This was the year of desktop Linux

This was the year of desktop Linux

Summary: It's the compatibility between Chromium and Android, based on Linux, which I think gives the old mouse-and-keyboard upright posture desktop Linux yet-another chance.


Before Israel was founded in 1948 it made sense to conclude a Passover seder with the words "Next year in Jerusalem." With Israel a reality the arguments over the phrase have changed. Yet they endure.

Desktop Linux is the same sort of deal. Linux believers always assume that next year will be the year of desktop Linux. Windows followers often chide those who seek Linux with that belief, both here and elsewhere.

Before anyone starts thinking this Catholic boy has changed his stripes, my point is simply that, in the case of desktop Linux, Jerusalem is here.

This is the year.

This is also the year where the definition of a desktop has changed. Apple changed it with the iPhone and, now, the iPad. Microsoft has failed to deliver in both these key areas. Linux has not.

Google gets the credit for that. As I noted yesterday Google Android has soaked up the excess demand for Internet hand-held devices that the iPhone left on the floor. My guess is that, once Chromium comes out, you'll have the same experience there.

Linux has broken through because Google has the size to go toe-to-toe with either Microsoft or Apple, and push product through distribution. (Remember, there is a price lower than free.)

It's the compatibility between Chromium and Android, based on Linux, which I think gives the old mouse-and-keyboard upright posture desktop Linux yet-another chance.

Linux Mint and Ubuntu are building the kind of simple-then-power relationship that will exist between Android and Chromium, and which existed in the past between Windows and Windows NT.

Mint offers simplicity and a full application suite. It abstracts all the complexity of the command line, much as Android and Chromium do. Even our own Jason Perlow likes it (and he is hard to please).

What's still missing is the financial wherewithal to push this through the distribution channel. But with the success of Google as a patron for hand-held Linux, are Microsoft followers certain one can't be found for the old-fashioned desktop?

My larger point is it doesn't matter. Either Mint and Ubuntu will gain desktop traction or Google will simply bypass them.

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

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  • The author is wrong

    The problem is that neither the iPad nor the iPhone are desktop computers. They are completely different animals and have serious limitations that impact their usage patterns.

    The iPad is nearly useless for content creation, it's a consumption device. The iPhone is limited largely to non-traditional content creation, ie text messaging (short messages) and perhaps taking pictures. Oh, and you might manage to call people--assuming you aren't left handed. :)

    This has exactly 0 relevance to desktop usage, which is primarily about content creation and manipulation.

    Likewise the iPhone/iPad have limited screen real estate compared to desktops and this necessarily makes their usage pattern fundamentally different from a desktop.

    No, this isn't the year of Linux, because that hobbyhorse was always about replacing Windows with Linux. Won't happen any time soon.

    And no, smartphones are not the mammal to the desktop dinosaur either...
    • Reminds me of Amtrak in the 1980s

      Their trains had an on-time percentage of about 50%. So they simply changed the definition of "on-time" to from plus or minus 5 minutes to plus or minus 20 minutes and shazaam! Amtrak on-time percentages climbed to 95%!
    • Lacking imagination or vision?


      The capabilities of iOS/Android/Chrome and applications will grow. Smartphones -> Tablets -> Smartbooks -> Thin and light notebooks or instant on dual boot in full size notebooks -> Growing capabilities of the OSs with growing comfort and familiarity by consumers.

      It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that iOS and Android/Chrome are are the Trojans that will end MS's strangle hold. Just because you cannot see it does not mean it is not happening.
      • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux


        You're talking about taking basic phone OSs and morphing them into Windows. No one who needs a Windows or OS X box is going to look at a computer that costs the same and has the same hardware requirements but runs some new OS based on a smartphone. Why would they, when the Windows PC or Mac already does that job quite well, not to mention having a large number of mature applications instead of 99 cent unsupported toys?

