Year of Linux? Decade of Linux? Not on the desktop it won't be ...

Year of Linux? Decade of Linux? Not on the desktop it won't be ...

Summary: What's funny about this week back "in the seat" is plowing through the enormous backlog of email that I accumulated over the holiday period. It seems that while I was ringing in the new year and a new decade (the memory is a bit foggy ... champagne does that to me), quite a number of readers wanted my take on various predictions. By far the most popular "prediction" that you wanted me to comment on was regarding what part Linux will play over the coming 12 months and into the decade.

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What's funny about this week back "in the seat" is plowing through the enormous backlog of email that I accumulated over the holiday period. It seems that while I was ringing in the new year and a new decade (the memory is a bit foggy ... champagne does that to me), quite a number of readers wanted my take on various predictions. By far the most popular "prediction" that you wanted me to comment on was regarding what part Linux will play over the coming 12 months and into the decade.

"Will this be the 'Year of Linux'?"

"Will this be the 'Decade of Linux'?"

I don't have a working crystal ball here at the PC Doc HQ, but I can tell you one thing, it's not going to be the year, or decade, of Linux of on the desktop, and I'd bet the farm on that.

Now, some of you are bound to be thinking that this statement is based on my personal bias. While I'm more than happy to accept that personal preference comes into play with many things, Linux is subject where I feel that I am very open minded. Years ago i was very skeptical that Linux would ever amount to more than a curiosity or a geek play thing. Now I see it as holding a very important place in the OS ecosystem. I value the fact that I have a completely free (in every sense of the word) OS that i can use for a variety of tasks and offer my sincerest thanks to all those who have devoted time, effort and material to make that possible.

But that still doesn't change the fact that Linux won't hit the big-time on the desktop. Why? Well, there are countless reasons, but we really need only look at two of these reasons to see why it's not going to be the 'Year of Linux' any time soon.

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Reason #1 - There's no real demand for a third OS

As much as Linux fans want it to be the case, in reality there's no real urgent demand from consumers for a third desktop OS. Between Microsoft and Apple, the desktop markets (both consumer and enterprise) are pretty well captured.

Consumers and business users are, as a whole, satisfied with the OS that they currently have installed. This is evident from the fact that people still have a death-grip hold onto XP. Also, things have changed a lot since the heady days of Windows 95. People aren't as jazzed by OSes as they once were. Now, you'd think that this would play directly into the Linux camp, given that Linux is free. After all, if you don't care about your OS that much, why pay for it? True, but users aren't motivated enough to care. Despite endless Windows related grumbles, aside from a small shift to Apple, people stick with Windows. The idea of shifting to Linux is unthinkable for most.

Reason #2: Microsoft and Apple won't let it happen

Do you really think that giants such as Microsoft and Apple would stand aside and allow Linux to grab any significant desktop market share without a massive fight? Both these companies have deep pockets, and deep pockets mean big ad budgets.

Over the past few months we've seen both Microsoft and Apple cut prices of Windows 7 and Snow Leopard (a Snow Leopard upgrade is a particularly cheap buy), so the scope to push prices downward in the face of competition is already there.

So, where does that leave Linux?

It might seem like I'm painting a pretty dismal picture for Linux over the coming decade. In fact, I'm not.

While Linux of the desktop is unlikely to see significant traction, Linux is making significant inroads when it comes to consumer electronic devices. It's in these devices that Linux will gain serious ground over the coming decade. This is where users will really see the benefits of Linux.

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Topics: Software, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems

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296 comments
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  • you are wrong

    Linux will spread from the electronic devices to the desktop like a virus, and 2010 will be an inflection point.
    Linux Geek
    • ha ha ha ha. nt.

      .
      honeymonster
      • ... but, but, but there's always the next year

        You see M$ can never quite defeat Linux. They can blow their pants off year after year, and yet the response they get is always "Well next year / decade / century / (what not) will be our year / decade / century / (what not)."

