MS either disintegrate or are forced to 'play nice' things might change, until then, it's nasty dishonest monopoly time.

  • Bernardo Verda Said:

    In other words: 1a) Linux has done very well in any arena where MS didn't already hold (and abuse) an effective monopoly position. 1b) The interesting thing is that Microsoft hasn't been able to extinguish Linux in it's monopoly stronghold, either. I guess that can be scored a draw? - - - - - - 2) this whole evaluation is based on comparing Linux -- an open, non-proprietary project, freely available, to Windows -- a a closed, proprietary Microsoft product that costs significant sums for the software, and sold as a proprietary, non-fungible product, or to OSX/iOS -- a closed proprietary Apple product sold cheaply as part of an expensive (and seemingly also non-fungible) hardware product. This is somewhat like complaining that craft knits fail because most people stick to brand name products from Big Name Corp, etc. It's not comparing apples to oranges -- it's comparing fresh apples to "Brand X tinned apple sauce".

  • Mrali Said:

    i think one of the most important advantages of windows over linux is its office suit. if there was microsoft office suit available in linux, it can get much more user.

  • salparadise Said:

    LibreOffice is more powerful than MSOffice, what it struggles with is proprietary file types from Microsoft, which they will not share, designed to control the market. It makes LibreOffice look like a pale imitation, which is Microsoft's intention. I can't speak for Photoshop v Gimp, other than to say, for 90+% of all users, the Gimp is perfectly sufficient and offers far more options than most people will ever use. Linux software is not toylike, it's often more powerful, but requires more knowledge of the subject than the "point and click wizard guided - designed so you can pretend to be a professional without having to go through all that tedious learning" nonsense-ware so beloved of Windows users. The first step to real debate is honesty.

  • sola Said:

    Absolutely agree that the application palette should be wider and typical big WIndows apps like Photoshop should have native implementations. (There are people who just cannot learn alternatives.) The Linux Foundation should work on persuading companies to prepare such ports.

  • Tuokki Said:

    Sorry folks (Hardcore OpenSource tribe). We need a Apps Store for Linux desktop which is common to the major Linux distributors (lets say with top five distributos). If Linux Destop is not a bussiness we not see that market share begin to grow ! Is it desirable. This is another question. The same analogy applies to OEM PC manufacturers. Where there is interest programs are also users (both commercial and OpenSource based). When the Linux PC's market share growin. Developers have the motivation to develop new and interesting programs. There is nothing strange in this. The same trend is seen with Android. Tuokki

  • Robert Pogson Said:

    This assumption, "by any reasonable measure, Linux on the desktop has yet to capture a significant market share of the desktop and portable PC platform." is just wrong. Walmart.com.br sells more GNU/Linux desktops than that other OS. The web stats which mostly reflect consumer usage because of corporate firewalls/security are biased against GNU/Linux which is still not on retail shelves in some places. That has changed though. India, China and now the world have GNU/Linux on retail shelves with Canonical's efforts and Google's Chromebooks. So, the premise of the article is wrong. GNU/Linux is at least as relevant globally as MacOS and primed to expand much farther and faster. Even the web stats show GNU/Linux in USA at 2.56% on Statcounter: http://gs.statcounter.com/#os-US-daily-20130401-20130617 , with huge increases in the last two months. How is that not significant? Meanwhile, M$'s share has dropped to around 75% by the same counter. Remember, M$ used to be 95%+. So, the OS wars are not over and GNU/Linux is doing quite well. We now have OEMs, retailers and consumers finding GNU/Linux works for them and it costs less and comes on a wider variety of hardware. Where is the downside? Legacy apps? Very few are using them these days except in business and they are switching to web applications.

  • Robort Said:

    Linux Desktop is far from dead, it is really starting. Every day, when I fire up my browser I am greeted with this beautiful text "Available on Windows, Mac and Linux". I am talking about games. I think when big titles comes, Linux will gain significant number of users. These users might not be programmers (which Linux does not lack), but they are one of the most important community of users, that is going to change Linux is a significant and a good way. These are gamers, who will demand best performances for their hardware on Linux. This will in turn compel graphics vendors to improve their drivers even more. These people will be indirect testers to many software as well. I see a very bright future for Linux. Linux might not have Photoshop, or Microsoft Office, but when Linux starts to gain users, that don't depend on these software, rest will follow, when the ripple effect happens. I might be wrong, but this is what I believe, next 5 years is going to be.

  • Mohan P Said:

    At present the Linux desktop is at par with Windows as far as usability is concerned. Basically it all boils down to familiarity of usage. Most people are exposed to the Windows environment and hence say that it is better than Linux (which is also true for the MS Office-Libreoffice argument for most users) and some of us who have been using Linux say it is better. Since Windows users are more in number people have an immediate source to clarify any doubt they may have in using Windows. The installation of the OS again has a lot to do with acceptance. Today most PC technicians know how to install Windows but only a few know to install Linux.

  • Josh Reuben Said:

    Im in the process of moving from an MS dev environment to Linux full time - there is a substantial learning curve, but I'm sure it will pay off salary wise !

