SJVN piles on about the use of GNU/Linux on the desktop. Here’s his list:
- Linux distributors need to take the traditional desktop seriously
- Pound on PC vendors’ doors.
- Work even harder to get low-level hardware vendor support.
- Slow down the pace of change.
- Give independent software vendors (ISV)s more support.
I agree with most of what he writes. However, it’s not just GNU/Linux that has to do these things. ISVs should be able to choose their own interface even if the distros do not. If the ISVs accept Ubuntu GNU/Linux as the lingua franca of software on GNU/Linux that’s what will happen. Canonical is a little flighty so the ISVs could actually decide to make a distro on their own. They are a large enough group to do that. The ISVs could also ship their favourite distro inside a virtual machine that will run on any distro. That’s bulky but it would be worthwhile and workable on today’s huge PCs.
He’s right about the pace of change, too. It’s just silly that every library gets updated every few months so that new software has to wait until the majority of distros come to the same level if they ever do. Decide on a minimal set of libraries and stick with it for a while. The end user won’t know and won’t care. It’s also silly to have multiple incompatible GUIs if that impacts development of software. To some extent the GUIs will work with any graphics library so I don’t see that as a killer.
The “pounding on PC vendor’s doors” thing misses the point somewhat. It’s not enough to pound on OEMs doors. They already ship GNU/Linux if anyone asks. Pound on the retailers’ and distributors’ doors and make sure they ask. Already business and governments are large enough to obtain shipments of GNU/Linux PCs. It’s the consumer who is shut out in North America and somewhat in Europe and Japan.
GNU/Linux already has “8″ beat. That’s why M$ is going to ARM and simplifying the user-interface. GNU/Linux has been doing both for ages and winning. Android/Linux has really been breaking down barriers by doing what SJVN suggests. It will work for GNU/Linux too.
The key issue about GUI that I see is that Canonical is producing an Android-like user-interface for desktops. That won’t fly. There must be more flexibility for OEMs than that. If an OEM is shipping a desktop or notebook PC with obvious keyboard and pointer inputs a smartphone interface is not ideal. OEMs will have to be given choice just as the current installed base of GNU/Linux has now. Canonical, if it is to be the major distro, has to continue offering choice. I don’t believe they are big enough to do that on their own. They have to cooperate better with Debian and others to allow more choice not less. For the work I did in schools X and XFCE4 was ideal. It will be hard for large sections of IT to accept cripple-ware or bloat from Canonical as a better tool. GNU/Linux in its present form could be as prevalent as Android/Linux with just a few changes.