Linux

Linux turns 20: Progress report on world domination

Jack Wallen shares his thoughts about Linux turning the big 20. Why hasn't the penguin enjoyed world dominance like every fan thought it would? Jack offers up his take on the subject.

Happy birthday to the operating system designed by a student, twenty years ago, so that he could get his homework done. My, you have come a long way. How long of a way have you come? Well, not nearly as far as the majority of us followers would have hoped for. Let's hearken back a bit, shall we?

It was circa 1999 (and we were partying like it was). I was new to the whole tech-reporting gig, but not so new to Linux. I, along with every early adopter, thought, nay KNEW, Linux was bound for world domination. It wasn't a matter of if it was a matter of when. Even though, in the early days, the fledgling operating system struggled with hardware support and couldn't seem to keep pace with the competition. Even with its faults, we all still knew it was destined for greatness on a level no proprietary system could ever dream of.

When ... not if.

Every early adopter took it upon themselves to train new users and spread the word in every way possible, knowing that some day their part in building the foundations of greatness would be somehow rewarded -- if only in the knowing that they helped make something special happen.

And we watched. And we waited.

And it never happened.

Regardless of how far ahead of the curve Linux was, it just couldn't gain any significant adoption...at least not on the desktop. On the server side of things, well, thanks to LAMP (and the horrible offering Microsoft offered in IIS) Linux managed to gain quite a majority of adoption. But that elusive desktop dominance just wouldn't coalesce.

No matter -- it was still only a matter of time. It would happen. We all told ourselves and even fought off the mockery of every laughing, pointing finger saying, I told you so.

And here we are, twenty years after the creation of Linux, still clamoring to gain something, anything that might give us a sign of growth. We're lucky, depending upon the report, if we see that a paltry four percent of desktop users have adopted Linux. How did this happen? How is it happening?

I don't want to go off on my theory behind how the numbers cannot possibly be correct. Instead, I want to answer the big question -- how.

I strongly believe, with regards to the desktop operating system, that any operating system could be the dominant player with the right marketing. BeOS could be on 90% of the desktops on the planet had it had the right marketing behind it. We could all be using OS/2, or Haiku, or (gasp) Amiga -- had any of them had the power of marketing behind them. But instead what we have is Windows. Why? Because Microsoft has always had one of the single most powerful marketing departments of any company -- bar none.

The race to the consumer desktop was never about the best operating system. No way. This race has always been, and always shall be, about business. And that, my friends, is the Achilles heel of Linux. Linux has no marketing. Linux has no PR, no power-house law firm standing in its corner. Linux has none of that and, therefore, it has no dominance.

Back in the day we were all so blind, so foolish. We all thought for sure the stability, security, and reliability of Linux was all it needed. The second the average user caught wind there was an operating system that would keep them from suffering from a plague of viruses that general public would come rushing to download the ISO images or bashing down the doors of the install fests. It never happened. And it never will.

Not without business behind it. Not without marketing and PR and power.

Linux turns twenty and there has never been and might not ever be world domination on its part. It hurts me to say that, but the reality of it is that the world of the PC is as cut-throat a business as anything and that cut-throat landscape has no time for players without the means or the desire to play dirty. And we all know who is the King of dirty business.

But you know what? In all honesty, I'm okay with that. I'm okay with knowing the operating system I use is only used by four percent of the population (even though I am certain that number is no where near accurate.) I'm okay with Linux being the underdog. I'm okay without World Domination. Why? Because even without that domination, my operating system works, without fail, day in and day out. When other users are calling support for help with cleaning out viruses, malware, and troubleshooting BSODs (TM), I am chugging away.

But I will tell you this: I am not okay with hearing so many support specialists enjoying the fact that "Windows keeps them in business." I know what that implies and, at least to me, that crap rolls straight downhill and lands squarely in the lap of the consumer. That's dirty business and something Linux will never have anything to do with. I think it's fairly safe to say, if the vast majority of users had Linux on their desktops, there would be far fewer calls to support.

So I say to Linux, happy birthday underdog of underdogs. You are only now reaching your prime and there is no shame in reaching four percent with zero marketing and PR to help you along in this race. Microsoft may be the big man on campus, but it's one willing to play dirty and will always, no matter how much market share it has, be inferior to you -- Linux.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

125 comments
Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

"When other users are calling support for help with cleaning out viruses, malware, and troubleshooting BSODs (TM), I am chugging away."

You must not be talking about Windows because I administer almost 100 Windows 7 client machines and I don't have any of these problems that you mention here.  Most people complain about thier mouse not working or why they can't find an email they deleted last year.  I get maybe... maybe... 1 or 2 malware infection per year and it's never been anything that Malwarebytes couldn't kill on the first scan.  BSOD??  Umm... I think my last BSOD issue was a couple years ago... give or take a few months, I really don't remember it was so long ago.  Seriously.  Climb out from under your Linux rock and take in some new information once in a while.

bdoors
bdoors

Windows ' continued dominance is not due to superior marketing, it is due to Microsoft's monopolistic position in the industry .... specifically, it's leverage over the OEM community. MS was convicted under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 2001. But the court "remedies" applied did not affect their monopoly. Thus they enjoy a government-condoned monopoly today. As long as this situation continues they will dominate the desktop/laptop/notebook markets. Only when a new market opens up can they be displaced. And this is exactly what has happened in the tablet and smartphone spaces.

