2012 Will be The Year of The GNU/Linux Desktop

The GNU/Linux desktop has been around and growing for a while now but 2012 will be special:

The diversity of desktop products on which GNU/Linux is thriving mean that in 2012, GNU/Linux will no longer be banned from retail shelves anywhere. Retailers have seen a drop in Wintel desktops and Android/Linux selling well all over. They will be open to new products in 2012. In some countries GNU/Linux desktops have been selling retail for years. OEMs have seen that market growing steadily and it is now ready for a breakout. The slush from Wintel is drying up. To get consumers buying PCs again, retailers will have to give consumers what they want, small cheap computers, and what OEMs can provide at higher margins, PCs with GNU/Linux. The time has come.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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69 Responses to 2012 Will be The Year of The GNU/Linux Desktop

  1. oldman says:

    “How on Earth do Google, the school system of Indiana, the French National Police, Munich, the government and educational system of Brazil manage?”

    In the case of Google the employees are given the out by being permitted Apple MAc’s running OS X. All the rest “get along” by doing without function and feature, or by tolerating closed source commercial software in the areas where they cant force pure FOSS in.

  2. oldman says:

    “It’s that other OS that cannot hunt and is only supported by illegal exclusive dealing by OEMs and retailers with M$.”

    If it is illegal, how come nobody has moved on it Pog?

  3. Clarence Moon wrote, “The Linux dog can’t hunt in this world.”

    Nonsense. How on Earth do Google, the school system of Indiana, the French National Police, Munich, the government and educational system of Brazil manage?

    It’s that other OS that cannot hunt and is only supported by illegal exclusive dealing by OEMs and retailers with M$.

  4. Clarence Moon says:

    I have not been on many “company networks”

    Have you been involved in “any”, forget “many”, Mr. Pogson? Your ideas are so foreign to my experiences at major corporations that they seem absurd.

    I don’t say that what you propose would not work, but I do say that you seem to be offering a solution that is hard to understand in light of what people do today and it doesn’t seem to address any need outside of recovering a few dollars worth of periodic software expense in situations where rich graphics and local control of presentations is not important. I doubt that many modern companies would tolerate that functional loss in exchange of the minor savings that you predict. Further, they would run away far and fast at the thought of upsetting so many established methods of doing daily business.

    The Linux dog can’t hunt in this world.

  5. Kozmcrae says:

    ch said:

    “Exactly. Serving web pages is a trivial task today, and using Solaris or Z/OS or Windows or whatever will likely give you no advantage, but it would cost money, so why bother? Result: Most web servers run on Linux.”

    Why are you bothering trying to divine where Linux is making an impact, it’s easy: Not on the desktop… Yet. Everywhere else, yes.

    It’s not a matter of money ch. It’s a matter of being in control of your OS, speed, stability and of course, applications. GNU/Linux has all that and it’s free. Not free and all that.

  6. ch, expressing a lack of imagination (not uncommon these days), wrote, “In company networks, Windows has some advantages as a server OS (AD, Exchange etc.). Result: Most internal servers run on Windows.”

    I have not been on many “company networks” but I have been on many LANs in schools. Schools often exhibit the same lack of imagination and may not have any server at all on the LAN. The first time teachers open a page from a local server on the LAN instead of waiting for “something” from the web, their imaginations grow. Students, especially, love speed and have fast mouse-fingers. I have never seen any need for AD on a LAN. At one school, I used LDAP, Apache, NFS, MySQL, and SSH to do all kinds of magic unimaginable to folks only familiar to XP. Need 100K recipes in seconds in the Home Ec. area? No problem! Need quick access to curriculum documents? No problem! Need a local search engine for documents and images? No problem! GNU/Linux can do it all. That other OS certainly has no advantage for folks with imaginations.

    The most servers I encountered at any school was 7. Strangely enough, I installed a single virtual machine with GNU/Linux and it could do all of what those did. The boss had spent tens of $thousands on licences for those servers but mine was $0. On price/performance, GNU/Linux wins on servers or desktops.

  7. ch says:

    “In web servers, people mostly want the OS to get out of the way and allow throughput. GNU/Linux does that as well as any OS.”

    Exactly. Serving web pages is a trivial task today, and using Solaris or Z/OS or Windows or whatever will likely give you no advantage, but it would cost money, so why bother? Result: Most web servers run on Linux.

    In company networks, Windows has some advantages as a server OS (AD, Exchange etc.). Result: Most internal servers run on Windows.

  8. ch wrote, “Linux is doing best were low demands on functionality meet finiancial constraints.”

    Not so. In web servers, people mostly want the OS to get out of the way and allow throughput. GNU/Linux does that as well as any OS. There are lots of players with money to burn that use GNU/Linux there. GNU/Linux on the desktop does tend to be on low-end systems where the price of that other OS does not compete well on price/performance but a lot of OEMs do list high-end systems with GNU/Linux in their catalogues for discerning customers. see HP desktop. At $1278 and up for optional hardware upgrades, that’s definitely not low-end stuff. It’s just a box with GNU/Linux on it. You can add a CPU up to $900 in price or a $150 graphics card or 8gB ECC ram for $460 and up to dual 300gB SSD for more.

    Of course, I recommend folks buy PCs based on price/performance so GNU/Linux wins everywhere. A ~$100 licensing fee puts M$ out of the competition in many cases. Why pay more for less?

  9. ch says:

    “M$ has been worrying about GNU/Linux ever since about 1995″

    Yes, but it seems to me that they have realized by now that they over-worried. Linux mostly isn’t in the same part of the market as Windows. Look where Linux is doing well, and the common theme is:
    Linux is doing best were low demands on functionality meet finiancial constraints.
    That’s not where MS wants to do most of its business.

  10. Clarence Moon wrote, “zero application to commerce” when discussing share of GNU/Linux on PCs.

    GNU/Linux is big business. Get over it. Do you believe Ballmer did not visit Munich if it were a trivial matter? You can bet your boots M$ has been worrying about GNU/Linux ever since about 1995 and a lot of their strategies have been designed to hold GNU/Linux back. They may have delayed GNU/Linux a bit but it’s more a threat to monopoly than ever today and therefor relevant to commerce.

