So, where does Linux fit into the post-PC world?

So, where does Linux fit into the post-PC world?

Summary: After over a decade of positive predictions by stalwarts, the year of Linux desktop hasn't materialized. Is it time to give up on the platform? I think not.


"The year of the Linux desktop is coming!" This has been the battle cry of the Linux stalwarts for well over a decade now, but the operating system's impact on desktop and notebook computing has been insignificant.

But now with the era of the PC on the wane, and post-PC devices such as smartphones and tablets grabbing the headlines, where does this leave the open source operating system?

Linux has failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities over the years. While Windows was dominant, it had little chance of breaking into the lucrative PC market, but Microsoft has stumbled a few times with its operating system, with Windows Vista's release being mired by problems, and Windows 8 failing to ignite hearts and minds with its touch-centric approach to computing. On each of these occasions Linux could have stepped up to the plate as a real contender, and while there's been plenty of noise from Linux fans, traction has been painfully poor. In fact, in five and a half years the platform's usage share has gone from a little under one percent, to a little over one percent. 

By any yardstick, that's slow progress. Perhaps now is the time to give up on the platform and call it a day?

But I'm not ready to give up on Linux just yet.

First off, Linux is all around it, as the kernel powering hundreds of millions of Android devices. Most users might not be aware of the Linux name, but without the effort that's been poured into the platform by countless enthusiasts and companies, Android as it is today wouldn't have been possible. It could be argued that without Linux, Android might not have come into existence, and the massive PC machine that was driving the tech industry might not have ground to a halt like it did.

So in some ways, Linux did bring down the PC industry, indirectly, and not by going head-to-head with Microsoft over the desktop.

Read this

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Android invades the desktop

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But I'm also not ruling out Linux as a contender on PCs.

Microsoft has taken Windows 8 in a touch direction, and there's a large — and discontented — subset of users who are not keen on this shift and are planning to either stick with an older version of Windows, or look to alternatives. While OS X is one such alternative, it's an expensive route, and one that isn't open to all.

This is where Linux comes in. There was a time when application compatibility was paramount, and people simply couldn't switch to Linux, but now that the browser has replace the operating system as the primary platform, and apps have moved from the drive to the web, Linux becomes an option.

And there's a good reason for PC makers to embrace Linux on PCs – price. PC prices have been driven into the dirt, and Windows now makes up the bulk of the cost of a PC, and if manufacturers could eliminate this cost, it would allow them to cut prices a little, while at the same time pulling in a few extra dollars per PC. I've spoken to a number of OEMs who, off the record, have said that they are actively exploring the possibility of putting Linux on hardware aimed at mass-market users. The problem, I'm told, is marketing and how to make it clear that Linux won't run Windows applications.

Just because Linux hasn't made it on the PC yet doesn't mean that it won't. In fact, the stars might be better aligned now than ever. And while I don't think that Linux has a chance of ousting Windows as the dominant PC operating system, but it could offer consumers and manufacturers a way forward without having to embrace touch.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • I didn't read the article but

    my comment would be, as a 50/50 windows/linux user at work, and "non-windows" user in my personal life - the windows desktop is simply "most appropriate" for the average person. Not the "best OS", just "more appropriate" in a general purpose way. And, that is in fact reflected in its desktop usage share.

    However, I'd also say the Mac is good for many, as well, but also not as appropriate for the 'general user', namely higher cost and fewer apps.

    But the windows desktop domination is unquestionably eroding.
    • I disagree

      My take would be that with current pricing and capabilities Android will likely not really do much to offset Windows for the avaerage user, by any means noticable.

      Between OS's, Windows is the best OS because of it's general purpose abilities (the abilities to do both soft AND heavy lifting), while viewing Android as "more appropriate" for those just wanting to do some light email and surfing every now and again (soft use).

      As for desktop domination is unquestionably eroding, I once again disagree as the numbers just don't show that to be the case.
      William Farrel
      • Your right.