RipVan
RipVan

So maybe no one will read my snarky comment which is "Maybe the success of Microsoft is due to the millions of beta testers...."

areels
areels

The only reason is the double taskbars of gnome. and Ugly interfaces of linux software. If they fix that, then there is no prevention to be dominated.

bird2920
bird2920

A mass majority of people have flocked to it and put it in their pocket... Android.

pduran
pduran

Operating system designed by a student? Yeah, right, like Bill Gates "designed" MS/DOS. Even Mac OS X is based on Berkely Unix. What Linux and all other open source is missing most time is the good old marketeer that will sell anybody Linux ilke it is a religion. You need evangelists and fundamentalists to be able to gain world dominancy. I can't see Linus get himself a business card sayiing "Senior Vice Evangelist Linux" ike they do at Adobe, Microsoft or Apple.

kerry.sisler
kerry.sisler

Having read and considered the inputs from the various readers... I suspect the comments, while generally more on target and more accurate than typical, are missing the real point! The real question is "what was the real reason that MS Windows (the early versions) grew on the desktop space and Apple O/S (the early versions) did not". Then the answer follows is that the cause and effect was Apple Corp being unwilling to release their control of the Apple O/S and their unwillingness to work at a lower per unit profit margin. I will offer that "if Apple Corp and ported their O/S to run on commodity hardware and cut the street cost per copy down to a reasonable figure, then we would most all be using an Apple desktop or laptop" and Microsoft would probably be limited to writing applications for that O/S. Thoughts?

idea-catalyst
idea-catalyst

On the desktop, it's also the office suite. As bloated and expensive as it is, MS Office gets the work done. It has far more than critical mass while other solutions, e.g., OpenOffice, do not provide a sufficiently seamless document exchange with Office for a work environment. For better or worse, Office is the realistic business standard due to its nearly universal adoption.

tpaysen
tpaysen

Linux user-attitude is one huge drawback for me. I have been programming for over 40 years--out of necessity (I am a scientist/analist). Obviously, niether Linux nor Windows existed when I started out. I often have to write programs from scratch, using whatever programming language I am comfortable with at the time--AND I do 'high' level programming in a few analysis programs ("R", "Scilab". etc.) Many of the analysis programs I use are developed on Linux systems. Because circumstances have dictated that I follow the Microsoft route over the years, I have had to evolve into the Windows world. I could benefit from being able to use Linux to stay on top of newest developments in such programs, but have to wait for someone to create Windows binaries. I would love to experiment with Linux systems, but-- 1. There is a LACK OF INFORMATION on how to get started (this is NOT marketing--just information availability for those want to look for it). (Do I need a seperate machine, or can I just use a virtual machine/box? Where/how do I start?) 2. I have run into an attitude problem upon occasion displayed by Linux developers--somthing along the lines of 'Well, if you want to let Microsoft run your life, I can't help you' (in response to questions posed by MS users about a Windows version of a Linux-originated piece of software). I think that if Linux developers were a little more open about Linux-based systems, they would find a sudden jump in the number of users. (On a personal note: I resent being called a "newbee" by people who were not even born when I started programming.) (Clearly, programming is a means to an end for me, but I love doing it.) Linux is well enough known to raise the curiousity of computer users, and word-of-mouth is really out there. The Linux world just has to be a little less closed in upon itself. Tim Paysen

pausonne
pausonne

Some understand the spiritual side of this life and recognize that there are those who have sold out to "the dark side," to use the mocking label. When you look at how government has destroyed the free market since the War of Northern Aggression and Reconstruction and study how quickly Bill Gates rose from a garage operation to one of the richest men in the world, you can understand that it wasn't just good marketing or anything like that that kept good systems like Linux from being a strong market contender. Back when Windows was just in it's infancy, it had to contend with Dr. Dos. Because of a little bug Windows put in its install package, it recognized Dr. Dos on a computer and a little lie came up that told installers that Windows was incompatible with Dr. Dos, which, of course, it really was. But that little bug destroyed Dr. Dos. No one brought suit against Microsoft to my knowledge but that lie was how Microsoft began its steady growth in the market share. And the same process has been going on ever since.

yimesgen
yimesgen

It is good in that it is more secure but setting up the initial environment is very difficult. I think the first impression is what makes an OS lovable. Secondly, for non-geeky folks it is not easy to get simple things done. Anyways for the techies it is a good mind-sharpner.