        You can say this is the year of linux because it's running on a zillion phones and little mobile devices, but it's certainly not the year of desktop linux, which AFAIK still runs on less than 1% of desktop PCs.
      • No, I am not

        @DaveN_MVP<br><br>I am talking about different HW that Windows does not run on, which will be significantly cheaper, but meet the needs of most users. Once they have experience with the HW, the OS and the applications on smart phones, they are much more likely to try the larger form factors, as they have with the iPad. If these form factors meet their needs (and over time it is likely that they will), the users will have been weaned from Windows.
      • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

        @Economister I have both an iPhone and iPad (company provided devices). They are consumers only, and not creators. I have yet to see anyone at work who love the devices go out and buy a Mac or for the people with Android devices (yes we have those along with BB and WCE) going out and putting Linux on their machines. That is a very small % of the market, very small. I hear that argument but from what I have seen that is not happening at work, and we are talking a lot of people with the necessary financial resources to make a change and they love the i*devices. I just think that argument does not hold water.
      • Horse then cart

        @Economister You confuse 'stranglehold' with 'acceptable' and you're trying to argue that new lightweight devices can take over the desktop by becoming the new desktop.<br><br>The thing is, it'll take a long time for iOS and Chrome to get to where Windows is now - while all Microsoft has to do to jump ahead is offer a light weight version of Windows (ie Windows CE or Windows Embedded). That's essentially what they're doing with Windows Phone 7 - taking WinCE 6 and distracting people by putting on a new shell and limiting it to running Silverlight and XNA. Yet to read the techblogs, everyone thinks this is the same as a whole new OS.<br><br>The fact is that almost NO ONE cares what's under the app. If Microsoft can deliver a better application platform - then Windows will be around for a very long time - and right now, Windows is the winner. <br><br>It's inexpensive enough, runs on a wide range of inexpensive hardware, is easy to get support for and runs all the apps most people want to run.<br><br>Until the Linux crowd can come up with a compelling reason to switch, it's not gonna happen.<br><br>As for significantly cheaper hardware - an iPhone costs $800 unlocked - an Acer Revo costs $300. Win7 netbooks with 3G datacards are going for about the same price as an iPhone with a 3 year contract - but they're cheap to subsidise (some places are giving them away). Where's the cheaper hardware?
      • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

        @DaveN_MVP Mac Addicts are needle freaks to the core and can't stand the fact that both Windows and OS-X require heaps of hyping and drugs to bend users minds against the TRUTH!

        That truth includes the ignorance and blindness to both Apple and Microsoft's scheming ploy to misrepresent the actual numbers in usage in all categories from Desktop's Actual Installs to the entire embedded World of both Virtual PC and real Live Run Linux booted from DVD/CD's. That along with industrial use on 97% of all HPC PC's and Clusters. Not to mention Cars, Airlines, Military, Medical, home devices of all kinds including most likely your own router. Then you have to throw in mobile devices (phones, etc) and 40 Million Sony PS3 Game Consoles to top off just a fraction of total Linux run computing devices that are topped off with the most Super Computers of any OS in the World! ...yes Linux runs YOUR World!

        So what is the biggest LIE all your Mac and Windows fanatics want to believe so bad to hide from the truth? Fact: that the some total of Linux installs is somehow limited to only the 1% OEM Desktop Installs! haha.... that's hilarious in itself!

        BUT.... it gets better. The asinine competition that spends fortunes to hype it's already over-hyped products (while Linux relies solely on word of mouth), when questioned indeed acknowledge that they aren't counting Virtual Machines, Live Run DVD/CD's, or even 1% of the Downloaded versions of Linux at a rate of millions upon millions a year. Sabayon Linux a fairly new small distro (compared to either Mint or Ubuntu) has been downloaded 30million times alone over the last 3years! ....Ubuntu? 100 of millions and it was estimated in 2006 that Linux was installed on 17% of Desktops if you included the simple fact that it's not just on that #1 OEM's and included all the $Million$ of Downloaded Distros running on the Planet!

