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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.
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).
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.
I build my own, too, but bought a Dell because of a great deal. Chucked all the disks and installed FreeBSD.
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.