Windows' Endgame. Desktop Linux's Failure

After almost 20-years of ruling the computing world, Windows is on its way down. Linux will not be the winner though.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

“After nearly a decade, Microsoft’s reign as a monopoly is over.” … “The latest real-world data on web usage confirms that Microsoft’s once-dominant position in the world of personal computing is crumbling.” That’s not me, the Linux guy speaking. No, that’s Ed Bott, who’s as much a Windows fan as I am a Linux fan. Ed’s the one, not me, who’s saying that “if Windows 8 flops on phones and tablets, Microsoft’s future is very dim indeed.

Desktop Linux’s future isn’t any better. Windows isn’t declining because of Linux’s security or stability benefits. No, as Ed points out, it’s declining because of the rise of mobile computing. Apple’s iPhone and iPad are the ‘villians” in the mystery of who killing Windows. And, they’re also killing off the traditional desktop Linux.

When I say this though I don’t mean that Windows won’t still be on computers in 2021. It will be. What it won’t be though is the dominant computing platform. Unlike Ed, I do think that Microsoft is moving too late to a mobile, tablet-based computing paradigm. Windows 8 will be too little, too late.

Linux, however, is in a funny place. Linux, through Android, is becoming an important operating system for end-users. Most people don’t know it though. If you ask them “Could you use Linux?” If they even know what Linux is, they’ll say “No.” Ask them can they use their phone, they’ll say “Yes, of course.”

We’ve seen this before People having been using Linux without realizing it for years now thanks to Google, Yahoo, and the thousands of other major Web sites that rely on Linux for their server operating system. We’ll see this in the future not only with the continued rise of Android but with all the other mobile Linux systems such as HP’s webOS, Google’s Chromebooks; and MeeGo.

None of these though are traditional Linux desktops. Only Ubuntu’s Unity comes from what most of who’ve been using Linux for years think of as mainstream Linux. Perhaps Unity will become a major player in the mobile space. I fear it may also be a case of too little, too late, but we’ll see what we see.

So it is that while I’m now more sure than ever that Linux, thanks to its presence in servers, cloud, and mobile devices, will eventually be more important than Windows, I also think that almost no one will know it. Linux will--indeed already is--become the foundation on which many other user systems will be built. But both desktop Windows and Linux are going to decline.

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