General Question

Pk_JoA's avatar

Will Linux be succesful on desktop?

Asked by Pk_JoA (253points) February 25th, 2011

I’ve been using Linux since 2006. Ubuntu for 4 years and recently changed to Arch Linux.

And I just can’t understand how Linux isn’t, at least, a known OS for desktop. I installed and configured Ubuntu all by my self when I was 13 years old, and it was pretty easy back then. Now, it’s almost like stealing a baby’s candie, and I’m sure that anyone who has tried Ubuntu recently knows what I mean.

So, do you think that, sometime, lets say, in the next 5 years, Linux will be a known and used OS for the home user?

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20 Answers

mrlaconic's avatar

I also am running Ubuntu and I love it so much more then Windows. But I don’t believe Linux will become known unless there is advertising for it… apple and Microsoft advertise for there stuff everywhere you look. You don’t see TV commercials for Linux or pages in magazines (other then computer magazines which the general public doesn’t read).

Vincentt's avatar

It might be. I think what may especially come in to play is that people are getting more used to installing stuff on their desktop, as the younger generations grow older and don’t take a preinstalled system for granted. The rise of Apple also plays a role in creating awareness of alternatives, I think. I have noticed a better uptake of mostly Ubuntu in my environment as well, so it might just slowly gain market share.

The story of how Firefox became popular also gives hope in this regard, as it was really a small player in the market when I started using it (1.0 had just been released), and slowly, slowly gained uptake, but at a certain point the word got out and people got to know of it. The growth might have stagnated by now, but people who want to use it (about 20% apparently) have heard about it and tried it. The same might be true for Ubuntu: potential users might one day see it in action and hear about how it’s easy to install, or perhaps even where you can buy it. At that point, more people might be using it, and there still might be a lot of people with a preference for other systems.

In the meantime, though, I don’t really worry about it, as it’s already working great on the desktop and there’s still plenty of innovation coming. Better hardware suppot in general might be nice, but I got myself a laptop with preinstalled Ubuntu anyway, so that’s not really a problem for me anymore. Plus, growth in market share would come with plenty of disadvantages as well.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

It’s the desktop of choice at Fermilab. Will never have appeal outside of the geek continuum, though. It’s a great OS, but your granny isn’t going to use it to get her email.

robmandu's avatar

Only when a major manufacturer chooses to install Linux as the default OS on their desktop PCs will it even begin to have a chance at getting serious mindshare with consumers.

With the meteoric rise of mobile devices, the importance of and focus on the desktop is diminishing every day. So, it really might not matter a whit five years from now in any case.

blueiiznh's avatar

Nope. This question has been going on for 10 years now. While there is some saturation, sadly Mr. Gates or Mr. Jobs will be the widespread choice of 2 for the homefront.
Microsoft is too deep in bed with the PC manufacturers and the driver set for Linux or Ubuntu is just not a home user friendly way to go.
Mobile OS will rise certainly as tablets and these kind of devices make way into the home.

rawrgrr's avatar

Coincidentally I spotted this comment in an article I was reading this week.

“Linux will not overtake any operating system anytime soon because:
-Is not beiong advertized.
-Is not easy to find, e.g. is not installed at many computers at the store.
-People find it difficult to use, heck, I’m a programmer and I spent 4 hours trying to install some programs because the freaking shell commands are not standard.
-It does not have a ‘killer’ app.
-Is harder and more costly and confusing to maintain than windows.
LINUX IS BETTER, no question, but the simple points I made are enough to keep companies and homes away from it.”

Pk_JoA's avatar

@rawrgrr I shall disagree with the commenter, and I think, by extension, with you, in the part of difficulty.
I don’t what distribution is he (or you) using, but in Ubuntu, you install any app from a nice list which shows, describes, downloads, installs and configures the app for you. And the app is called “Add and remove apps”. Well, I can’t think of anything easier than that.

Other thing. Harder and costly to mantain? Heck. You don’t even have to mantain Ubuntu. I mean. It practicaly does everything by himself!

That if we talk about Ubuntu of course. Now, moving to Debian or Arch, yes… it’s diferent.

blueiiznh's avatar

@Pk_JoA This is a question about the masses. Techies have no issue figuring out how to do things. The masses however don’t know how to change their screen resolution or shutdown properly. So you will not get them to much around in the \etc directory or mount and dismount their filesystem properly.

rawrgrr's avatar

@Pk_JoA It’s not me, I’ve heard many good things about Linux but @blueiiznh is right

blueiiznh's avatar

@Pk_JoA All versions of UNIX (AIX, HP, Solaris, Linux, etc) are the way to go in business critical world, but when it comes down to stupid user “ID10T” tricks, sadly it won’t make ways.