        The whole community of software "visionaries" missed the boat forever ago.

        Most people who know nothing of computers don't even realize what the heck thee whole OS war's thing is about.

        You know, a good number, if not many non savvy people think there is like, some kind of ...well, just a standard that has to be met and any OS is basically the same as another with different (excuse the pun) window dressing and features. Its only the ones who have had to get into buying something like a PC game for their kid, or some other specific program they suddenly come to find out that a Windows program is indeed a program that will only run on Windows because the 'Apple operating system" is not just windows dressing, its different on the inside and right through, so to speak, they probably come to find or figure out the same of Linux systems.

        The ones that come to realize this is the way it works soon figure out that they would essentially have to chuck out much of what they understand about computers, and usually a lot of programs and even games they may like and they decide that changing cannot be worth it. Try as you might, its petty damn tough trying to convince someone you have a better solution for them when they havnt had any real problems with the one they have been using for many a year.
    • How can a credible article on the future of Linux not mention Tizen, Chrome

      This article is supposed to be insightful?

      Samsung and Intel have big plans for Tizen... How does this article not even mention it?

      Ubuntu Touch has lots of potential... How does this article not mention it?

      Chrome OS (based on Gentoo Linux) is continually becoming a more complete OS, and I have no doubt Google will eventually blend Chrome and Android at some point, and probably allow running of native linux apps through some kind of pro mode. Google wants to knock Windows off its pedestal, and I'm certain they can do it.
  • Hem Hem....

    What Post-PC world!

    -- from my laptop
    • Ok, lets go over what post-PC means again

      The "post PC" world is when looking from the perspective of "the masses". For "the masses" the PC is, looking at all different numbers, unquestionably in sharp decline.
      That is what is meant. It of course does not mean that all PCs suddenly disappear and not one single person is using them. There are still plenty of mainframes and even typewriters in use today. But even you would not argue we are in a "post-mainframe/typewriter" world.
      • The mainframe is still alive and well, and the typewriters are still

        with us, except that they now look different, with a keyboard and screen required to replace what used to be one simple device.

        While we're at it, the post-PC world will never get here, because,,what we're seeing is a changed-PC world, where tablets and smartphones and laptops and even the trusty desktops, are all Personal Computing devices. Heck the smartphones and tablets of today have more power than a PC of 10 years ago, therefore, it's a personal computing device. Even more, the devices of today are going back to the sizes of computing devices of 20 years ago, when screen sizes were 11-14 inches in size. The more things change, the more they look like the past. Heck, even the Chromebooks and other crippled devices, are like the dumb-terminals of 40 years ago. Back to the future comes to mind.
        • Fun with Semantics

          You're changing the definition of a PC to include mobile devices. So, just for your private version of English, we'll call it a post-desktop-and-laptop world - that is, a world in which desktops and laptops are no longer the most popular form of computing. Happy?
          • But technically speaking...

   devices *are* personal computers (they're even microcomputers). The fact that they don't follow the IBM/Intel architecture is actually irrelevant (neither does Macintosh).

            Indeed, MS used to market mobile devices running Windows CE as "Pocket PCs".
            John L. Ries
          • Words Matter

            Yeah, so was the mainframe on which I wrote my first game.

            Words matter. A "PC" is a desktop or laptop machine to much of the world, and that is from whence the useful term "post-PC" emerges - the idea that personal computing is no longer restricted to what we've considered a "PC" for the past 30 years.

            You might be interested in the non-geek, more general press is saying. For example, Wikipedia gives the traditional desktop definition, but mentions tablets in passing while excluding other mobile devices ( Time addressed the issue directly, looking forward to a "post-PC" world where a tablet had the power and flexibility traditionally reserved for a PC (

            So "post-PC" is not oxymoronic, but rather a useful term for understanding that a PC is not longer the dominant form of personal computing - and, happily, that Linux rather than Windows is dominating the new forms of personal computing.