Geosync
Geosync

...yet I couldn't find the right combination of hardware and drivers to work with my existing Toshiba laptops. With Windows, I could go to Best Buy and choose from various brands to Plug-n-Play. But with Linux, I had to look at compatibility charts and hardware rev levels, and didn't have enough time resources to devote to the chore.

abakalidis
abakalidis

In my opinion people use computers to some large extent for playing games and Linux is way back on this department. Apart from some sophisticated games shipped with KDE and GNOME, the rest of the games available for Linux are the ones I played when I was 16 and now I am 42. How can I talk my kid into using Linux when all the good games run under Windows? Now if that kid grows up and buys a PC for his home or office what kind of OS will he choose? And there is one more thing to take into account; I firmly believe that half of the windows machines available in homes or offices here in Greece are hacked. Microsoft know that but deep down they are OK, because the money they get from the other half are more than enough. Not to mention that people get used to a kind of desktop and then they sort of demand it when they go to work.

pschulz
pschulz

I don't think you hit the point really. Your opinion is that other OSes are bad. Others, such as Microsoft, said that Linux is bad, such as saying it is 1960s computing ported to a PC. I am not an apologetist of Microsoft - it's as you say a business and they have no sense of ethics, it's money only. But on the other side, that forces them to produce something that works at least somehow - or they don't get any money. Linux isn't forced to get money, so it can be bad or good, it can be deliverying something no-one wants or something everyone wants, it would not matter, and so it does not materialize. That is certainly the key point of what we see happening. Otherwise, my opinion of the problem with Linux is what I would call the Four A's of Linux: Anarchy Arcane Antique Arrogant Anarchy - let's face it: Linux is an anarchy, controlled by no-one and therefore guided by no-one. If you had a football team without coach, would it become world champion? If you had an army without officers, would they fight any enemy? It's seriously bad for consumers who don't care if it's open source or not - they WON'T be able to understand the source code anyway so it doesn't matter. But they won't get any support or help unless they pay, and then they can also pay for Windows. Might be more to that than you think. There is no SOURCE for Linux, only for the kernel. And so you can not trust what you install because it could be the wrong installer - see my last point on this list. As for the 1st A - arcane, just look at a sendmail configuration file. Or what it takes in the great shell to pipe together a 20 line command just to display a filtered list of files with a certain content. Or do you know what's going on behind the scenes on an X Windows session? Or what about the "cutting edge" distributions which definitely don't care who can follow what they are up to? Then you try to find some "documentation" for some of the software you want to install and you'll have to surf around and google forever to find some skimpy text in some forum, with the note "at least that's what worked for me." Antique - Richard Stallmann dumped his 1960 Unix invention (created on long gone dinosaurs and fit for those alright) onto the kernel of Linus Torvalds which made it "Linux". The mantra of Unix is "everything is a file". Well, it isn't and it just is a pain to make it somewhat run with what's really going on right now. Allright for a server maybe (which is why Linux still has a hold there), but nothing for someone who lives in today's world. Arrogant - you won't like that one, but I do remember what happened to me in the first two yours trying to use Linux (2 years! - and I do not think it did change now either). Try to get some help from a Linux forum when you really have a problem. Yes, there are helpful people there. But the flow you get is kind of - my God, you don't even know that....? And look at some of the arcane distributions, hell knows for who they are intended. Why don't you try to install some rather normal software to your Linux computer for instance in CentOS. You'll have a web page which tells you where to download, except that the link doesn't work. You have to go to a repository. But the repository you go to has another version which doesn't fit the description in the other website you found. Then you try to download and it gives you an error. The error isn't mentioned in the web page you found first, so you think it must be a wrong link again. Luckily after a few hours you should be able to find one link which somewhat seems to work on your distribution. Reliability? How can you trust anything like that if you cannot even be sure that the installer you used actually is going to work? It's like holding your breath and see if it works. That's no better than the Windows world you describe.

Matusko
Matusko

I wanted to bring by old notebook back to life by replacing Windows XP Home and putting Ubuntu on it - The CD Rom is no longer working and the machine is too old that there is no BIOS support to Boot to USB. The network install requires some technical skill, or setting up a home network just to do this one task. If there is a web based install with Download / Setup from Windows New Partition / reboot / follow instructions option? Making adoption an easy turn-key in circumstances like this is also the issue - not only marketing. On the other hand, marketing is the issue too - see how far we get ordering an Ubuntu Notebook from HP and other mainstream online PC Vendors.

ruel24
ruel24

Linux's failure to dominate the desktop market is multifolded. First, there is the lack of marketing effort behind it. Second, there is confusion with so many UI's that it doesn't have a defined look to the product. Third, is the lack of apps that people have come to rely on and are aware of. Fourth, after all the crapware companies put on their systems, Windows is actually cheaper than Linux. Fifth, most people use the OS that come installed on the computer they buy. They don't upgrade very often, and sometimes buy a new computer when their old one begins acting up. Sixth, the users and developers have both underestimated the competition. Seven, there is a complete lack of cohesiveness as different distros try to move in different directions. Eight, there is a complete lack of resources to move Linux forward enough to truly compete because of all the competing idealisms between distros. Ninth... Linux has a lot of problems when it comes to public perception and whey it hasn't caught on. The developers and many of the users have simply had tunnel vision and haven't been able to see opportunity and take advantage. Linux is destined to be another BeOS, with Google's push of Android and ChromeOS, and Apple's success. People have found an alternative, and though some may be Linux powered, it's not Linux.

