The world just isn't ready for Linux

The world just isn't ready for Linux

Summary: Windows Vista brings with it a new era of DRM and restrictive license agreements that aren't going to sit well with even your basic power user (let alone the uber power users that regularly read this and other blogs at ZDNet!) and some are looking for an escape route. These changes are making some users question their commitment to Microsoft. The obvious step is to make the leap to Linux.


Windows Vista brings with it a new era of DRM and restrictive license agreements that Linux is pretty much a wasteland when it comes to gamesaren't going to sit well with even your basic power user (let alone the uber power users that regularly read this and other blogs at ZDNet!) and some are looking for an escape route.  These changes are making some users question their commitment to Microsoft.  The obvious step is to make the leap to Linux.

But what's holding people back from escaping Microsoft's shackles and moving to a free and easy platform?  My guess is that the platform isn't everything.  In fact, it's only a small part of the equation.

[poll id=12]

I've been very impressed by the Linux distros that I've tried out.  I'm currently quite partial to Ubuntu.  It's got a lot of things going for it - installation is a snap (I'm guessing as long as you have the correct hardware), it looks good, and it's usable in that within a few minutes you can be surfing the web, writing emails and working with word processing documents and spreadsheets.  It's also a fantastic platform for building a library of recovery tools to get your system up and running after a major problem.  Life is good.  Up to a point.

The problem with Linux is that as an operating system, it's great, but as a platform for your average desktop PC, it's leaves a lot to be desired.

Here are the areas Linux could improve on in order to transform itself from an operating system into a desktop platform:

  • Gaming
    Let's face it, for your average home PC user, gaming is pretty important aspect of PC ownership.  In my experience, even people who really aren't all that into games still indulge the occasional new game. 
    Linux is pretty much a wasteland when it comes to games.  Go through the top 10 PC games (or top 50 if you're feeling adventurous) and you're unlike to find more than one or two that will run on Linux.  The sad fact is that, while there is plenty of interest in developing Linux as a platform,  
    when it comes to gaming that interest just isn't there (for a number of reasons, which revolve around money and the number of users). 
    If you're a gamer and you want to go down the Linux road, the best you're going to achieve is a dual boot system.
  • Software support
    Going hand-in-hand with gaming is software support.  Walk around any store selling software and see how much Linux-compatible software you can find.  Not much.  This needs to change.  Consumers want to see stuff that they can buy that will work for them.  Granted, there's a ton of stuff available for Linux as long as you know where to look, but for your average user that's not enough. 
  • Stop assuming that everyone using Linux (or who wants to use Linux) is a Linux expert
    Let me draw an analogy with Windows.  Even though Windows has been around for years and is almost universal, that doesn't mean people have mastered the basics.  I still get emails asking me very basic Windows questions.  The thing that amazes me when I get one of these requests (and I'll get at least one a week) is that these people have somehow found my site, figured out how to get in touch with me, and then written me a note asking me their question.  Firing up Google and doing a quick search would have been much faster and got them the answers they were looking for much quicker.  You can't assume that someone who uses a PC is an expert.
    Linux needs to look like it's a simple choice, but at present, certainly from the outside looking in, it doesn't look that way.  In fact, I'd say that the simplicity currently ends at the point where you install the OS.  It needs to go further, much further.
  • Hardware support
    The one area of Linux ownership and use where it becomes apparent that there's an assumption that everyone who uses Linux is an expert is hardware support.  Your average user doesn't have the time, the energy or the inclination to deal with uncertainty.  Also, they usually only have the one PC to play with.  Hardware just has to work.  There's a very good reason why Microsoft spends a lot of time on hardware compatibility - it's what people want. 

There are a number of other hurdles that those new to Linux have to jump and issues to come to terms with that aren't related to Linux as a platform.  For example:

  • Too many flavors
    If it was a straight contest Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux, choosing Linux would be easier.  Unfortunately, going Linux means choosing your OS from a huge number that inhabit the Linux ecosystem.  So that makes the jump to Linux a bigger deal (it could be argued that Windows offers the same problem of choice, but with XP the choice was pretty simple - with Vista however, that might change).
  • The whole OS Holy War thing
    Too many people I've spoken to feel that making the leap to Linux means that they have to become some sort of fanatic or join a cult.  The face of Linux  as portrayed by the extreme fans just isn't wining it much support.  It comes across as hokey, uninformed or just raging against the machine (usually Microsoft). 