        Since there are endless next years / decades / centuries / (what not)s, M$ can never claim victory.
        LBiege
        • Huh...my thoughts Apple and MS don't really care

          about Linux...just keep an eye on it, but for all it's worth they could care less.
          ItsTheBottomLine
          • Right.. and Adrian as said...

            ...Microsoft and Apple have DEEP pockets - and can bury Linux with a mountain of advertisments should Linux ever gain any significant traction in the marketplace.

            Until there's a frost warning in Hades, why blow a wad of cash that could be used elsewhere?
            Wolfie2K3
          • they're already blowing wads of cash

            Just take a look at the Mac vs. PC ads and all the Windows 7 marketing.

            Do you really think they're focused on each other that much?

            Mac vs. PC takes a very smart approach. It gets consumers thinking there are only 2 choices. You can either get brand X if you want to do spreadsheets and all the boring stuff or you can get brand Y and do all the fun stuff.

            Problem is, I've gone with the brand they didn't mention and I've got the fun stuff along with the boring stuff without paying anything to get it, including more time than it would've cost me to use either of the other two major choices.

            Now, you can also look at the Windows 7 ads which also make you think there are only 2 choices out there.

            The reason they're both spending so much on advertising "against" each other? If neither of them advertised at all, there would only be word of mouth left. Every person I've ever gotten to try out Linux has been impressed. They've noticed the speed increase, the ease of use, the stability and the beauty of the OS. I make sure they know it would cost them nothing at all to attain and they are even more impressed. Then I show them how to install applications using Synaptic, how it's easier to do than searching for .exe apps all over and then I leave them with a LiveCD to play around with on their own.

            Because the other 2 major players in the market restrict the user from making a copy for friends to try out on their own, Linux would win hands down if just left to word of mouth.
            tmsbrdrs
          • Then why do you care?

            After all, it's only 1%, right?

            [b]Unless...[/b] ;)
            Wintel BSOD
        • Nor

          Linux, haha.
          tealcat
        • Contradictory on itself

          This is the perfect example of how failure can be interpreted as a victory.

          Ms doesnt care about it, anyway... and neither do us users.
          hectormacias
          • But I'm a user too

            [i]Ms doesnt care about it, anyway... and neither do us users.[/i]

            And you don't speak for me, so...
            Wintel BSOD
    • Why is that?

      State your reasons (other than you have been hitting the kook-aide again). His reasons were rather sound and rational. Free isn't a good enough reason otherwise we all would have been using Linux on the desktop years ago. Dell has been selling Linux laptops for some time now thier sales numbers are not that impressive even though the laptop is actually cheaper than the XP version of the same laptop. I will probably purchase a Dell Linux laptop this year, but I am not the average user and I have technical reasons for doing so.
      balsover
    • 2010 will be the year of the Linux [insert device name here]

      nt
      D T Schmitz
      • 2010 will be the year of the Linux [failure to take over the desktop] ?

        ]:)
        Mr. Slate
      • ok...2010 will be the year of the Linux [fanboi idiot]

        wait, that was last year, and the year before, and the year before that...

        crap
        IAmLegion20ll
      • [toaster] (nt)

        ]:)
        John Zern
        • No, that's NetBSD

          no, seriously: http://www.embeddedarm.com/software/arm-netbsd-
          toaster.php
          probabilist
    • In your dreams a$$hole. This crap has been pontificated for the last DECADE

      "Since at least 2000, a meme known as "20XX will be the year of Linux on the desktop" or "year of the Linux desktop" (YoLD) has been published by a number of tech-related magazines and websites. This refers to an expected breakthrough in Linux adoption by business corporations and personal users."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desktop_Linux

      We're all still waiting numb-nuts...NOT.
      IT_Guy_z
      • Mods we have a potty mouth alert here.

        nt
        D T Schmitz
        • So why didn't you . . .

          click on the 'Alert Moderators to an offensive message' link?
          JLHenry