  • @superkongen Said:

    I've been using linux desktop for years now, starting with mandrake and now on ubuntu. To me, the low desktopshare doesn't bother me. I've still got dozens of different de's to choose from, and they're all being actively developed. Great, free, stable open source apps too for all my needs. So I'm already dancing naked through desktop-paradise. But, the reasons as I see them for the low linux desktop share (in ranking order): 1: As good as all desktop/laptop computers people buy come with ms windows installed. I estimate that 80-90 percent of dektop users are 'casual' users. They take it home from the shop, turn it on and start using it. Usually by opening the web browser. With the discontent with win8 and the low pc-sales i can not understand why some big pc producer haven't even tried to put out a couple of ubuntu laptops or something. 2: Some people are addicted to certain win/mac apps. A linux port of the adobe suit would have made it a lot easier for a lot of people to consider linux desktop. With games it looks like it's finally happening. A lot of dualbooters will spend a lot more time running linux. 3: Annoying proprietary stuff, like silverlight or idevices. 4: Still a couple of linux-lazy hardwareproducers. The fragmentation I don't see as a problem. It boils down to couple of big distributions based on .rpm or .deb package system. And it's just fantastic that apart from those, there's a distro for almost every need. Choice is a good thng! And so is competitiom.

  • tomazzi Said:

    Hi, The facts are, whether You like it or not, that Linux has no chances on desktop - not because lack of apps - we have most of the applications ready and in good shape for the end user. The reason is, that we have no real DE - maybe with exception of KDE (and maybe - maybe - XFCE and Enlightment). Why? All of Linux DEs are constantly changing and are never finished. Things like OpenBox, BlackBox, LXDE, IceWM, etc are for peoples who actually prefer to tweak configuration files over USING apps ON deskop. Additionally (and unfortunatelly) a myth exist, which tells the users that those toy DEs are good, because of their low resource requirements - which is an illusion, because ALL counting applications are written in QT/GTK or wxGTK - so launching them requires loading of whole runtime subsystem(s) : GTK/QT - therefore resource savings are just illusion, nothing more. Unity is a joke - degraded GL performance in games, and while support for Unity2D is dropped, performance is catastrophically degraded when running without HW 3D acceleration. It's confgurability is close to zero - to the point, where user has to manually edit desktop files to create custom launcher - this is not DE for end users. Gnome3 is still unstable, mutter is significantly slower than old good Compiz, and each week we can hear that another good, tested and wanted feature will be dropped from project. Really Not Funny. After Gnome2 have died, we have only one DE ready for typical end users - KDE - it still have bugs - but it's ready to the point where average End User can setup basic preferences in few clicks (like logos, wallpapers, launchers, desktop effects) - withou digging in manuals and config files. Linux on daesktop has no chances - there is no serious DE for Linux. ... and I'm writting this as an all-the-time unsupported Gnome2 user, who otherwise is very happy with Linux. I'm using my desktop for tasks starting from OpenCl programming, trough electronic simulations and some CAD projects using OpenDynamics, ending with usual desktop activities, like watching movies, listening music and playing games (err... it means, my children are playing game, including those running in WINE) Have a nice day ! :)

  • Robert Pogson Said:

    tomazzi wrote, "The reason is, that we have no real DE". Users don't care about any of those things. They mostly use PCs to browse the web and don't need 3D rendering or any such frills. Users want to click on things and make things happen. GNU/Linux does that very well. In fact, most PCs that I have examined over the last decade absolutely idled while users typed or browsed. My PC is 5 years old, obsolete by many measures and I run servers and databases on it as well as desktop stuff and it rarely gets above 10% usage. It has 4 cores for pity's sake. In real-world situations my PC could please 30 simultaneous users. I have done that many times with GNU/Linux thin client terminal servers. Largo, FL can have 400 simultaneous users each needing only ~$100-worth of server. I can build terminal servers for about $25 per user. What GNU/Linux needs is to get on retail shelves. It's getting there now and it is selling.

  • tomazzi Said:

    I think that You don't catch the problem - when it comes to servers, supercomputers or tiny embedded systems Linux is the only reasonable way to go - because IT proffessionals, scientists, engineers want and need open source system which can be "easily" modified or scaled to their needs. But first: professionals on desktops are using applications and applications are using desktop API for integration with desktop services - and programmers want one working API instead of 20 semi-complete and constantly changing projects. Second: WEB browsing or watching movies is only part of users activity - users want and need to have desktop comparable to MAC or Windows in terms of easiness of usage (this means also configuration).

  • Lee Said:

    "The facts are, whether You like it or not, that Linux has no chances on desktop". Seems like I have heard those famous last words before: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943 "I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last the year." - Chief Business Editor, Prentice Hall, 1957 "Yeah, microchips, but what... is it good for?" - an IBM senior engineer, 1968 "There is no reason anyone in the right state of mind will want a computer in their home." - Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977 "Microcomputers are the tool of the 80's. BASIC is the language that all of them use. So the sooner you learn BASIC, the sooner you will understand the microcomputer revolution." - 30 Hour BASIC Standard, 1981 And let's not forget: "640k is enough for anyone, and by the way, what's a network?" - William Gates III, President of Microsoft Corporation, 1984

  • MrAli Said:

    ... you have never ever, ever even used windows and MS office Bart! that is obvious because you think Libre Office=MS office!!! Brat, if they are equal and have the same features and abilities why most of people and organizations pay so much $ to buy MS Office over free and open Libre Office?