        Microsoft just last year said Apple wasn't their biggest threat at all for Desktops. They said via a graph that Linux was over double that of OS-X a year and a half ago!

        Sorry..... but you freaks have been conned big time by big business over Ma n Pa types making a Homemade OS that works and runs most of your World whether you know it or not!!! It's about CHOICE and FREEDOM to RIDE THE WAVE of FREE SOFTWARE in the Future without you even knowing it!
    • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux


      Yep, no matter how anyone wants to act as cheerleader or booster, it's the team on the field that matter. Unfortunately the team is yet to even get to the big leagues.

      Most Linux fanbois seem to be arithmetically challenged (Doesn't Linux have a calculator?)- 1% is 1% no matter how you see it. As to MS having no response to the iPhone or iPad, next year will show you what happens when you have a company that does research rather than simply repackaging other people's designs. The latest iPhone is already looking old with it's crowded desktop of icons UI and I'm looking forward to upgrading my WinMo 6.1 phone.

      Nevermind perhaps next year (like every year since the early 90s) it'll be the year of desktop Linux ;-)
      • What happens when Microsoft does research...

        @tonymcs@... the Kin.

        Oh, wait...
      • Nobody Does More Repackaging of Other's Designs than Microsoft

        If you're going to try to criticize Linux by saying that Linux projects repackage other's designs, then you can't be a Microsoft fan without being a hypocrite. Nobody has done more of that over the years than Microsoft.
      • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

        @CFWhitman Hilarious. Apple had to repackage NeXT OS, and google repackages linux, I don't remember MS getting the Windows source from some other company and then throwing their logo on it and selling it. You seem to have a backwards mentality if you think MS does this more than anyone else, or else you are historically challenged to a great degree.
    • You forgot the disclaimer


      "In my HUMBLE opinion"
  • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

    The problem is that Android is not Linux. It is a fork of Linux, but Google has broken its open source roots. Just as they are forking Java into Dalvik. Google does not support open source, they use it, and abuse it. Just like they do with all their users private data.
    • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

      @jorjitop This brings up an interesting issue. All large companies use and abuse their customers. Government has failed to regulate them (especially republicans) and now in a global economy, couldn't if they wanted to. But we now have a choice between a company that steals our data and another that steals our money. Google as of this point has not grossly abused the fact it has our data...Microsoft on the other hand has a long history of taking money we don't have...selling bad or feature poor products, then charging for the fix; giving small business solutions away only to extort them on licensing later, and using their clout to subdue competition. I'm a big fan of Linux, but I also realize that a company like Google and Apple have to back it for the less profitable and open source side to stay competitive. Open or not, without Google OS's like Ubuntu and Mint, would not exist as they are now.
      • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

        @Socratesfoot Ubuntu and Mint wouldn't exist without Google?! Google doesn't even develop them!
    • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

      @jorjitop Linux is a kernel. Android OS runs on top of it. There is no "fork of Linux".
      • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

        @SkyBon Linux is not a microkernel but monolithic kernel. Monolithic kernel is the OS architecture. While microkernel is just most important part of the OS what use Server-Client or Layered architectures. Linux kernel is exactly same thing as Linux operating system. If Linux would be a microkernel, then Linux would be just a kernel but not the operating system. The operating system is not same thing as the software system. Operating system is not same thing as development platform. Operating system does not offer user interfaces. Those are offered with hardware and other software. But no one is not denying that you could not integrate the user interface as part of the operating system. That is just stypid as more high layere code you place to the OS, more unstable it comes and more cluttered. You can use Linux OS to run anykind hardware and software. Was it powering supercomputers, embedded systems or mobile phones. One OS what is very flexible because open source and monolithic architecture.