    There have been many migrations to GNU/Linux and they continue. There have been a few reversals, too, but not because GNU/Linux was irrelevant. I was just reading that one school division was using Lenovo notebooks with GNU/Linux and later switched to netbooks with XP/”7″ to save money, but only because the GNU/Linux netbooks were no longer sold. The IT staff enjoyed GNU/Linux and look for the next opportunity. Same with students and teachers. GNU/Linux is not a marginal thing. It has not been for many years.

  11. Clarence Moon says:

    The 1% market share is pure fiction

    That it is, I am certain, as well. At best, it can only be a user participation ratio, pitting those who use Linux on the desktop against those who do not. Waxing and waning of that statistic is perhaps interesting to those desperate to sense progress in Linux adoption or to denigrate Linux use overall. But it is only an oblique measure of anything pertinent to either goal and has zero application to commerce.

    If you want to see how well Microsoft is performing, view their financial reports to the SEC. If you want to compare some Linux enterprise, find some financial data relevant to their operations. Most are too small to register on any scale whatsoever and are not public companies. The one pure play in Linux, Red Hat, doesn’t seem to bother with desktop stuff anymore, so there are no meaningful financials there either.

    All we are left with is the ability to analyze Microsoft’s published numbers and decide if they are worthy of continued investments. They are, of course, and MSFT is a large component of many institutional portfolios. That is reality, not some anomaly in a statistic that doesn’t directly bear on anything significant.

  12. Kozmcrae says:

    “I wasn’t talking to you, Mcrae, I was responding to Mr Pogson, and it was him who made the generalisation:…”

    I don’t give a rat’s ass who you were talking to ch. If you spew BS I’ll call you on it if it suits me. You might consider to get used to it.

  13. ch says:

    “Print shops are shrinking.”

    I’ll give you that, although there is still quite a number around, and they need a good solution that they can use. So we agree that they should look elsewhere?

    “The web is where Gimp shines.”

    Really?
    piestar . net / 2009 / 09 / 07 / gimp-sucks-ii-a-photoshop-tutorial

  14. ch says:

    “You are using a Cult of Microsoft ploy, taking some detail of GNU/Linux and using it to describe the whole of it by that detail in time and place.”

    I wasn’t talking to you, Mcrae, I was responding to Mr Pogson, and it was him who made the generalisation: “Free Software is by necessity good software.”

    So you do agree that not all free software is good software? Nice – exactly the point I was making to Mr Pogson.

    Further, I am neither a member of any cult nor was it my intention to “describe the whole of it”.

    Yes, there is good free software, too – although it seems to be more common on the server than on the desktop side. Yes, there is good _and_ bad commercial software, but that’s all besides the point.

    Oh, and btw: The most effective “M$ $hill” on this blog is – you. Really, what sane person would want to be caught using an OS that a raving lunatic like you is advokating? Sorry for repeating myself, but the two main reasons holding Linux back from a greater share on the desktop are the ideologists among the developers and fanboys like you.

  15. aardvark foolishly wrote about Gimp, “certainly not in print shops”.

    Print shops are shrinking. The web is where Gimp shines. Gimp was not designed for printed work and the Pantone copyrights prevent it being used easily for that. That is debatable as a mere collection of facts is not protectable. see Pantome’s claims. Even if the Pantome system for CMYK could be used by GIMP, the vast majority of colour monitors cannot match the colours, (no black, no white, no reflectivity, brightness/contrast). So, lack of CMYK stuff is of limited importance for most uses other than printing.

  16. The 1% market share is pure fiction. I showed in the case of Google that the entire state of California was shifted because of the bias towards business that NetApplications has. NetApplications enhances M$’s share the same way. It’s bogus.

  17. Kozmcrae says:

    “It’s remarkably easy to do that in theory. You can even get a 1+% market share by doing so.”

    And yet, it doesn’t go away. Why is that aardvark? It keeps growing but, there seems to be no sign of growth. Not by your measure there isn’t. So what’s up. GNU/Linux is growing. Some of it is off the radar.

    You can belittle it all you want but GNU/Linux is here to stay and it’s becoming more widespread. Live with it, or not.

  18. aardvark says:

    “Free Software is by necessity good software. If not, people don’t use it.”

    Hardly true, Mr Pogson. Mr Oiaohm is correct, and we should stop beating a dead horse (there are so many more recent alternatives, merely crippled beyond redemption), but I think you’ll agree that the GiMP is both Free Software and has been used for the last ten years or so.

    Not to much effect, and certainly not in print shops.

    It’s quite easy to sell “free, but not what you want” to people. It’s even easier to sell it if you add a sprinkling of “it’s not good for you, personally, but it is good for the planet/software in general/your grannie/Mr McRae’s Rag-Tag and Bobtail business.”

    It’s remarkably easy to do that in theory. You can even get a 1+% market share by doing so.

    Unfortunately, the results are hideously embarrassing and just do not work for normal individuals.

  19. I have taught in the North and South of three Prairie Provinces and two northern territories in many communities. FLOSS was welcome in most places. In a few it was there before I arrived. At the school in Easterville, Manitoba, 500 students and 40 staff use GNU/Linux regularly. They love it. It’s fast, has no malware and it just keeps on ticking. There are whole school divisions in Canada and USA that use GNU/Linux desktops. Whole businesses and governments also rely on GNU/Linux desktops. Those folks are not extraterrestrials.

  20. Kozmcrae says:

    ch said:

    “That is obviously wrong. KDE “4.0″, yED and a host of other software that isn’t/wasn’t good but still free come to mind.”

    If so, where did KDE 4.7 come from?

    You are using a Cult of Microsoft ploy, taking some detail of GNU/Linux and using it to describe the whole of it by that detail in time and place.

    At this point KDE is looking to become the default desktop for GNU/Linux due to the rejection of Canonical’s Unity and Gnome 3’s devolving into a ridged too dumbed down interface.

    Am I saying there isn’t any “bad” software in the GNU/Linux repositories? My demands are the same as most everyone else’s. I get along just fine on what GNU/Linux has to offer.

    You’ll have to try harder at promoting uncertainty about the software available from GNU/Linux.

  21. Phenom says:

    I am using it now, as I type. It works well.

    Since when is your opinion valid for the many other people as well?

    I have seen thousands do the same and read about millions using it.
    I’ve read about many extraterrestrials, too.

