This week, something dawned on me. It wasn't life-changing, problem solving, or (if I'm being completely honest with myself) truly profound. However, it really smacked me upside the head with a Harley Quinn-sized hammer and brought to light what Linux really needs to make serious noise on the desktop.
Many readers will assume I'm going to say something like “Linux needs that one killer app every business or end-user needs.” Wrong. If you're thinking that my epiphany has something to do with the standardization of the Linux desktop, you'd also be wrong.
Let me lead you into this idea easily. Open up the Ubuntu Software Center (Figure A), and tell me what you immediately see. You'll most likely be presented with a list of games, multi-media apps, and other bits of what most people call nonsense. Now, open up the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. What do you see? Games, social networking apps, shopping tools, music, movies, and quite a collection of non tech-centric “fluff.” But you know what? That's what sells and helps platforms gain traction. It's not the admin tools or the hard-hitting tech-focused tools that make a platform spread like mad -- it's the software the average user can wrap their minds around. You know, apps that do little more than kill time.
The Ubuntu Software Center already shows what the majority of people are installing.
The cross-section of users who make up the bulk of the PC audience aren't business users or administrators. We're talking about people who think a PC is worthless unless it can get online and connect to social networking sites, check email, shop, and other things that all average users do. And that's precisely why Linux needs more fun.
That's right, I said it. Fun! For over a decade, I've been using Linux, and I've seen the majority of the enlightened users take the whole of the platform way too seriously. No matter when you gauge the barometer of the Linux community, you'll find people embattled in a war. Open vs. proprietary. Ubuntu Unity vs. everything else. RMS vs. Shuttleworth. What you won't find is people on sites like Facebook (you know, the single most widely-used platform on the planet) saying, “OMG! I found this app on the Ubuntu Software Center that you simply have to try! It's so much fun!”
For the longest time, I was fairly certain that in order to finally (and truly) conquer the desktop, what Linux needed was for Adobe to port Photoshop, for Microsoft to port Microsoft Office, and for Intuit to port QuickBooks. I no longer believe that. What I believe now is that Linux needs to start creating really popular apps instead of one killer app. Linux needs a social app, an app to create memes, an app to turn kittens into conquering Vikings. The collective attitude of “we're better than you” needs to be dropped and, in its place, the whole of the community needs to develop a “we're more fun than you” attitude. Why? Because people like to have fun. People like to enjoy their time in front of their monitors, and that means Linux developers need to start focusing on what those billions of users really want.
Seriously, who cares what desktop interface they're using; in the end, it all does the same thing (helps the users launch applications and manages files/documents). So, instead of focusing on what Linux may never have (Microsoft Office, Photoshop, or QuickBooks), focus on what Linux can have. The majority of users are playing with apps that can be created in most developers' sleep! Take advantage of the simplistic needs that the overwhelming majority of computer users have and create a plethora of apps that they want instead of focusing on what you think they need.
Linux needs to become the platform everyone should want to use. That is how you interest the masses. Do you agree or disagree? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
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.