        Most people does not even know that the time when there were only monolithic architecture for the OS, the name for the operating system was the kernel. Then the server-client architecture came and kernel did not anymore fit because the operating system idea was to slice the monolithic OS to more modular architecture where just the most important functions would be in microkernel and other parts in modules (servers). At that point the other names came more popular and the "operating system" won. There were other names as well than just "kernel" and "operating system" like "core", "nucleous", "controller", "master program", "supervisor" and so on. The "operating system" just fitted best way as the OS architectures were such that even all the other names were valid, neither of them could be fitted to all the architectures at same time. What "operating system" term really did. And now the "operating system" definition is raped and abused by the marketing to sell own product as "better" or "different" as competitors. "operating system" what most people understands it has nothing to do with the computer technology and how the real operating system actually works.
      • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

        The Linux kernel by itself is not an operating system. To make it into an operating system you have to add something like Busybox or the basic GNU utilities to make it so that you can interactively launch programs with it. Then it becomes an operating system.

        Regardless of what constitutes an operating system, SkyBon was correct when he said that Android does not constitute a fork of Linux (not at this point anyway).
    • RE: This was the year of desktop Linux

      @jorjitop Android does not fork Linux. Android simply use Linux as it is. Current Android 2.2 use Linux OS version 2.6.32. It is same Linux OS what you get from That how Google has configured other software what are generates the other parts (non-OS) of the Android, have nothing to do with Linux and forking it.

      You can get Linux OS from, a vanilla version so called. And then you can get the release what Google use in Android. Make sure both (Vanilla and Google release) are same versions and then make a diff. You only notice that Google has not done fork, but just own release from vanilla. Exactly how every distributor does. They configure the Linux OS with wanted features and choose what driver or OS function is compiled as module and patch them if needed. No forking is happening.

      No one is so stupid to fork a Linux OS as that would make them to maintaing their own OS. You could not take anything what the F/OSS community is developing to Linux OS. Linux OS is now over 11 millions LoC (Lines of Code). Most of it are device drivers. If someone would fork Linux, it would mean that they are incompatible with the vanilla Linux. They could not anymore call OS as Linux but they would need to get a own name for it. Linux is registered trademark for Linux operating system (the Linux is monolithic kernel, not a microkernel what most people believe). Making a own Linux distribution is not forking Linux. You can easily as well fork the distribution, but not the software what it use. Almost any 15 year old kid could fork a distribution. Many 15-20years old kid could make own distribution. But very few actually would fork OS.

      Linux is Unix clone and it has never been forked. There is no need to fork it. As it is so easy to develop it together and as its architecture is monolithic and not Server-Client. You can so easily get own release just by compiling it.

      BSD story is totally different. That OS has been forked. First two times, so there came FreeBSD and OpenBSD. Then FreeBSD has been forked again to NetBSD and Dragon Fly BSD. There are now *four* different BSD operating systems. From all of them there are different distributions.

      There are even different branches from the Linux but not forks. Like SELinux, MkLinux, L4Linux and so on. All those are still not forks from the Linux. They are all developed in same tree and not forked like BSD was heppened.

      And Dalvik is not fork of the Java.
      Dalvik is a virtualmachine what was written with Java. There are many Java VM's. Dalvik is just one. What is the difference is that Dalvik *does not* run same java code as what does most of Java VM's. You need own code to it.

      Calling Dalvik as a Java fork is like saying that if I write a application program with Java what has own fileformat scripting language what I developed for it. And that would a forking a Java by some mysterious way. No, it isn't. That is just using Java language to generate a application program, with own scriptlanguage and file format but not forking Java itself.

      To fork a Java, you should take the source code. Start changing the code so that you could not anymore take code from java upstream project and you should develop and maintaint all the features what you want to it.
      Using Java to make a own virtual machine is not forking.

      IBM use lots of Java to do different virtual machines what can not run any Java code. They develops own simple languages and systems with Java. Many car manufactures use Java in their cars. And neither does those run Java code.

      If Google would have taken the existing Java VM and then modified it so it does not run any Java programs what is developed for the original VM, then it would be forking. And if Google would then market that as Java VM, then it would be abusive of the Java (Oracle's) trademark and patents.