joshi_at
joshi_at

I have to admit, that Linux is an incredible OS. I like it, and I use it. But it??s not everyones OS. As long as everything is running out of the box, it may be fine, but in case of troubleshooting (especially hardware compatibility/issues) it??s sometimes desastrous. "When other users are calling support for help with cleaning out viruses, malware, and troubleshooting BSODs (TM), I am chugging away." -> When I read this, I recall the countless threads in even more countless forums about "how can I make my wireless card XY work", "my screen resolution is 640x480, how can I change that?", "after updating, my xorg.conf was overwritten with default values", and the countless hours I??ve spent with the very same issues. In the past, I have to agree, Microsoft was driven by Marketing, nowadays it??s also marketing, but even more stability and features (OK, everybody hates MS-licensing, but let??s leave this beside for the moment). It??s the wrong point of view to call an OS good or bad. Every OS has it??s drawbacks and benefits. People from IT should keep this in mind. Just my 2c...

africord
africord

Every time there is a new integration point or function for the desktop, Linux, regardless of flavor, is no where to be found. This affects businesses and consumers. We continue to look at desktop Linux as if its only point is to run an office suite and ignore that many of the best business products are not accessed by the browser, some that are, are optimized for IE. For consumers, we ignore the standards that consumer electronics are using for media integration. The best cheerleaders for Linux don't use desktops for any other function than to access system infrastructure. Real work is done in applications.

jafd
jafd

Went back to XP in the spring of '10 with gratitude. Ain't a Microsoft fanboy - one of my best friends is a leading Linux guru, and I was excited to be trying a new OS - having geeked around with computers since the '80's - but concluded that Windows is simply better tool for getting the jobs done that I needed to do. For example, ClipMate (from thornsoft.com) was a prizewinning Windows utility back in '96, but no clipboard extenders/information managers anywhere near as powerful were available for Linux. The on-disk documentation was inadequate, and lack of support for Winmodems means that dial-up connections are painfully slow. The required high-speed connection negates any OS cost savings. In my experience, system crashes and data loss were more common with Linux than with Win 98, or even Win 95. Finally, getting the icons I wanted into the arrangement I wanted, and keeping them that way, was a pain. Eventually decided that the Linux desktop was just too #$%%^&*^ ugly to tolerate.

Sauna
Sauna

I can concur that if you if you are a MS support professional, that it can appear that you might be benefitting financially from the shortcomings of Microsoft products. But it is not the fault of the IT Support guy. There is a need for this type of support with MS OS'es. I do make a living out of helping users create clean efficient business environments on MS products. And they call me back when they trash the system. I can educate users all I want, but the biggest variable in there is users. In a Linux world, it would be a little different. The vulnerabilities would not be there like we currently have with Microsoft, but there would be a new industry - "Can you help me install software and just get this to work?" Many users do not have the interest, eptitude or patience to tolerate the extra challenges Linux brings. Is Apple a better OS? They are even better marketers than Microsoft, and their market share reveals that. But the recent (mid-May2011) virus attack that ripped through the Apple community shows us that they are not immune from attacks, and, even more significant, the Apple community were so vulnerable as they had implicit trust that Steve Jobs will take care of them. Like a freshly stocked trout pond. They ate it up and the infection spread like wildfire. Apple wasn't there for them. "We will neither confirm nor deny you have an infection. It's on you to get it off." Linux is a great OS, but 95% of my customers would never use it long term. Some would try it, but just ask for their Windows back.

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

Linux is not much farther ahead than it was 20 years ago. For a desktop it just plain sucks.

einfosys
einfosys

Could it be the profit motive that is holding back Linux? That is, you can't make a living giving away software?

einfosys
einfosys

Marketing? Seems to me Apple marketing is pretty compelling, yet they are always stuck at 15% or so . Try again, I'm not the slightest bit convinced.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

At least in my household.

l.kobiernicki
l.kobiernicki

Who on earth wants world domination ? Only the mad, bad, and irredeemably sad. Linux does not need programmatization. It is efficient, updates all the OS and most of its apps. in a single hit, does not blow up the hardware, does not create endless zero-byte files to fill up the drive & thereby render it inaccessible, or spawn endless .tmp files which equally clog up precious operating/apps. space. Nor does it dump every single function on one overloaded partition. The benefits list is long, while the demerits of the Other OS are equally long. Techies' heaven is with Linux, community support, and a constant, improving stable of developers. Whereas the other thing - who knows what it's up to ? Or where it's going ? One might not even wish to want to ..

alainbastien
alainbastien

Incredible and unbelievable see there http://laforge.gnumonks.org/weblog/2011/06/27/ A Mauritian Company Breaches the Copyright of Linus Torvalds and the Trademark of LINUX MARK INSTITUTE and even Violated the GNU GPL License by claiming Sole Ownership, proprietary and Trade Secret on modified Free Software !!! and that in a Sworn Affidavit in the Mauritius Supreme Court !!! They even dare built a website "http://www.linuxsolutions.mu" not even mentioning that "LINUX" is copyrighted to Linus Torvalds!!