  • RitaCeleste Said:

    The problem is the average user is not aware that there are usable versions of Linux they could use at home. Even in public schools, they assume kids have MS office to do there reports on. My kid had to do a report in Open Office and in MS Office her slideshow would not work. I myself didn't find Ubuntu until I had a damaged computer Windows would not install on and I had to have an operating system until I could afford a new computer. My ex owns a rent own store, he had a laptop that lost the OEM code for Windows and he put Ubuntu on it. I ended up getting it cheap because he felt it wasn't sellable without Windows. People don't know about Linux or Linux programs. I was aware of Linux long before I discovered the music programs for it. Everyone wants the ability to install any program on their PC even if they never bother to buy any of those programs or learn to use them. Plus their computer comes with Windows whatever, might as well use it. I would think the war on piracy would drive some people to Linux simply to avoid all the hassles of getting a cracked program. Also you have people using computers that don't know what a command line is. Add that to the fact typing in commands from a forum does not always workout as expected.... That, my friend, is what will make new users think Linux is a geeks-only toy. The programs could be better sure, but think of a new user being eaten alive on a forum for asking a simple question with a simple answer. People are not that bright, if you want more people to use Linux, Linux users have to accept some new users will be dumb as a fencepost.The programs keep getting better and better. If people would use them on Windows then Linux wouldn't look as scarey to them. Knowledge is what keeps most people off Linux, not not having access to a $600 program they can barely edit the picture size in!!!

  • RitaCeleste Said:

    I have a desktop that boots Windows 7 and Ubuntu. I stay in Windows all the time. I ended up using open source software on Windows 7, but not logging into Ubuntu all that often. Gimp is not as easy to use as Photoshop. The MS office starter on this computer is broken so we now use Open Office on it. I got an old laptop and put Ubuntu on it exclusively. Its my first laptop and love that its all Linux. I am not some geeky person, I'm a mom with a high school education, pushing 40. I want to avoid Windows 8 and 9 and what Microsoft is pushing as a desktop experience these days. Linux is usable. Programs like Gimp, Blender, LMMS, audacity, and hydrogen mean I get to collect add-ons and content and play with the programs and learn how to use them. Linux is not the same as Windows. Free software is not as great as commercial software usually. It could be one day, but I don't think its there yet. I love Linux and free software, because its free and people bothered to make it for others in the first place. I have an aunt to goes on about Apple. I'm sure its great for her with her income, not so much for me and my family. I keep thinking, hey what about people who want to work at a desktop with a printer, graphics tablet, microphone etc? I want Linux to be a nice desktop experience where people can get work done and be creative. I feel that Linux is a step back and down from commercial products. However, I'd rather play with the free stuff than throw a pile of money out for Photoshop and other expensive software. And I really don't want to pay for Windows 8, I hear 9 is going to be more of the same. I like Windows 7 and am willing to use it, but not willing to buy a retail copy of it or even an OEM for a windows 8 pre-installed computer though. Having found Ubuntu, I don't exactly understand why more people don't use Linux on the desktop. Not everyone is gamer or needs a copy of Photoshop, I suppose they just bought a tablet instead of a desktop anyway.

  • Donald Lindsay Said:

    The sweet dulcet tones of reason...

  • Emiliano Carvalho Said:

    In every issue, about what actually makes the Linux desktop is slowly coming to, I believe it is mainly about the games. A good portion of the world population (not seen statistics on this), now with access to technology, not excluding smartphones and tablets, have a good desktop for gaming. I believe that when the main producing, publishing or convert their games to run natively on Linux, many even run, but often with a difference absurd compared to the original platforms, oh yes we will and domain growth consideralvel linux systems.

  • Ed Said:

    Sorry, but you are all missing the point. If there is one thing Linux can learn from MS it's this: MARKETING! MS got to be where they are by marketing alone and not by making the best software. With regard to the average person: No one has ever heard of Linux, much less what it can do, much less that their laptop will boot in half the time and cost half the price. For the average user any popular distro is far more than they will ever use (games aside). MARKETING is the answer for Linux on the desktop.

  • James Dow Said:

    I have been using a Linux desktop for 15 years. I abandoned Windows about ten years ago, when viruses were a problem. I am very happy with openSuSE and love Yast. I am not a computer scientist or geek, but believe that if you are going to be dependent on complex technology you should learn something about how it works. That is not the common attitude. Most people want to push a button and have magic performed. Their money is happly taken by PC, tablet, and phone manufacturers. The app writers are in there taking the rest of the cash. Linux was written to work on these mass-produced magic gadgets that were coming off the lines at incredibly low prices. If somone would get around to producing a PC for Linux with hardware and drivers aligned it would be incredibly popular with people like me. Unfortunately as most desktop Linux users know, not everybody is like me. As more computer science is taught in high schools, Linux desktops may become more popular.


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