  22. Phenom lied when he wrote, “People do not use Linux on their desktops”.

    I am using it now, as I type. It works well. I have seen thousands do the same and read about millions using it. Not even close, Phenom.

    There are a lot of people in Mountain View, California (pop: 74K) and Sunnyvale, California (pop: 140K) that use it apparently.

  23. ch says:

    “Free Software is by necessity good software.”

    That is obviously wrong. KDE “4.0”, yED and a host of other software that isn’t/wasn’t good but still free come to mind.

    “If not, people don’t use it.”

    RMS would still use it, or at least he allways tells us so. However, by and large to correlation is: Software – whatever the license – better be good if it wants to attract many users.

    “Free Software gives the people the choice to use it or not.”

    Just as closed-source software.

    “Non-free software always seems to need a monopoly to prop it up.”

    Always? So where is the monopoly of OS X? In fact, where is the monopoly of Windows? I mean, you have been telling us for quite a while now that Windows only runs on something like 50% of PCs worldwide, so that surely is no monopoly!

  24. Phenom says:

    If not, people don’t use it.

    Exactly, Pogson. People do not use Linux on their desktops. That’s what we’ve been telling you all the time.

  25. Free Software is by necessity good software. If not, people don’t use it. Free Software gives the people the choice to use it or not. Non-free software always seems to need a monopoly to prop it up. Ever wonder why that’s the case? It could be because it is easier to bully a few OEMs than to persuade consumers who have a choice to choose the bad software. In the 1990s, M$ shipped millions of licences for software with absolutely no security either at the local machine or on the network. That software also shipped with ~50K bugs. It set records for badness measured in bug per thousand lines of code. FLOSS sets records for a small number of bugs. FLOSS works. It’s the right way to do IT.

  26. ch says:

    @Phenom:

    One of the problems of the FSF is, of course, that their focus is on “free” software, not on GOOD software …

  27. Phenom says:

    The notion to abolish Microsoft to let Linux grow is completely wrong in its very core. This is the idea to eliminate competition just because you are unefficient, and unable to compete. It ruins any chance of good progress and development.

    This notion is rather typical for plan economies (ex-communist countries). You can witness how these plan economies failed miserably, compared to the market economies.

  28. Clarence Moon says:

    here’s a thought

    Here’s a better one, Mr. Aardvark. Think of these postings as something like the flashing pop-ups that jump up on a web page that you might be reading, advertising Netflix or some mail-order/on-line university degree or the like. Everyone has trained themselves to ignore such things and hardly notice them at all. Don’t dignify them with a response. Like a child’s tantrums, they will go away in time if ignored.

  29. Kozmcrae says:

    aardvark said:

    “Stop pissing over people who you have never met before.”

    I’ve met “Jon” many, many times before.

  30. aardvark says:

    Mr Pogson:

    “Like it or not a tree is judged by its fruit and we on the web are judged by what we write or to what we link.”

    I’m not particularly interested in trees, fruits, or metaphors. I can, however, attest (having scrolled through this post) that Jon has not linked to anything at all.

    I can’t really see the value, even in a tiny little community like Linux, of ignoring any suggestion whatsoever.

    It might be stupid, it might be worthless. It might even be totally impracticable and unobtainable (the last two, and I’m sorry Jon, apply to your suggestions).

    But, unless the Linux crowd wants to admit that almost everybody else do not care and will not care and will not even consider it: here’s a thought:

    Mr McRae: Stop pissing over people who you have never met before. Stop pissing over people in general, in fact.

    Oh, and more than that, and I’m afraid this is going to get very, very personal:

    Go watch a baseball game.

    You’ll feel better, even if your team loses.

  31. aardvark says:

    Mr Pogson, you demean yourself.

    No doubt you want to protect crazed lunatics like Mr McRae, but I think you are just being too Canadian, and too much Mr Nice Guy.

    “Like it or not a tree is judged by its fruit and we on the web are judged by what we write or to what we link.”

    I don’t think Jon linked to anything. As far as I can see, Jon’s basic question was “How can we sell Linux?” and his proposed answer was “by getting a solid base and, preferably, producing a USP — what used to be called a killer app..”

    Personally, I don’t think Jon has a hope in hell of that happening. However, I have no reason to attack him on a personal basis.

    Apparently Mr McRae, for reasons that should not concern either you or I, is compelled to do so.

    Do you actually think that crazed obsessives like Koz are any help to the cause>

  32. kozmcrae says:

    Jon, you put on a pretty bad show pretending to be “interested in making Linux more enticing to mainstream users”.

    You’ve got an ear, go stick it in it. That’s all you deserve in my opinion. You are not interested at all in making GNU/Linux more “enticing” to “mainstream” users. You just want to highlight all those imaginary GNU/Linux faults. That’s the oldest trick in the book. We’ve seen it dozens of times here on Robert’s blog. You are not new to it or even especially good at it.

    It goes like this: “Hey there! I’m a linux user from way back and a Huge fan of it, a Huge fan. It’s a really great OS but….”

    So we are supposed to listen to you because you are an “old-time Linux user” and you would never say anything bad about Linux unless, of course, it actually deserved it.

    You know what Jon? You are a fool. Want to know why? Because you can’t pursue that line of BS without giving yourself away. It’s like Pinocchio’s nose getting longer when he lies. You are basically saying “I’m a Microsoft shill who is pretending to be a GNU/Linux user who just has some honest criticisms to make. And by the way, they just happen to be the same FUD that all Microsoft astroturfers spread.”

    You are not fooling anyone here.

    I’m sure you have used/do use Linux. I used Microsoft for years. It doesn’t buy you any credibility.

  33. jon wrote, “Consumers are not brainwashed trolls accepting what OEM’s foist on them.”

    The retailers do not need to brainwash consumers. All they have to do is keep GNU/Linux off retail shelves to stop consumers from buying GNU/Linux. They have absolute power to do that. It’s the retailers who are stuck in their ways. It’s the OEMs who still are not convinced GNU/Linux sells. They should know better because OEMs do sell millions of GNU/Linux PCs, mostly to business and government.

    jon wrote, “They rejected Linux because, in the end, they didn’t see that the net gain compensated for the hassle and discomfort of switching.”