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

"Why? Because Microsoft has always had one of the single most powerful marketing departments of any company ??? bar none." MS marketing is awful and it has been for years. Apple is the undisputed marketing king. What you are referring to is the "VHS vs Beta" effect. MS are the established business and desktop vendors. MS managed to entrench themselves during the 90s and that is what keeps them #1 on the desktop and in business deployment. People are used to that, so why would they change? Linux greatest strength (and its greatest weakness) is OS choice. Linux distros are too fragmented. For example, Fedora and CentOS configure their networks differently to Ubuntu. Even the Network Manager GUI tool seems to work differently ("behind the scenes"). I have no doubt that if I poke around, I'll find other configurations that are executed differently on different distros. If you are an "icon clicker", you can only install software that is in your repository. You need to know terminal commands (unless you only click icons). Online help is difficult to find. There are plenty of "experts" offering advice, who know even less than I do about Linux. They also generally ignore the questions that are asked by users. Q: "How do I install "x", which isn't in the repository?" A: "Go to the repository and select the package." Q: "How do I reset the Network Manager to its default settings?" A: "Don't do that. Do this instead." After 5 pages of comments: A: "I don't know how to help you." The actual answer is to delete the appropriate config file. Windows greatest strength (and its greatest weakness) is the ease of program installation. I can go to countless sites on the Internet and install programs with a few mouse clicks (apparently Mac software is even easier to install!). Of course some of these programs might be malware! Online help is fairly easy to find (unless it involves error codes). The experts (on sites that I visit) seem to know more about Windows, than MS does! That said, Windows would be better if it adopted some of the features that are in Linux GUIs (e.g. "Rename" function). Nautilus has some features that Windows Explorer should have (e.g. tabs, simultaneous multi-level file/folder selection/copy/move/delete function). "But I will tell you this: I am not okay with hearing so many support specialists enjoying the fact that ???Windows keeps them in business.??? I know what that implies and, at least to me, that crap rolls straight downhill and lands squarely in the lap of the consumer." This is caused by poor user training. "That???s dirty business and something Linux will never have anything to do with. I think it???s fairly safe to say, if the vast majority of users had Linux on their desktops, there would be far fewer calls to support." That would only be true if users had good training (for the distro they were using). Given the stupid things that Windows users do, those same users would find ways to break Linux too. "If you make something idiotproof, someone'll build a better idiot!"

Interactive Communication
Interactive Communication

OK as far as the deflating market present lunix is effecting the financial dollars of it counter part', lunix drag is excactly as u say, marketing,?? and development of a reliabilty market presence. Factor one?? lunix doesn't have a parent company controlling its devlopment, Google, apple, and lunix business server handling mail exchange are all separate entities of the origanol concept. There is no IPO directly representing the lunix development, because it is a growing scripting all across the world. Widows market share could be measure with mcsft symbol on the market. Linux as your birthday present I gaureentee u one day i will have you up there on the big board right next to gramp to help him retired, cause I hate hearing grampa whine about how he has been the hardest working class generation. Factor two microcrap has all way delivered a ford marketing strategy, build fast and be a leader in their respective industry and the recalls will handle the different problems were compatibility issue result from. Lunix can not competiete with desktop. The blessing from the the IT industry is the Xoom world

nwmc
nwmc

Linux is doing just fine and will continue to grow on the desktop in companies that adopt server-based computing. With the availability of inexpensive hardware, terminal services/Citrix/VDI, and improvements in cross-compatibility of web development I predict the use of Linux in business will continue to slowly grow. Actually, I think the increased use of Mac, Firefox, and Chrome, instead of just Windows and IE, will help slowly erode the application compatibility lock-in many companies face now. With more adoption will come more support and marketing.

kelskye
kelskye

When I grew up, I wanted to get away from being stuck using Windows. When I finally was able to get my hands on Linux, I spent the time and effort to make the transition. Heck, I even put linux on my laptop despite that meaning losing wireless support. My main system now is dualboot, though all it means is an extra 10 seconds on startup to get into Windows. I found myself booting into Linux less and less, not because I liked Windows more but because that's what supported the software I was using. What good is having an operating system that either can't support, or only supports through a lot of fiddling around, the software you want to use? It's not so much that Windows has led a better marketing campaign, but they're in the prime position for developers to make software for. Add to that lack of support for various hardware, and really is it all marketing? Don't get me wrong, I'd love to switch to Linux and have no love for Microsoft. But that's not down to marketing, it's down to markets. Perhaps that might change in the future, and if so, great! But until then, decrying the OS is like decrying the CPU architecture. Yes, RISC archicecture might be surpass the x86 architecture in many ways - but most of us want the computers for software that runs on the hardware.

parnote
parnote

I'm a Linux user, and I'm damn proud of that fact. I left the chaotic Windows environment, with all of its viruses, malware, spyware, crapware, and all other types of evil "wares," when Vista came out. Knowing there just HAD to be something better out there, I adopted Linux. I've never looked back. I simply don't miss all the chaos of Windows. I don't miss the overpriced, under-functioning software. Now, I experience total software freedom, running a free operating system, packed with all the free software I want or need. In fact, I'm more productive with my computer than ever before, since I no longer have to worry about not having the right software for the job, simply because I can't afford the overpriced bloatware to get the task done. Linus Torvalds, you have shown us a better way. If lesser informed, less capable users want to continue to use Windows, fighting viruses, security vulnerabilities, and all of the evil "wares" that exist for that platform, good for them. If lesser informed, less capable users want to continue to buy all of that overprice, bloated software, good for them. Meanwhile, I just keep using the most secure -- and free -- operating system that's been produced to date: Linux.

