​Why there will never be a year of the Linux desktop

I've been using Linux and Unix desktops for decades, but I know they'll never be popular -- though not for the reasons you might imagine.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

I love the Linux desktop. As far as I'm concerned, the Linux Mint 17.2 is the best desktop around. Heck, I was once editor-in-chief of a website called Linux Desktop. But today, I believe there's no way the Linux desktop will ever become the top desktop operating system.

The Linux desktop, here Mint 17.2 with Cinnamon, is great, but it will never be popular the way Windows was.

That's right. There will be no "Year of the Linux desktop."

Oh, don't get me wrong, Linux, as Android tablets and smartphones and Chrome OS Chromebooks, will become the most popular end-user operating system of all. But, the desktop? That's another story.

Android devices and Chromebooks are great. I have a Samsung Galaxy 5 by my side. My favorite laptop is the top-of-the-line, with a price-tag to match, 2015 Chromebook Pixel. Neither are conventional desktops.

Chrome OS, just like Windows 10, can work without an Internet connection or the cloud, but both only really show to their best advantage with their respective clouds. They are both hybrid desktop/cloud operating systems.

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Like it or not, they're also the future of desktop operating systems.

You can see where I'm going. I think Linux can't possibly become the top desktop operating system because traditional desktops are on their way out.

It's not just simply that PC sales have been taking a beating for years, although that is true. We are entering a time when the Internet is as vital for PCs and laptops as hard drives used to be.

Indeed, look at Chromebooks: Most of them get by with mere 32 GB solid-state drives (SSD)s. Why? Because Google offers a minimum of 100GBs of free Google Drive storage for two years with each device. In the case of the Pixel, you get a Terabyte of storage for three years. On Microsoft's side, Office 365 subscribers get unlimited OneDrive storage.

Local storage? Who needs local storage?

Google and Microsoft both say you don't, and they're winning.

Apple is taking Mac OS X to the cloud, but as anyone who has suffered with iCloud knows, Apple has a way to go.

Looking ahead, I see 90 percent and more of users working with hybrid desktop/cloud operating systems. Most people are already well on their way to not using conventional desktop and laptops at all. This trend, even as tablet sales slow, will only continue.

There will be a few people who will still use conventional desktops. These are the ones who want real control over their hardware and software. They're the ones who want real security. In short, they're the same people who are already using Linux.

So, by 2020, in a very limited way, Linux may be the top "desktop" operating system. It's just that there won't be many traditional desktops left in use. Everyone else will be working with one foot in the cloud and the other in a variety of devices, some of which, like Chromebooks and Surfaces, will look like desktops.

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