    My users saw daily problems with that other OS: failures to boot, malware, slowing down, re-re-reboots and the problems grew worse over time. When we switched to GNU/Linux everyone saw and valued the improvement. Only one user wanted to go back and she had not been on staff at the time of the change and so did not see the difference. Ignorance does not foster choice. I have demonstrated GNU/Linux and that other OS side by side on identical hardware in front of a crowd and no one questioned the value of switching. Folks using XP saw more pain switching to “7” than GNU/Linux. When I showed people GNU/Linux thin clients compared to that other OS on brand new machines they were amazed. GNU/Linux was clearly superior in performance. My work as system administrator plunged like a rock when we switched. Instead of dealing with multiple problems daily, I had no problems for weeks at a time. My people had been paying $hundreds per incident to fly out a PC for repair when there was absolutely nothing wrong with the hardware. All the problems were about the software.

  34. jon says:

    Robert, I think you are fundamentally wrong about OEM’s and retailers determining Linux acceptance. Consumers are not brainwashed trolls accepting what OEM’s foist on them.

    I’ve been involved in efforts to pitch desktop Linux to a large organization (thousands of users). Their reaction is not, of course, indicative of anyone else’s.

    The gratis nature of Linux was an irrelevance. Support costs were not. They rejected Linux because, in the end, they didn’t see that the net gain compensated for the hassle and discomfort of switching. When we invited employees to test drive Linux, they almost universally rejected it. Why, they said, would we need to switch? Everything is working OK for me now.

    The attitude of Linux supporters is very much a roadblock when they refuse to listen to friendly advice and when they make acceptance of ideology and parroting of unexamined shibboleths the price of admission.

    Far too many people in Linux focus far too much on the perceived faults of potential Linux users. The way to get more people to use Linux is to pay attention to what they want and then give it to them. Period.

  35. aardvark wrote, “it is attitudes exemplified by your comment that highlight the roadblocks to mainstream acceptance that are imposed by much of the Linux community.”

    The world does not know nor little cares about GNU/Linux geeks. The attitude of geeks therefor is not a roadblock to acceptance.

    The biggest roadblock is that GNU/Linux is not on retail shelves. Ordinary consumers do not make those decisions. OEMs and retailers do. It’s their attitudes that need realignment with reality. Where GNU/Linux is on retail shelves, GNU/Linux sells well.

    aardvark also wrote, “Microsoft is the competition, not the enemy. “Killing” Microsoft won’t change a single character in the Linux codebase.”

    M$ has not allowed competition to thrive for decades. M$ is the enemy because of that. M$, itself, categorizes the mildest of competitors as enemies. see http://www.justice.gov/atr/cases/exhibits/2290.pdf They even use the term for any ISV developing software M$ does not like such as embedded systems on UNIX operating systems. This is about any ISV that produces any product M$ considers as competition even if the ISV produces some software they do like. M$ is cutting off its own nose to spite its face. The ISVs were categorized as friends or enemies and whether or not to waive royalties for software licences they may have used in their development work. This is one of a hundred examples of M$ being the enemy of freedom and competition. A normal business should be in the market to sell its own products and not to sabotage competitors’ products.

  36. jon says:

    @Kozmcrae:

    First, to be blunt, you’ve got me wrong. I’m interested in making Linux more enticing to mainstream users. That’s all.

    Second, to be even blunter, I think it is attitudes exemplified by your comment that highlight the roadblocks to mainstream acceptance that are imposed by much of the Linux community.

    That is:

    1. You assume I use Microsoft software. I don’t. I use Macs and Linux.

    2. You consider tagging someone as a Microsoft user as a pejorative. Attacking Microsoft and Microsoft users does nothing to advance Linux usage. It’s a diversion of useful energy and talent, a complete waste of time. Microsoft is the competition, not the enemy. “Killing” Microsoft won’t change a single character in the Linux codebase.

    3. No one is required to “have love” for FLOSS. It’s software, not a religion. I don’t love any software that I use. By fetishizing FLOSS, by placing more emphasis on adherence to community culture and ideology than on the code itself, we only strengthen the perception that Linux is a closed system meant only for True Believers.

    The overwhelming majority of people do not make software decisions based on the ideology underpinning its development. The notion of FLOSS is, essentially, invisible among consumers. To expect to expand the use of Linux by expanding the number of FLOSS adherents is folly.

    Linux needs to decide if it is pushing software or religion. I’ve opted for software.

  37. Like it or not a tree is judged by its fruit and we on the web are judged by what we write or to what we link. It is reasonable to assume what one writes reflects what one is thinking, otherwise all communication is noise.

  38. aardvark says:

    Mr McRae:

    Isn’t it usually considered prudent, not to say polite, to avoid questioning the motives of your friends and allies?

    Other than feeding your own peculiar sense of self-worth, what exactly is the point of addressing a fellow Unix/Linux/Gnu/FOSS user as “Jon shows his true colors?”

  39. Kozmcrae says:

    Jon shows his true colors:

    “I think many people are motivated to use Linux for ideological reasons or because they don’t want to pay for anything.”

    Of course that’s what you think Jon. You won’t allow yourself to think anything else. That would be admitting that people use GNU/Linux to be productive, to get their work done like they do with your beloved Microsoft software.

    You know Jon, you are attempting to pigeon hole GNU/Linux into some imaginary backwater nether world. GNU/Linux is used by the best, the brightest, for the fastest and mission critical installations. It’s good enough for the desktop too.

    You present yourself as an OS agnostic user but you are just FLOSS hater. You have no love for FLOSS and you come here to promote uncertainty about it. You are no different from any other member of the Cult of Microsoft.

  40. jon wrote, “it seems clear to me that regardless of the reasons current users have adopted Linux, those reasons are of little interest to the market or to mainstream consumers”.

    Nonsense. Present users are a few geeks who like to tinker and lots of “normal” people going to school, working for some employer, governments, etc. I have introduced thousands to GNU/Linux and while most thought it novel/strange, they all were able to use to greater advantage than that other OS. They weren’t using half the capability of their hardware until they tried GNU/Linux and they appreciated the difference. The French national police, the city of Munich, Peugeot, the governments of Brazil, Russia, India, China, Malaysia and Iceland are not radicals. They are people who want to get the job done efficiently. FLOSS works for them.

    I remember working in schools that were running XP and “7” came along. Folks hated “7” but found GNU/Linux was easy to use and efficient. There was no idealism involved unless wanting greater uptime and speed is an ideal. I presented GNU/Linux to them because I have ideals but they accepted GNU/Linux because it worked better than that other OS.