BertToo
BertToo

I believe everyone is missing something in this discussion. That would be Ownership. Linux is owned by no one. Or is is owned by everyone, depending on your point of view. What it is not is owned by someone, e.g. a Capitalist. Someone who would drive the product to success, e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. Since no one can own it, no one is willing to put whatever it will take to make it a success. Without that, it will continue to coast.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Flatlined OS at 1.15% of the OS marketshare for years.

greggwon
greggwon

The big problem is that you can't write software that extends Linux and sell it, without giving away your gold. The licensing has allowed small contributions to continue to wander in and support and enhance the viability of Linux. But by and large, there is no interest in serious contributions to Linux because the GNU licensing makes that nearly impossible to operate a business around. Look at Redhat. They sell integration services and support. The contribute quite a bit to the kernel and to other parts of the system, because they can benefit from less support, or more customers because they provide software that is targeted to specific markets. But in the end, their contributes do nothing tangible for desktop environment viability. When you step back and look at the command line tools, there are disasters everywhere. Some of the rewrites, completely broke the way that the original tools worked. The support for national character sets is just nasty with -0 arguments on xargs and -print0 on find. The stupid I/O routines should know about national character sets based on the locale of the user, file types and all kinds of other integration which has never happened. In the end, Linux is just deteriorated into a diseased pile of rubble, which functions, but has some many idiosyncratic behaviors, that you just have to cross your fingers and hope new ideas work and old scripts and tools are broken on each OS update. If there was some kind of "non-kernel" focus on what Linux should be, there might be a hope. But, it seems that all the developers are low level kernel and widget people who have no idea what might actually work for the UX. If you look at OS-X, you can see that a UNIX environment can, in fact, deliver a spectacularly successful UX. But, you have to, as Steve Jobs says, start with what the customer needs, and solve that problem with technology.

blarman
blarman

It hasn't been Microsoft's marketing that has been the driver, but their acquisition strategy. Microsoft's strategy has always been to buy successful products, rebrand them, and then sell them. They did it with Excel, FoxPro, Access, SQL Server, Visio, and many, many others. They also took full advantage of a period of time in the OS market where users were finally beginning to see the possibilities of the personal computer and Microsoft had the only really viable product out there. Apple's Mac product line - minus Jobs - was disastrously managed and overpriced. IBM's OS/2 Warp was incredibly buggy and late to market. Novell didn't even bother trying to build a desktop OS. So Microsoft was practically handed the market on a silver platter. What we see now, however, with mobile devices is that there are two legitimate contenders to Microsoft who are getting to market faster and providing really good products to boot (pun intended). Microsoft hasn't had to face such competition in its lifetime and the results are telling. I think the other real problem Linux faces (and it was touched upon when someone commented on DirectX) is the lack of a common windowing environment to support gaming. X Windows just doesn't cut it at all. And games are what initially drew people to get Windows 95 in the first place. Look at the XBox as another example. Why is it doing so well? Halo. It's pretty simple. The OS is just a platform for the applications.

mbaker2311
mbaker2311

You should definitely be glad that Linux has four percent market share. Any higher, and it would gain the attention of the virus makers. Think about it... if you were writing a virus to steal data, or trick someone into disclosing a credit card number, would you write it/aim it for 4 percent of your targets, or 75 percent of your targets? M$ is probably more susceptible to viruses - but Linux has yet to come under their scrutiny. Windows is simply more attractive because there are more potential marks. If the numbers were reversed, it'd be the Windows users gloating about their stable computing environment.

rob.pilgrim
rob.pilgrim

... the reason for lack of adoption. It's not the Desktop OS, it's the lack of programs behind it. Sure there are plenty of options, but in most cases they simply don't come up to scratch. I run 3 PCs and a laptop - only the lap top has Linux on it - my choice was Mint, although I like the new Ubuntu Unity interface. That's because I only do very simple things on the laptop. Here's my PCs and why I don't Linux on any of them - although I would really like to. JukeBox (386) - Simply for playing mp3s, I have MediaMonkey because there is no equivalent of player/library manager in Linux. I have tried all of the popular ones and they just don't cut it. Media Monster (Quad Core Pentium) - Ripping/Burning DVDs, CDs, Audiobooks etc. Uses Adobe Audition/ Premier and Exact Audio Copy. Again, no Linux equivalents that have a simple, easy to use UI. Bob the Builder (i7 - 3.4GHz)- My 'all round' machine - this is the one most likely to be my next Linux adopter - but there is, as yet, no email program in Linux that works and thinks like Everdesk. And that, frankly, is the exemplar of how all email clients should work - I refuse to go back to the clunky way that other clients work! I do use Libre Office and Gimp on Bob, but Adobe Acrobat Pro, Evernote Client or Remember the Milk sidebar has no equivalent/equal in Linux - that can be also be shared with my Windows and Apple machines at work. And again, desperate to get out of the M$ grip, I've tried most of them and also the programs above with Wine.