            Call it what you will - Linux wins. :-D
          • What is a PC?

            The term PC originally meant Personal Computer. It included Commodore, Atari, Tandy, Apple & Mac, as well as IBMs and several others. It was used to differentiate between stand-alones and mainframes.

            Somewhere in the early 1990s the term took on the meaning of WinTel machines. It was used to differentiate IBM (and later, clones) from Macs. UNIX (and its derivatives) weren't much of a factor back then.

            Today, IDC defines PC as the traditional desktop/laptop/notebook with a standard keyboard and pointing system (pad or mouse).

            Over time various words/phrases take on new, narrower meanings. Consider words like "prejudice" (pre-judge; form an opinion with little evidence), "discrimination" (to treat things differently - would you want a tiger to roam free in your neighborhood?), "gay" (festive), and "repent" (to regret what you did or were going to do, and change). These are just a few of the terms that have changed in the past few years.
    • Re: -- from my laptop

      You only have one??

      Quick! Buy another one, and help stave off the post-PC world!
    • Look at Device Sales

      By "post-PC", analysts mean that the majority of computer use is now in a non-PC form factor - largely smartphones and tablets.

      The last study I saw showed that about 44% of computers are still PCs, and that's about Microsof't's market share now (they hold around 90% of the PC market, but only 8% of tablets and 2% of smartphones). And mobile devices sales are growing much faster than PC sales.

      Unlike the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s, when PCs dominated computer sales numbers, mobile devices now sell in higher numbers than laptops and desktops - hence, the market is "post-PC".

      This was why Canonical's famous bug #1, "Microsoft holds a majority market share", was recently closed as resolved. Mobile now drives the market.
  • So, where does Linux fit into the post-PC world?

    It doesn't. Yes they should give up on linux. Like you said, it never made any headway. It was the great lost hope. Nobody wanted an ugly UI which linux had, nobody wanted to constantly download and compile their applications, nobody wants to do patch after patch daily, nobody wants to close the telnet port after a fresh install every 6 months. If you ever wondered why linux isn't being used that is why. Just disband the project since nothing good ever came out of it.
    • Here you go again.

      1. There is no single Linux UI. The more x11 looking ones? Yep, they suck. But KDE is practically indistinguishable from Windows.

      2. Patch daily, patch weekly, patch monthly. Set the package manager to work how you want it. Either way, it isn't like the user has to do anything on most distributions... it just happens, like Windows and Mac updates. Oh, and nobody compiles their applications. The package managers put in place binaries, just like other platforms.

      3. What is it with you and the telnet thing? Telnet isn't even installed on Ubuntu when you install it. On Windows, telnet is often installed by default - you have to enable the service, but that's it that's all usually. It is actually a lot harder in Ubuntu, where you have to do the apt-get thing in order to even have Telnet installed.
      • A River In Egypt

        He repeats the same refrain in hopes that it will become true so he doesn't have to admit that there are alternatives out there to Windows.

        The definition of insanity: Expecting different results from the same tasks over and over again.
        • I agree that its stupid but...

          ...everyone here seems to do it.

          Repeat garbage. Repeat garbage. Repeat garbage. Repeat garbage.

          They apparently repeat it because they themselves seem to believe it. And even when its provable as pure nonsense, there is always some cockeyed source they can point to that is usually wearing some kind of a tinfoil hat of some particular density that says the same thing they do so they stick with the "repeat garbage" idea.

          So repeating complete nonsense is hardly a Loverock invention.
          • Quite So

            My experience with people (sometimes including myself) is that a person who constantly repeats something is really trying to convince themselves, or have some insignificant beef they are looking for someone to agree with.
      • And here you guys go again.

        Isn't it obvious to you guys? He's doing it to rile up the Linux supporters. I know you'd like to think he's that ignorant but he's not.
        • Obvious

          OF course! Sometimes it's just fun to play along. More hits for the website! :)