  41. jon says:

    Robert, I actually can’t recall if I switched from anything. The first OS I was ever exposed to was Unix, which was my incentive for looking at Linux.

    I did not say people “never” switch to a different application. I said when people are using an application on Windows or OS X, the availability of a Linux application that merely mimics the proprietary application is not an incentive to adopt Linux.

    Obviously, reasons exist to use Linux, otherwise no one would be using it. I think many people are motivated to use Linux for ideological reasons or because they don’t want to pay for anything. That’s all well and good, but I don’t share those opinions and, frankly, don’t care about the ideology one way or another.

    But, it seems clear to me that regardless of the reasons current users have adopted Linux, those reasons are of little interest to the market or to mainstream consumers. That, not machinations by Microsoft, is why it is not a factor in the market.

    Linux is certainly a lot better than it was 5 years ago but it is still not ready to enter the market and compete, on the retail shelves, head on with Apple and Microsoft. If it was that kind of product, you would not need to invent wishful fantasies about OEMs forcing it upon consumers.

    What Linux needs to succeed as a retail product is obvious. It needs to innovate, to adhere to tightly controlled code and UI standards, and it needs to foster, within that, an environment that allows developers to make money selling applications that meet those standards.

    Unless someone in Linux has the courage to remove their ideological blinders and tries to build that kind of distribution, I don’t think Linux will ever be attractive enough to sell to the mainstream. Too many people believe the value and essence of Linux *is* the ideology and all that much-vaunted choice and freedom. Those things are a double-edged curse, though, because they’re what’s keeping Linux in its little cult box.

  42. Kozmcrae says:

    Jon said:

    “Because if you already use an Apple or MS app to do X, you have no incentive to move to Linux.”

    Of course you do Jon. Why did you move to GNU/Linux all those years ago? You must have been using proprietary apps. What did you use when you switched to Linux?

    I switched to GNU/Linux and when I did I used Open Office instead of Microsoft Works. I already switched to Firefox from Internet Explorer. My incentive to move to GNU/Linux was to find relief from malware and the ever changing Windows desktop. My application needs are the same as 98% of everyone else’s needs.

    You seem to believe that once someone uses a given browser they will never use different one. What about upgrades? Will they ever upgrade? Sometimes upgrades can be rather different (Windows 8?). Your argument that people will never switch to a different application that does the same tasks falls flat. People grow and change with the software they use.

    By the way Jon, no one here “worries” about the Cult of Microsoft. They provide the amusement.

  43. jon says:

    @ch: I have to think you are correct. Licensing requirements hinder development and marketing of Linux software because there’s practically no way to prevent everyone else from copying and using your code.

    In addition, so many, many Linux supporters (the characterization of themselves as “supporters” rather than “customers” is, in itself, telling) continue to focus on changing the world so it embraces Linux as it is, rather than changing Linux to appeal to the world as it is.

    I’d like to see someone give it a try, though, i.e., spin off a distribution and try to use the same tightly controlled development and UI standards in use elsewhere.

  44. jon wrote of developing for GNU/Linux, “nil – it would simply be stupid”

    The margins on software are huge. If an application for which a developer is paid per copy is distributed by the millions in GNU/Linux desktops a developer would be well off and could retire. If the developer is producing FLOSS, and paid by some employer who uses that software, then the developer is certainly no worse off than working for M$ or a “partner”. The possibility of selling/distributing many millions of copies compared to a few millions is not sufficiently large to make developers shun GNU/Linux. There are many other factors, including a love of GNU/Linux and UNIX-like tools. Producing FLOSS has the huge advantage for developers that they can use FLOSS libraries for $0. That’s very important for start-ups and individual programmers. It certainly speeds development. One can finish some projects using FLOSS in the time it takes some organizations to include a purchase of a licence in next year’s budget.

  45. ch says:

    @jon: I like your thinking, but I fear it’s futile.

    The chances of any commercial SW developer creating some truely innovative application for Linux and not selling it (probably first) for Windows and/or MacOS are nil – it would simply be stupid.

    (The chances of commercial SW developers releasing _any_ desktop apps for Linux are small, to say the least: The Linux desktop is hostile territory for commercial stuff, and it’s users are mostly not inclined to pay much for SW, to put it mildly.)

    If “the FLOSS community” came up with some really great and innovative desktop application, it might be released first for Linux, but a Windows version _would_ follow almost immediately – and since the application is open source, there is no way to prevent it.

    Besides, I would argue that the FLOSS model of SW development doesn’t work that well for complex desktop applications: To do those really well requires very hard work, little of which is fun, and expertise in a lot of different fields. Since it is impossible to make money with mainstream desktop applications released as FLOSS (unless you get sponsored by Google or some other company), the developers involved will concentrate on the fun stuff, and you get something half-assed like GIMP.

    Finally, what is really holding back Linux on the desktop? IMHO it’s the combination of developers who are too ideological (“Proprietary is ebil! All proprietary stuff on Linux must break!”) and fanboys like Mr Pogson who are unwilling to discuss problems in the land of the penguin and instead indulge in fantasies (“There are no problems! LO is even better than MSO!” etc). So technically Linux has the potential to become a serious contender on the desktop (although that would require some drastic changes), but because of the people involved it won’t happen.

  46. FLOSS is device-independent largely. There’s no way an application can be made to run exclusively on GNU/Linux and still be FLOSS. One of the freedoms is to run the software. The software can run anywhere.

    The ability of users to run FLOSS on that other OS does not prevent users from seeing the advantages of FLOSS for the OS. I did.

    Lower costs, better performance, fewer re-re-reboots, faster booting, freedom to copy/share, are all advantages to ordinary users of PCs. If GNU/Linux PCs were on more retail shelves, more end-users would use GNU/Linux. There are of course users for whom none of those things matter but I have not met any of them. I have often demonstrated GNU/Linux side by side with that other OS on identical hardware and the advantages are obvious to users, ordinary consumers. A consumer using FireFox, LibreOffice and VLC on that other OS still has a reason to migrate to GNU/Linux. If that were not the case, we would not read about individuals and organizations migrating to GNU/Linux.

    see 50 Places Linux is Running That You Might Not Expect

    Further, OEMs have a reason to migrate to GNU/Linux: the burdens M$ places on them and the cost. The world wants and can produce small cheap computers and OEMs cannot produce them running that other OS.