One thing is for sure, 2006 will be the final year of Microsoft dominance at  the PC Doctor HQ.  I'm already investigating ways to incorporate Linux into the system.  The first systems are likely to be file storage systems (seems crazy to pay for an OS for a system that I'm not going to interact with all that much).  From there, I don't know how things are going to pan out.  Yet.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • Wow, how can you be so wrong on so many points!

    Games are not going to be an issue any more. Many developers are no longer making PC based games. They are now concentrating on the game consoles, as it is much more profitable.

    Why buy software in a store, when you can get as good, if not better by downloading it? This has nothing to do with the keeping linux of the desktop.

    As for software support, it is not any worse that any other support. I have gotten more support from various forums than I ever have gotten from Microsoft. There are support problems from other vendors too, so using Windows is no advantage there.

    I have yet to find hardware that doesn't work with my linux systems. I have several systems, from a clone 333mz pentium system, to an AMD64 3800 system, all running linux, and NO hardware issues. In fact, Windows XP couldn't run with existing sound card for quite a while, until the proper drivers were made available. Linux had no problem with the card however.

    Operating systems are tools. If you like Windows, fine. Use it. If you like linux/Unix, fine. Use it. But stop using outdated, non-factual arguments to support your position. Talk about being hokey and coming across as uninformed! You are apparently no different than those whom you have accused.
    linux for me
    • Like he said,

      Zealots raging against the machine don't help anything.

      By the way, if you think gaming on the PC is loosing ground your clueless. Look at the sales figures...
      • wrong

        ubisoft say other wise
        • EA Games and EA Sports are doing quite

          well selling PC games. PC gaming is a large thriving industry.
          • Just an FYI

            EA and EA Games target the game consoles for first release of a game, then the PC. Heck with EA Games the packaging now even looks like the packaging for the game consoles.
      • Hey Clueless1

        Go to EASports site and look at all the new 2007 games coming out for the PC Platform......ZERO!

        Look at all the 2007 games coming out for the game consoles....MANY!

        OK Clueless...try again!
        linux for me
        • Well duh

          That's just the narrow category of sports games, dude. Of COURSE they're going to lean more towards the console. Same with platformers. Who wants to play Madden '07 with a keyboard and mouse?

          Still, I do admit that more and more developers are targetting games for consoles first and PC second. But the PC is FAR from dead as a gaming platform. There are still many areas in gaming that are solid PC territory.
        • EA Sports? How about Valve? ATARI? Microsoft? ID? Dare I go on?!

          EA Sports? You act as if they're the only gaming company in existence.

          Hate to break it you, but they aren't.

          And FYI, if you REALLY think sports games are the only games in the world, you REALLY need to find more gamers.

          Have you heard of How about Valve? ATARI? Microsoft? ID? Activision? Ubisoft? THQ? Relic? Sierra? VU? Gearbox?

          That's just a list of developers/publishers - you want a list of games also? It's much longer.

          If you think PC games are an EA world, you are sadly mistaken. VERY sadly mistaken.
          • Just was ONE example

            I used EA as one example, you can't be that foolish if you don't see this trend already.

            Using google, you can find a multitude of articles on this subject:


            I predict that in 2-5 years, the PC Gaming industry will dead, with almost all games going to the consoles.
            linux for me
          • You don't make any sense.

            In 2-5 years the PC gaming industry will be dead? Are you insane? Do you know why PC gaming is so successful? -EVERYONE- has a PC. It might not be a new one capable of supporting the latest games at the highest resolution, but the support is there... You don't have to fork out $400+ just to be able to play games. One could argue it could cost over $1000 to make your system able to fully handle a modern game, but that upgrade carries over to everything else you do on the computer, which in the next 2-5 years will be even much more than it is today. Also, a computer is already set up in it's own spot, with it's own chair, speakers, high resolution screen, and more buttons than you could possibly need, and the most accurate and natural controller ever created, the mouse, which everyone is already very good at... None of this dual-joystick auto-aiming first person shooter tom-foolery. 'Nuff said.
          • I guess I must be foolish then

            "you can't be that foolish if you don't see this trend already."

            I guess I must be foolish then.

            "Using google, you can find a multitude of articles on this subject:"

            They say much, prove little. There are many games to be released soon I am looking forward to this year.

            "I predict that in 2-5 years, the PC Gaming industry will dead"

            I predict otherwise.