Nullo's avatar

Linux is rather lacking in the marketing department. There are no Linux ads, nobody cuts deals with the dev teams to sell computers pre-installed with Linux distros. It’s all word-of-mouth – if you know about it, it’s because somebody told you, or you read an article about operating systems.
Besides that, Linux has an intimidating image: the controls aren’t familiar, there’s that wacked-out terminal thing, it won’t run Mac or Windows programs, it’s what the guy in the IT department (the one who may or may not know when you’re slacking off) uses – in short, it is Not For You. Ubuntu was an effort to shake all of that: It’s fun, it’s friendly, and it’s endorsed by Nelson Mandela! It’s worked a bit, but it’s still not Macintosh or Windows. Maybe if HTC had chosen to use Linux instead of Android it would have more fans.

koanhead's avatar

@Nullo Android uses a Linux kernel. So do Maemo and Meego. Linux is in fairly wide use in a broad range of embedded devices.
@rawrgrr The shell commands are not standard?! That’s hilarious. I can’t think of even one Linux desktop distribution that doesn’t come with bash. Bash is the same everywhere.

Finally, Linux is already successful. It was never intended to make money or get “mindshare”. Red Hat and SuSE and several other companies are doing perfectly fine making money from Linux support and sales, and thousands of companies are using Linux to make money in other ways.

If by “successful on the desktop” you mean having a dominant market share, that will probably never happen. Partly it’s because Linux is not market-dependent: why would you spend money to advertise a product you give away for free?

Pk_JoA's avatar

@blueiiznh I’m sorry to disagree again. The only hard part for a “normal user” is the Linux instalation, and that’s because it means sometimes to get into the BIOS and change the boot order. That’s it. That’s the difficult stuff. And in that aspect, well, Windows is much more dificult (no live cd, no good help on the intallation, installtion takes MUCH longer)

Mean. I’ve been using Linux for four years and I don’t know what precisely /etc does or have. I do know about /tmp (which is as hidden as in Windows), but that’s pretty much it.

Ivan's avatar

It’s pretty successful on my desktop.

Chreese's avatar

My answer is no because of the following:
In the near term:
Too much dominance by MS Office and lack of true 100% compatibility between other linux friendly programs like Open Office w/ MS Office.

In the long term:
With things moving more and more to the cloud, the OS will become less relevant. It will become a question of which OS will interact better with the web (e.g., Chrome OS, Linux, etc.). Linux is rock solid but without a huge corporation standardizing all of the different flavors of Linux and presenting a single coherent vision to the world, it will be difficult.

blueiiznh's avatar

@Pk_JoA I could put a system in front of the same 10 average home users and they would have all have comfort in a Windows machine over Linux. My comments are related to home type users. People rarely load their own OS. They load applications on top of them for use. Whatever a person has used is also what they will be ok with and purchase.
I sadly disagree that Linux has any comfort edge for typical users. Yes there are plenty of difficult areas in windows OS like the registry.
Now I have not been running Linux for 4 years like you. I however have been supporting Linux and Linux users for over 10 years, UNIX versions for 25, Windows for 22, and a pant load more that have come and gone. I have used and supported many many Operation Systems at home and in business. Windows is the bottom of the list when it comes to stability and performance and management. But there is much more support and windows applications out there from a home user perspective.
But this question is not about what OS is best. This is about what will run the distance and be there from market saturation. You however have applications and usability that swing what you make your decisions on.
Apple OS has been there from word go (speaking of Word, the first version of word was written by microsoft for apple computers. It is part of how Microsoft got their start). Apple’s original pull and saturation came from education and graphic design. It is because of the applications supporting and written around the chipset and Apple OS..
The predominant Apple OS user chooses it because of their needs (art, music, education, graphics)
Windows dominance started from the work environment. DOS and Windows applications that people used at work when distributed computing models started to come about in the late 80’s. IBM and the clone PC makers used Microsoft OS.
Many x86 and x64 based OS are still out there. UNIX based OS, Novell, Banyan, etc were backend Business OS for Enterprise Computing.
Outside some players dropping off, the mix and power of each is still the same.
They are not teaching kids Linux in schools. Its swung towards Windows for many reasons.
So tell me where the Linux shift to home usage is going to come from?

jerv's avatar

@blueiiznh I beg to differ about the comfort thing, unless you are talking solely about people who are familiar with Windoze and only Windoze. My poor wife has been subjected to Bob-knows how many different OSs and configurations ( I can’t help but to mess with the computer!) and was actually more comfortable with Ubuntu Netbook Remix than Win95, Win98, WinXP, Win7, or Mac System 7. And I have an IT buddy that used to configure his customer;s systems with a skinned Linux distro configured such that it took many of them a week or two to notice that there was a penguin where the Windoze logo should be.
However, you are correct in that many people (though probably not quite as many as you would think) know only Windows and are rather xenophobic when it comes to trying new software (except, oddly enough, spyware-laden browser toolbars :/ ). I mean, look how many people stick with IE merely because it’s what came on their PC and refuse to even try Firefox or Chrome? Some people don’t like messing with the magic box and therefore either consider it perfect from the factory or learn to accept it’s faults since that is easier than the alternative. But others are more adventurous and/or adaptable.
As for schools not teaching Linux, I find it funny that they will buy stuff from a place that offers educator’s discounts (thus shrinking the school budget) but won’t use something that is free (which would shrink it more) and in common use in many sectors (servers, government, “big iron”...).
VisiCalc and MacPaint were killer apps in their day, but Linux doesn’t have something comparable; no “must have” Linux-exclusives to peel people away from Windows and OS X. The closest they have come is Android for those that don’t like Apple’s closed environment and/or prices.