  47. jon wrote, “Apache is a web server, not a desktop application. WordPress is not a Linux app, it runs pretty much any where PHP and MySQL are available. Wikipedia is a web site, not an application.”

    Those are arbitrary restrictions you place on the software. They all exist on my desktop machine because I run GNU/Linux and the FLOSS licences allow me to run the software anywhere. Wikipedia is a website that runs the MediaWiki application. Web applications are where the action is, not the desktop. Client machines can be as small and as cheap as we like because servers can be as powerful as people can make them. I have on my desk an old thin client that uses about 15W. Nowadays, a box like that can be 10 times smaller and use 1/10 the power and do a fine job. Meanwhile, we have servers with umpteen cores, gB, TB, and 10gbits/s networking. FLOSS has had this capability for a decade and Wintel is just now trying to duplicate it. Wintel, for the longest time, tried to hold back the Internet as a threat. Stupid people run M$. Stupid people use their software.

    “My nightmare scenario is that the Web grows into a rich application platform in an operating system-neutral way.”

    see The Web is the Next Platform

  48. jon says:

    Robert, my point is about strong and *unique* products that allow Linux to deliver capabilities that are not available from Microsoft. Apps like Gimp or LibreOffice, regardless of how good they might be, can’t do that because they *mimic* software people already own.

    Apache is a web server, not a desktop application. WordPress is not a Linux app, it runs pretty much any where PHP and MySQL are available. Wikipedia is a web site, not an application.

    I completely disagree with the notion that Linux is not available at retail because “retailers have been brain-washed by M$”. It isn’t available because vendors stopped trying to sell into retail. (Plus, it is very hard selling something that people can also get for free. but, that’s another issue.) My local CompUSA store, for example, used to have dozens of shrink-wrapped copies of RedHat and Suse on the shelves. They acquired a patina of dust. I can get in my car and be at RedHat HQ in 20 minutes, yet I cannot buy a retail RedHat box because they pulled out of the market.

    But, if MS has exclusive deals, so what? Sell it someplace else. Sell it online. Sell it at Amazon. Sell it in vending machines. Open up shops like Apple.

    The battle is not against MS. That’s a waste of time and energy.

    If we keep focusing on the alleged Evil Things that other people may or may not do to thwart Linux, then we are beating our heads against the wall.

    If Microsoft does Evil Things to thwart Linux, do you really think Linux fans have any chance of doing anything about that?

    “Use Linux because MS is Bad” is a pretty ineffective selling point. “Use Linux because it is open source” is equally pointless.

    We have 15 years of experience to tell us those reasons do not work. It’s time to start playing in the Big Leagues by the same rules as everyone else, rather than complaining that the game is rigged. We cannot change the rules or end the rigging. All we can do is make software that is more appealing than MS or Apple software, and that isn’t happening, yet.

    The Linux community needs to decide what it wants to do: Adhere to its ideological antecedents or market software that attracts mainstream buyers. I think the case is proven that it cannot do the former and still accomplish the latter.

  49. Conzo says:

    Robert, I think you keep (either unintentionally, or willfully) talking past jon’s argument.

    It is not about whether or not there exists good/excellent software on Linux or not, or whether OOo or LO are excellent substitutes for MS’ products – that’s a whole other debate.

    What (I think) Jon means is that Linux needs – for lack of another word – a ‘killer app’. The best analogy I can think of is PS3 or Xbox360 exclusives in the console gaming world – the kind of exclusives that convince many console gamers to actually buy _both_ systems, just because each has exclusives that sells it to them.

    Linux doesn’t have an exclusive killer app, nothing that can’t be done one way or the other on other OS’s. Having one would definitely make Linux a lot more attractive.

    Whether Linux as an ecosystem is viable to produce and keep up with a killer app is another story, and I’m not sure I believe that it will ever happen without very strict enforcement of software and UI standards, and other things which go against the grain of (FL)OSS as such.

    PS Jon, I like your thoughts :)

  50. jon wrote, “You are avoiding, perhaps deliberately, my point that offering a unique and strong application would entice people to move to Linux by fixating on Photoshop, rather than addressing the substance of my suggestion.”

    Uh, no. I merely point out that GNU/Linux has already many strong applications. I think LibreOffice is the flagship for any who use word-processing, probably 1/3 of users of PCs. I think GIMP etc. are very strong for the normal consumers using a PC. FLOSS does have unique products that are leaders in the field of IT: Apache, WordPress, Wikimedia all come to mind. It is silly to think that some new unique application is the bottleneck. Just look at some retail shelves devoid of GNU/Linux. They are not devoid of GNU/Linux because of the apps but because the retailers have been brain-washed by M$ and M$’s partners through technological evangelism. Retailers who do sell GNU/Linux are doing very well. Retailers pushing that other OS are suffering a decline in growth. The market decides where it is allowed to decide. M$ and its partners prevent the decision by exclusive dealing.

    jon also wrote, “if you already use an Apple or MS app to do X, you have no incentive to move to Linux.”

    There is some truth to that in that it takes some effort to change but there are incentives: lower cost, higher performance, less malware, fewer re-re-reboots etc. Comparing a one-time cost of changing to infinite steps on the Wintel treadmill is all the incentive anyone needs. That’s why GNU/Linux is growing and that other OS is not keeping its share of the market. Someone lying in the bottom of a hole could give up and die or they can stand up and move out of the hole easily.

  51. jon says:

    Robert, I’ve used Linux since the days of Yggdrasil and used it as my desktop for ten of those years.

    I am not promoting uncertainty about Linux. I am suggesting ways to make it more popular.

    I don’t care at all about Microsoft. I don’t care at all about the free software ideology. I view Linux as a product that deserves to be judged and used on its merits, not because I am supposed to “support” how it is built and not because I am supposed to fret and worry about the so-called Cult of Microsoft.

    You are avoiding, perhaps deliberately, my point that offering a unique and strong application would entice people to move to Linux by fixating on Photoshop, rather than addressing the substance of my suggestion.

