|Desktop Linux: If it's built, will it gain users and market share?|
|Linux has made major inroads on servers and in data centers running both open-source and proprietary applications on millions of computers worldwide. We've recently seen the rise of Linux on mobile devices. But the Linux desktop remains elusive. We know it's out there, but it only now seems to be approaching the tipping point. |
Three years ago nobody would use linux on the desktop because it wasn't as functional as MS. I think that's no longer the case.
Linux needs a killer app, or some sort of hype. Something to actually get computer retailers to start promoting linux on the desktop, and for users to start demanding. I don't think that'll happen in 2006. Linux is now ready, the world is not. I think it will happen, but we're easily another 3-4 years before it's likely to happen.
When it does happen though, it's going to be hell on wheels. I can see it taking off like Firefox did (as was mentioned in the linked article).
The killer apps for me:
No virus infections, less exploits, you have some degree idea what the system is doing at all times, and last but not least: SSH (+iptables/portknocking).
Seriously, I can't imagine working without SSH.
A lot of people don't need more apps than firefox, thunderbird and xmms.
My grandmother happily uses linux. And I'm happy because the few times she needs help I can just SSH into her computer and fix the problem.
When someone buys a Macintosh Computer, it comes pre installed with Mac OS. When some one buys a Dell, or Gateway, or Emachine, etc. it comes pre-installed with Windows OS. As soon as the major players in the Desktop PC market decide to start installing linux, they are going to have to provide support for linux. This in turn will require selecting a distribution to support, hiring staff with linux knowledge specific to the distribution, and changing the computers hardware internals to make them linux friendly. This is a lot of investment for a small market share. There would be savings gained by not having Windows pre-installed, and if these savings were passed on to the computer purchasers, I could see a large upswing in linux acceptance. I know walmart sells puters with Xandros and Linspire installed and I would love to know how well they are selling. Would I buy one? Probably not. I prefer to build my own machines. Would I install linux on my old machine and give it to a friend that needs a computer do to school work? I already have and I walked my friend through what I consider the killer app. Synaptic Package Manager.
Possibly not. A computer manufacturer may not have to provide support if they can get the Linux provider to provide support. I would think RedHat and others would/could be willing to do that.
I build my own, too, but bought a Dell because of a great deal. Chucked all the disks and installed FreeBSD.
It seems to me that most Linux deployment on desktops is happening from two very different directons.
The first is individual techie users and their friends and family (I run Fedora Core at home, I've set my mother up with it too).
The second is deployments by large organisations, governments or corporations, which can amortize the planning, implementation and retraining costs over a large user base. Think Munich here.
There's also a large class of point-of-sale terminals, web kiosks, etc. but I don't really count those as desktop systems.
To reach the big mass of users in the middle is going to require pre-installation on hardware, the creation of better support systems, and so forth. I don't expect a rapid breakthrough.
If I were Microsoft, I'd be much more worried about OpenOffice.org, at least in the short and medium term.