subscriptions
subscriptions

I tried to run Linux once, couldn't get it, i wasn't able to install ANYTHING. Now, because I don't like microsoft, or apple's corporate culture, and I would love to see Linux "world dominating" the desktop OS, here is my feedback for Linux bosses: 1) Centralize app and software download, put all the cool software in one "official" website (something like android or apple stores). with shared reviews, quality control,etc. That will work well with the collaborative environment and may even make some money for developers. 2) Make things work with one click download, one click install. like the .exe in windows. (sorry if that already exists, but I just wasn't able to find it or make it work) 3) Simplify directory structure, (folder tree or whatever you want to call it) no VAR, USR, ETC, or all that crap. why not "my computer"/c:/ (if you need to use weird directories, put them all in one place, what about calling it "program files" so I don't have to see them. In other words, end users are not computer experts, they need things to be fool proof, they don't share the passion of learning how the kernel works, or how to tweak and reinvent their OS, they just want to use facebook or email some pictures to their family. Linux developers think and build software for themselves, that's why they did so well at server level, with system admins embracing the product massively, but unfortunately they fail to understand general public needs.

mickey
mickey

With a friend i started a business reselling used refurbished PCs. We install Ubuntu on all PCs for demo and offer MS if wanted. Over time we started getting asked if Linux / Ubuntu classes were available. We started offering 2 a week and to our amazement we are now giving 3 a day 5 days a week and the local county college has asked if we wanted to put a class together there. We did and now 150 to 200 users a week are finding out how easy it is to use. Schools all over the US are starting to offer similar classes. As people find out it is cheaper, often faster, easy to use, very secure and virtually anything done on the PC is readily done on Linux, they are easily converted. When almost all add-on software is free and only about 2 percent of viruses effect Linux you have a very good alternative. In 2007, many school systems in the US dropped MS and turned to Linux, mainly in their middle schools. Probably due to cost, and found it to be an excellent alternative. The real threat to MS will be a generation of students coming out of school with Linux in their skill set. Remember, though most of the PCs in the world are MS, most are in the US. Most of the PCs in the rest of the world are Linux. China is adding PCs at an alarming rate and approx. 82 percent are Linux. Developing countries are almost all trending toward Linux in the 75 to 85 percent range. So teach the US Linux and MS gets a much needed kick in the pants.

thoiness
thoiness

If it were truly about marketing, Apple would have the lion's share of desktop users. Microsoft is downright atrocious when it comes to marketing. The reason Linux hasn't made the headway on laptops and desktops comes down to one thing: developers (and no, it's not their {the developers} fault). Software writers want to use the most extensive, expansive, and easiest to use APIs offered by Microsoft. DirectX in the gaming industry is the preferred method of game development due to its advances and flexibility. Writers don't want to create Java based applications (for a number of reasons), or create OpenGL applications (for a number of other reasons). They want to develop on the platform that interfaces in the most advanced method of our times in the most easiest way possible. This is where Windows has always had the lead in the industry. Microsoft shows love to their developers, and that's where they win. Heck, they even provide and design the tools, so that you don't have to rely on third parties and their quirks or incompatibilities. You make it easy for the developers, and they will make the software. The big names make the software, and the community will follow. Linux depends on the developers to show the love to the end users, and doesn't attempt to hold their hand in the process. Microsoft focuses on the developer by developing both the O.S. and the tools to manipulate that O.S., so in turn, the developers can easily show the love to the end users. The latter will always win.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

It's all about the user and users are drawn to beauty; it's just that way.

realvarezm
realvarezm

There is one thing about Bill Gates, he is ruthless, cunning and very smart (almost in an evil kind of way) every threat to his product he would attack it merciless and constantly, kind like the killer bees. When he detected an anomaly in the matrix (sort of speaking) he would attack and use all his power and resources to assimilate or destroy that product. So the fact that apple use the same product marketing and sale to overcome or lead the software industry, probably we could have been witness of one of the biggest battles for products in all of mankind history (almost like Coke and Pepsi but with more blood and gore) By the way who says that apple can???t do that in a near future!

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

While I "feel" there is some truth(s) in your assertion, I know something less helpful. The DOJ found early Microsoft behavior as monopolistic. This is the primary reason the platform grew well past any other. I'm certain this not news to everyone but it certainly bears repeating: The DOJ refers to it as an "Exclusionary Per Processor Licenses" and finds: "Microsoft makes its (MS-DOS and) Windows technology available on a "per processor" basis, which requires PC manufacturers to pay a fee to Microsoft for each computer shipped, whether or not the computer contains Microsoft operating system software." http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/Pre_96/July94/94387.txt.html Essentially Microsoft was able to bill PC manufacturers for MS-DOS even if manufacturers installed a non-Microsoft OS. Why would PC they install another OS at that point? This was a hard shot in everyone's foot. The fact that Apple was brutal with the licensing costs of their development packages & extremely proprietary with everything else was the self-inflicted shot in the last remaining foot. I think we can see now that Jobs learned a little from this since he's giving it all away now and doing great. The truth of your statement might lie in the subsequent lessons of the early days. We know that, given an option, people will be compelled towards a free solution as long as it is flexible, scalable, and secure. There is no real market encouragement for users to download and use Linux, yet a few more do exactly that every day.