    It is pointless and a waste of time to argue that people can do with Gimp what they can do with Photoshop, or what they can do with any other Linux app that mimics the competition rather than breaking new ground. Why? Because they have amply demonstrated that they don’t want to. Because if you already use an Apple or MS app to do X, you have no incentive to move to Linux.

    You are rehashing the same alleged motivations to move to Linux that have been trumpeted for more than 15 years. That has not worked. The mainstream is not going to buy Linux because they hate Microsoft. (They don’t hate MS, actually.) The mainstream is not going to buy Linux because it’s open source. (They don’t care.) The mainstream is not going to buy Linux because it has programs that mimic programs they already have. (Too much risk measured against no expected gain.)

    (People are afraid to try even Firefox on Windows, for crying out loud. They’d rather put up with all the Windows annoyances. And, in my experience, they do not believe claims that the annoyances are not there in Linux or OS X. They see changing as a scary risky and very technical thing to do and they won’t take the chance.)

    The way to increase the popularity of Linux is to be honest about the reasons people buy and use software, to stop telling people what they should and could do and start paying attention to what they really do. We need to stop beating dead horses. The focus should be on the software of Linux, not on the culture or the ideology of Linux or the alleged evils of Microsoft, or any other peripheral issue that the mainstream doesn’t care about.

  52. oiaohm says:

    Ivan gimp vs photoshop really I am sick of.

    digiKam is more suitable for the most cases. Darktable and vips also rock.

    https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/news/all-icelands-public-administrations-moving-towards-open-source

    Another government going open source.

    There is no buzz requirement. Cost savings will convert governments. Once governments are coveted larger businesses will convert. FOSS will slowly come from the top down.

    The big enterprise already get cost saving when they order a few hundred machines configured exactly for there network.

  53. As I have written before, GIMP has all the features many will ever need. Proof: very few PCs run PS.

  54. Ivan says:

    The GIMP is very powerful, even more so when it has open source plugins (in the spirit of firefox) that can be snapped in to extend it.

    As this argument is older than dirt it is much easier to just link to one of the existing arguments rather than pointing out where gimp fans are wrong: http://forums.cgsociety.org/archive/index.php/t-873471.html

    Be sure to click on full view for comparison images.

    Note:
    - Layer support & management are rudimentary
    – Color support is basic
    – GIMP’s “true power” come from its add-ons, whose usefulness & depth are dubious at best.
    – The GUI is a mess shows little concern for convenience, consistency, or ergonomics.
    – File support is flimsy and shows weak support for current standards and almost none for emerging ones.
    – Stability? Maybe on Linux. The Win port is far more buggy.
    – Brushes….. Such a basic concept that should have been mastered ages ago, but has not.

  55. Kozmcrae says:

    Clarence said:

    “There is nothing to stop them.”

    Clarence lies.

  56. oe says:

    The GIMP is very powerful, even more so when it has open source plugins (in the spirit of firefox) that can be snapped in to extend it. Haven’t used PS but I’ve done some pretty advanced magic in the GIMP. A lot o the FOSS Apps look ugly, but functionality-wise, beat the pants of the proprietary equivalents (OO_Writer vs Ms Word, Gnumeric vs. Ms Excel, Evolution and Thunderbird vs. Outlook, Firefox or Chromium vs IE, and it goes on….).

  57. Clarence Moon says:

    There’s no stress for the OEMs, because they actually don’t care which one you use.

    I would think that there is a lot of concern on the part of the OEMs, since the phones will ring and they will have to support both systems and will get no more money to do so than they would have gotten had they supplied Windows alone.

    That’s the problem now and that’s what the problem was 20 years ago. The OEMs and retailers will not sell any more computers with the change than they would have sold without it. So there is not enough of a gain to pay for the cost of change. If OEMs thought that they could actually make more money adding Linux to Windows products, they would do so. There is nothing to stop them.

  58. kozmcrae says:

    Jon said:

    “Robert, kozmcrae, is there a Linux app with the reputation of, say, Photoshop, that could incentivize people who already use another OS to move to Linux to run that app?”

    Gee Jon, I’m not sure how to answer that. You sort of give me the impression that you’ve never heard of this GNU/Linux thingy. You seem to be promoting uncertainty about GNU/Linux as in, does it have any usable apps? Promoting uncertainty about GNU/Linux is the mainstay of the Cult of Microsoft.

    Everybody and his brother has a copy of Photoshop. Nearly everyone of them are illegal copies. And nearly everyone of those copies are used for cropping photographs and practically nothing else. If you are a professional photographer the GIMP will do just about everything PS will do. For all those photo croppers there are a dozen or so photo editing applications that are easy to use yet are full featured.

    Applications are not what’s holding GNU/Linux back from widespread adoption. Some of what’s holding it back can be seen right here on these pages.

  59. jon says:

    Robert, I agree that Photoshop is overpriced and that cheaper commercial and open source applications can satisfy the needs of many people.

    Regardless, though, Photoshop is, in fact, held in high esteem by many people whose OS decisions are based on the ability of an OS to run Photoshop to their satisfaction. They won’t even listen to talk of equivalent or “good enough” Linux applications and don’t begrudge paying Adobe’s price.

    My larger point, however, was that most people look for an OS that supports the applications they want to run, not the other way around. Historically, we’ve seen applications like Visicalc, 1-2-3, Office, etc., pull customers to one OS or the other.

    All I am saying is that I believe Linux needs that kind of an application, especially if someone wants to try to market a retail version. The fact that Linux is free, as in beer or as in ideology, does not interest the market. Linux needs to deliver something special, a goodie that can be marketed as something Apple and Microsoft don’t have. All the good stuff that you and I know is in Linux won’t cut it on the Big Box shelves.

  60. jon, the reputation of Photoshop tm is overblown. Very few can afford the price of a licence and very few actually use the product. Take Adobe’s revenue and divide by the price of a licence to estimate how many copies are out there. It’s perhaps on 10% of PCs at most. In 2011, revenue was $4 billion. If the revenue were totally upgrades to PS, that would be $4billion/$200 = 20 million copies and we know they have other revenue streams besides PS. So, for less than 20 million instances, we must have that other OS on every machine on Earth? I don’t think so.