            Both consoles and PCs have had good and bad times. But they've always existed together. A slump in 2004 is hardly reason to cry the sky is falling. Computer gaming is here to stay, big or small. It's not crumbling, as there are still plenty of publishers who create games for the PC. The major ones I know of are still doing PC games.

            And bah, humbug, that article is a couple of years old, and PCs are still going strong. I doubt they are going away anytime soon as a gaming platform.
          • Hate to say it but he's right

            The fact is that software is produced for the largest audience possible. And there's nearly a game console for every 3 televisions and there's no where near that level of market saturation for PC's. From a game producer's stand point you go where the market is where even a lame game can sell millions more copies than a really good, solid PC game. Don't get me wrong, I love PC gaming and I love MMPRPG games and just plain old multiplayer games. It's something a console just doesn't provide effectively.
          • Actually . . .

            Actually, Solitare and Minesweeper have close to 100% saturation on PCs ;).

            It all depends on the game type, and the intended audience.

            "From a game producer's stand point you go where the market is"

            The market is all over the place. I dunno where ZDNet authors get this stupid idea that people can't have games on both consoles and PCs, but they have and they can. The markets are [i]not[/i] exclusive.

            Sorry, I've seen time and time again that the folks at ZDNet truly know little about games.

            PC games are not going away, not by a long shot. I'm sure people said the same thing about earlier generations of consoles.

            Sorry, the sky is not falling. Never has been, and probably never will be. The PC has proven time and time again it is a capable performer and a large market for games.
          • laptops!

            Laptops are just starting to emerge as gaming machines; in 2-5 years high power laptops will have gained enough ground to produce a whole new mobile gaming market; an area previously reserved for consoles. So is the laptop/pda going to wipe out the handheld gameconsole? No, but its not going to dissapear either.
        • EA Sports site

          I don't know where you get that from. Pretty much every sports game (like that was really all there is to ea games) has a PC Equivalent. FiFa Soccer 07 Madden 07 NBA Live 07 etc.... Need For Speed Carbon, Btw Maybe you get that from DVD listings for EA sports, as all the ones I found were on CD. Other EA games such as BF 2142 and NFS Carbon, come on DVD. Walk into a neighborhood CompUSA, or Fry's,and you will see lots of games for the PC on the shelf. Get on fileplanet, and everyday you will see new demos, and downloads for major new games. I have been hearing that the console will replace the PC for 20 years, and it hasn't happened yet. Consoles, are cheaper, but hardly better. Two months after the latest greatest be all console comes out, every time there is better graphics on the PC within a couple of months. Every time you want state of the art graphics, you will want the latest video card, and that won't be on the consoles, except for like the 1st month or two. He is quite right, until there is large support for games on the Linux platform, it will never take over. Even though I would like to see it myself, and see MS's stranglehold loosened.
          A. Noid
          • what % of home users are gamers?

            Do they rally make the difference in changing to Linux.
            I was under the impression that the vast majority of pc users just use it for internet,photo's and an Office app. perfect for linux
            I take no side on this.
            I was just wondering how important the gamers are to the masses
            For me the biggest problem on changing to Linux was lack of Movie support out of the box, getting connected to the internet using a Modem and of course the learning curve.
            Linux will only be accepted by the masses when It can do all that Windows can do just as easily.
            Freespire has movie support built in still and works quite well.
            Very windowish.
          • gamer insight

            of course I may not be up on the gaming trends for everyone, but I know few folks in my circle of friends who are not PC gamers. In fact, several people I know have given up on console games due to the incredible lack of avaialability upon release of new systems, high-priced games, and the fact that from an eye-candy perspective console games are generally behind grahphics-wise when compared to games on a home computer system. I haven't owned a console system since Playstation 2. I don't plan on having one again in the near future either.
        • did you even look at the website

          madden 07 PC - already out
          NBA live 07 PC - already out
          FIFA soccer 07 PC - already out
          NHL 07 PC - already out
          Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 PC - already out

          Heres one on the amazon website to show you im not bluffing for madden 07

          Try looking at the website before you make such a statement
        • Oh, no!

          <sarcasm>Oh, no! I'm suffering from severe hallucinations! You mean I didn't get those two EA Sports games for my birthday that I could have sworn I opened??</sarcasm>
        • Look again

          What are you smoking dude. How many game are out for Linux? The PC is still the biggest market for games or very close to it. It really doesn't matter the exact numbers, because where is Linux in this race? Not even a blip on anyones radar.