blueiiznh's avatar

@jerv I am missing your point on your poor wife or “skinned distro”.
What do browser toolbars have to do with OS longevity?
You analogy of IE versus chrome, mozilla, etc is exactly my point. The TYPICAL home user doesnt need or want more. It is also Microsoft’s strongest market penetration method. Give away a crappy tool or app, because it’s free, people stick with it.
VisiCalc, MacPaint, Lotus 123, yadda yadda yadda.
Schools are governed and run locally. The reason they do that is sadly because of the funding. So they either get grants, donations, discounts. I have supported schools and use all I can that is open source.
Do you have an answer to the question.

mrentropy's avatar

Linux is on the desktop. Many people use it as their every day operating system (I’m using it right now) or every other day operating system. Linux has more mind share now than it ever has. In that regard, it can be considered to be successful. It may not have a lot of market penetration, but it has a lot more than, say, BeOS ever had.

You have to take history into account here. Apple and Microsoft were there at the beginning of the home computer revolution. Apple, of course, had their relatively low priced Apple ][ micro-computer that was very popular. Popular enough, in fact, that they were the leader in having computers in schools across the country. Microsoft became big licensing their (really, it was “his” at this point in time) BASIC everywhere; long before Windows, long before Word. You could find Microsoft BASIC in Commodore computers, MSX computers, and a host of others. You could even buy it on disk for the Atari computers (8-bit).

Originally you were swimming against is familiarity, not comfort. Kids went to school, took a computer class using an Apple. When parents finally broke down and bought a computer, it was what the kid was familiar with. When that kid grew up he generally stuck with Apple.

Then business’ started getting computers. Jane worked on an IBM PC, she became familiar with it, and when she plunked down the astronomical amount of money to buy one she bought what she was familiar with. Jane got married, had kids, and as those kids got older they grew up with an IBM PC (now with a Turbo button!) or a compatible. Unless Jane worked for a magazine, then she probably used an Apple Macintosh because they were somewhat cheap desktop publishing solutions.

Logic isn’t necessarily a driving force. After all, at one point in time you had a choice of:

a) expensive, black & white, rudimentary sound, looked like a toaster (Macintosh)
b) super-expensive, went ‘beep’, colors ranged from green on black to amber on black to color (cyan, red, yellow, green, black) (this is not including add-on video ($$) or sound ($$)) (IBM PC)
c) cheap, lots of colors, good sound (Atari ST)
d) price range between ST and Mac, excellent color, excellent sound (Amiga)

Yet, the IBM PC compatible ended up being king.

Linux can be successful on the desktop, it all starts with familiarity. Ubuntu (or Kubuntu) made installing and maintaining Linux an easy start. If more people keep using it then it may make traction into other places. Maybe your kids will continue to use it, own their own business, and make it the de facto OS which may get their own employees to switch over.

But it won’t make a difference because desktops are dead. Computers, on a whole, are dead. They’re just shuffling around like zombies waiting to fall. There’s no differences to make things interesting (Mr Apple down the street is running, essentially, the same hardware I am – no more Motorola 68K, no more Power PC). There’s no excitement, no thrill, no innovation. That all belongs to the cellular phones and ‘pads’. And in that place, Linux has already made quite a bit of headway.

jerv's avatar

@blueiiznh “I am missing your point on your poor wife or “skinned distro”.”
My wife is one of many “average” people I know who was not uncomfortable with a Linux machine, in direct contradiction of your statement, “I could put a system in front of the same 10 average home users and they would have all have comfort in a Windows machine over Linux.”. My little (teenage) cousins are two more, and that’s not the end of the list of just the “average people” I know, and excludes fellow tech-heads. Too many counter-examples.

The browser toolbar remark was a smartass comment as it seems to be about the only type of software some people will install. They won’t change the antivirus from whatever the store/factory installed, they use IE as it was pre-installed, they won’t try stuff like GIMP or XnView, but they will load up on browser toolbars. Maybe I just have a quirky sense of humour?

You don’t need grants or discounts to get Linux. Just fill out the form at Ubuntu’s Shipit page and they will send you a crate of install CDs for free, and they will run of pretty much an PC new enough to handle an optical drive. I doubt the educator’s discount is enough to be cost-competitive.

And I’m sorry if you missed my answer, but no, I don’t see it happening. As I said, some people are xenophobic, others are lazy, some are content with the preinstalled copy of Windoze, and there is no compelling reason for people to migrate. .

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