    One can do the most frequent operations: adjust brightness/contrast, correct colour, crop, and zoom very nicely with a bunch of FLOSS products. I use Gimp, ImageMagick, libgd on PHP sites, and a few others. They do the job very well. The vast majority of users of PCs don’t need much more than that. Otherwise they can just retake the picture…

    I see PS 5 upgrades for $199 and PS 5 new for $699. Needless to say, folks can buy decent cameras for such prices and make all the pictures they want. What’s the better buy? Great performance from some item that’s essential or great performance from some item that’s not essential and is useless without a camera? If we allow the basic tool a performance value of unity, the price/performance for camera+FLOSS is half the price of camera+PS for the same performance. Who would not cross the street to buy something at half-price?

  61. jon says:

    >>”The goal here is to win over the OEMs who are, at the end of the day, the major vendors of Windows OS.”

    Well, my goal is to see Linux a marketable retail product people will buy to replace their current OS.

    Imagine you go into a Big Box store with dozens of nice new machines running Linux thanks to some lobbying of OEMs. If you don’t like the way it looks, you will walk away. If you need to run a specific program, you won’t be convinced when the clerk tells you Linux has programs “like that”. Why would you stop using a program you need on your current installation and start using an untried OS simple because some clerk says it has similar programs?

    Convincing OEMs doesn’t hurt, but it betrays a mindset that sees consumers as mindless drones who accept whatever OEMs feed them.

    The battle is not to hurt or punish Microsoft. Who cares? Give people a reason to buy Linux and they will. A unique and compelling application that’s only available on Linux would go a very long way toward that.

  62. aardvark says:

    Here’s a thought.

    Assume that OEMs can settle on a single version of Linux for this purpose. (Could be Debian, could be Ubuntu, it doesn’t matter.)

    The way to get past the lock-in, I think, is to offer a properly QAed version of a dual-boot machine: you get Windows 8 (which people hate) or GNU/Linux, which is the wave of the future.

    There’s no stress for the OEMs, because they actually don’t care which one you use.

    There’s no stress for the customer, because they’re not locked-in, either way.

    And there’s no additional cost (other than a fairly trivial amount of QA, which can be devolved to the community), because Linux is free as in beer.

    This would appear to me to be the obvious way forwards. I believe another Open Letter is called for, Mr Pogson.

  63. Clarence Moon says:

    That’s why its market share is rising rapidly and that other OS is falling.

    Keep saying that, Mr. Pogson. Much the same thing worked for Peter Pan and saved Tinker Bell, if that story is true.

    Perhaps Mr. jon was just pulling your leg by reciting the successful road taken by Android and suggesting that desktop Linux needs to do something similar. The goal here is to win over the OEMs who are, at the end of the day, the major vendors of Windows OS. There is some economic incentive in terms of repeating costs for Linux although there is a massive cost involved in making such a watershed sort of change. The OEMs have to be shown evidence that will convince them that they can eventually recoup their expenses. So far, there is nothing to suggest that they can.

  64. jon says:

    Robert, kozmcrae, is there a Linux app with the reputation of, say, Photoshop, that could incentivize people who already use another OS to move to Linux to run that app? Linux needs that kind of app because very few people will move from Windows to Linux simply because Linux is a better OS. People give more precedence to the applications they use than to the OS that they run on.

    To draw customers away from platforms that they have already paid for, a retail Linux needs to offer them a carrot that they can’t buy elsewhere. I don’t think Linux offers that at present. I am doubtful that a retail vendor would be willing to put money into developing it because open source licensing requirements would mean others could distribute at no cost the product he was trying to sell. (As I recall, that’s why Red Hat left the retail business.)

    Linux has software repositories, not actual retail stores where products are vetted for compliance to a single set of standards before they are made available to the public. I started using Linux well before those repositories became available. Even ignoring the enforcement of standards, there is simply no excuse for anyone to be able to download software from an approved Linux repository that either does not work correctly or prevents something else from working correctly.

    Changing the name is good PR. Not many people have heard of Linux. Calling it ‘Linux’ would not help sell it.

  65. jon wrote some stuff with which I disagree, like “Stuff like LibreOffice and Gimp or whatever can’t do that.”

    Really, a browser like FireFox or Chrome and LibreOffice are all that many users of PCs need, so GNU/Linux will do the job no matter what you call it.

    GNU/Linux has app stores and have had for more than a decade. See packages.debian.org There is so much stuff in there…

    First impressions do count and typically users of GNU/Linux see a pretty desktop and some nice icons/menus. They could care less if those are “transparent” or rounded.

    GNU/Linux is not a “new” OS. It has been around for decades and has a good reputation. That’s why its market share is rising rapidly and that other OS is falling.

  66. kozmcrae says:

    “1. Hire some developers to build an app that does something that Windows/OS X/iOS/ apps don’t do.”

    There’s already many things GNU/Linux doesn’t do that Microsoft’s Windows does do… That’s what’s good about it.

    “2. Make sure the display looks fantastic, all the time, with any app.”

    I dual boot PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu Studio. The text in everything on Ubuntu looks ratty. Kind of like it does in XP. In PCLinuxOS the text is full and smooth. I never really noticed it until I ran Ubuntu along side of it. I’ve tried to work with Ubuntu but I have yet to find the magic combination of settings to get the text to look like it does in PCLinuxOS.

    My experience tells me GNU/Linux has everything 98% of the public needs in a computer. The only difficulty is in the packaging and delivery. But it’s nearly impossible to get people to switch to GNU/Linux when a computer is Windows. No Windows, no computer.

  67. anon says:

    Jon’s comment is dumb.

  68. jon says:

    If I was going to roll out a desktop machine running Linux, here’s what I’d do:

    1. Hire some developers to build an app that does something that Windows/OS X/iOS/ apps don’t do. Frankly, I don’t know what that might be. But, *any* new OS trying to lure customers away from Apple or MS really ought to have a sexy application that generates buzz and desire and gives people a specific reason to buy. Stuff like LibreOffice and Gimp or whatever can’t do that.

    2. Make sure the display looks fantastic, all the time, with any app. Image counts, and first impressions can’t be changed. That should not be difficult. A number of distributions look pretty good out of the box, much better than Windows.

    3. Open an app store, set develop standards, and enforce them.

    4. Don’t call it Linux. Call it something else, like Google did with Android.

  69. Greg says:

    I totally agree!

    And moreover, 2012 is the year that the most advanced and customized GUI of LINUX the KDE becomes stable and awesome at last!

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