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As you can see, Linux is gradually growing in 'buzz', this, of course, does not translate directly into user growth but it us a indicator of how much Linux is on the conscience of the users of the web.
Five years ago *nix was in the realm of the (excuse the phrase) "ultra geeks". Today, webmasters and SEOs commonly chose linux as their operating system of choice. What will it be five years from now? I think it is wide open.
I don't see the numbers atrophying, there is no way Linux is going to lose ground, IMO the question is, "how fast will it gain popularity?"
Littleman's Nostradamus like prediction of the evolution of open source usage:
Stage I ->Hardcore programmer
Stage II ->CS majors, adventurous Webmasters, the curious
Stage III ->Academia, wannabe hippies types, government, many web professionals
Stage IV -> A full on horse race between Open Source and Closed Source software for market percentage
Stage V -> Closed Source lost 90% of the mass market software space
Right now, we are in between stage two and stage three.
My prediction is that we will be at stage V by 2017, if you step back, you could see it in motion now.
I don't think anyone's defined what desktop is supposed to mean
"Desktop" for the most of the people means a "canned" environment where anything can be done on the abstraction of converting the computer's interface on a almost tangible object.
The key on that is the abstraction. A 'computer' can be or do just anything. But for the common of mortals a computer should not be a number-muncher; they need something where pulling a lever or switching a knob does what is expected.
That people expects to buy a computer and use it just like if it were a physical device. Just like a desktop. If a document is inside a drawer on the desktop the physical abstraction is to pull the drawer, take the document out and read it.
Contrast: on a desktop you have an icon representing the desktop; go inside the icon, there are several drawers; open the drawer you want, locate the document and read it. On a more "to the metal" abstraction do 'less /path/to/file'.
On a computer the desktop abstraction is not really needed; these are superfluous steps, not the optimal ones. But when people expects their computer to work like physical, not logical, entities, they demand an abstraction like the "desktop" we are discussing. For them it's easier.
[edited by: Duckula at 10:38 pm (utc) on Nov. 29, 2002]