Interactive Communication
Interactive Communication

I really can't right a program if my life depended on it. I do have to agree with the response you are getting. With a new elucritive market trying really hard from being bought out, there many resentment for a micro industry of puppeteering apps, software programing with the financial power it carries. Listen the bottom line is computation has been done on a windows bases for many yeas, this does not warrent windows to take over new talent every time it checks in to the room. The greates thing is, now there is Linux machine environment were micro can't even check in an write there own Linux app. It funny cause I had this same conversation with dell many years ago, They were bragging with Intel chipps being the leader of the PC world for a very long time and i eluded to America car muscle were all we like to do is push our engine to the Max before 100 k miles, and cluded a long winded state ment stating athlon chips do the same. Long story short atholon chipps are dells best price package. Regardless of that the bottom the new generation of online intelligence has started when all the old do android were squezze out the way and force to only believe windows I'd the only option in the world. The best advice I give some who has been around the block and see one side of the coin, dropp it on the table and understand the hard work of the Linux writer to keep Ms from pupeteering the work by studying the dos study of Linux.I don't know the exact story from understanding it was written by a os developer have no care in the world for Ms(I mean he didn't resent Ms, he just did talk the windows language) and created a new os were it never was finished before he pass away a leader for the future working hard in his garage. The bottom line if you found a system which works real good. Would you : sell it, give your game plans away (the same way patent manning did with his fake hand sign on national tv interviews, "hence the reason why his offense is being beet on"), or protect it until the game plan finally manafested were it start becoming profitable. Finally if you want to start moving in a profitable direction in a Linux platform find me here I LL give great app concept, it just matter of being young at heart, carefully thought programming design to deliver reliability, and able to understand multiple platforms. New bill rights movement freedom of speech on a bird.com network.............

andmark
andmark

The article assumes "Back in the day we were all so blind, so foolish. We all thought for sure the stability, security, and reliability of Linux was all it needed". No we ALL weren't. As a Marketing Lecturer for 18 years, I was regularly groaning about the lack of cohesive market presentation. With each of the distros claiming that it was the best at its various application and a myriad of clever and fanciful names for components in the OS. The average home user would leave the confusion and noise to the singular voice of a properly organised corporate message. Whilst the technical superiority of elements of Linux is often used as a reason for migration, this doesnt necessarily win the argument for somebody who wants to jump in and have a go with a legacy PC. I was pleasantly surprised when I loaded a Linux distribution for the first time in 5 years to find that the installation was amazingly slick and easy. Other distros were similarly positive and picked up all the hardware in less time than a Windows install. Venturing into any of the packages though shows that the raft of new cute names for the apps still has not evolved to easily identify the user experience in common English. I want to evangelise about Linux, I really do. But I need to see more focus on the basic user that clarifies and simplifies the sophisticated technology in Linux, not dumbs it down.

blarman
blarman

#1. Everyone is starting to move to a central store for applications and this has been spurred in large part by the smartphones and their predecessor - iTunes. Microsoft has stated that they want Windows 8 to be connected to a Microsoft Marketplace for applications, and both Android and Apple already offer this. Linux just needs to do more than publish the apps on SourceForge. #2. This does already exist. Ubuntu does a great job with its packages and most other distros are also simplifying and standardizing because they, too, are finally recognizing that not everyone wants to unzip tarballs. #3. The directory structure is a function of OS security - the different directories are there to standardize the application security process. The only directory you need to worry about as a user is the USR directory. It's a different mindset than Windows and will take just a bit to get used to, but really, Windows uses the same model with its "My Documents" (Win XP) and now "Documents". Create the alias in your head and you're there. Same way with the Program Files directory and the VAR directory - you don't go messing around in there unless you want to break something. You are 100% right in that end users are not computer experts. Your thinking that you need to be a Linux expert to use Linux is wrong, however. A user can be completely oblivious to the underlying OS as long as they can get to their tools: a word processor, a spreadsheet, and an internet browser.

fairportfan
fairportfan

What distro were you using? Ubuntu does all or most of that. And if you don't like the Unity desktop (i don't) there's Linux Mint, based on Ubuntu, but even more user-friendly.

realvarezm
realvarezm

You are changer not a complainer. I live in Central america and every client that comes to me for help with virus and other malfunction goes changed to Linux. Is all about what we offer as flavor and a little teach about the howto of this great product. People who like shiny stuff likes Mint, people who like total freedom choose Fedora and people who likes the middle uses Ubuntu. Plus libreoffice gives all the productivity a user needs, so you know, even installed World of Warcraft for a user who is a big fan of that game. So slowly but surely Linux will rule the desktop world. Cheers!

einfosys
einfosys

See me in 20 years. Only those who have no idea how the free market works could make such a baseless prediction.

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