Desktop Linux Success

I came across an article with a simple thesis: Desktop Linux needs a controller who looks out for the needs of the end-user; there isn’t one; Linux fails…

Of course, the authour presumes Ubuntu is Linux, ignoring all other distros. Of course, the authour has some pet hardware that doesn’t play well with GNU/Linux. Of course, the authour assumes that GNU/Linux is not in use by more than 100 million desktop systems, each with one or more end-users and they are happy with GNU/Linux.

So, the basic assumptions are wrong and what follows is as well. GNU/Linux has succeeded on the desktop despite the lack of a central controller. The idea that a single entity can be the end-all of IT is ludicrous. Ubuntu certainly is not it. The release on schedule idea is very efficient but it does require absent features or serious bugs from time to time to be released. The Unity interface is not for everyone. Definitely a central controller will not please everyone. You just have to look at M$ or Apple to see that. There are many who love those closed gardens but I have not met many who love it. One can accept being born and raised in a concentration camp but no one loves it.

The authour claims the success of Android/Linux is due to the magical control of Google but that is only part of the story. Google’s Android is just another distro (He derides distros…). The success of Google is not because of the central control but the energy of the hundreds of thousands of developers who tweak the systems and write applications for it and the hardware manufacturers, outside M$’s and Apple’s control, who invest in Android/Linux. With M$’s and Apple’s system that kind of environment is always shackled with the “prime directive” to support the empire. With Android/Linux the developers are totally free to create/produce. Google does not require them to be “partners” but gives them free rein. Developers love that and willingly support the system. That system works for everybody, not just a few biggies. The difference with desktop Linux is that M$ has persuaded almost all OEMs and retailers to do an exclusive deal. At first, M$ did this by compulsion and punishing deviance. Now, after decades, a whole industry assumes M$ or Apple is a must-have.

The situation with GNU/Linux on the desktop is changing rapidly this year. The success of the uncontrolled Android/Linux system on ARM makes it clear to everyone that M$ and Apple are not the only game in town. The capability of these tiny mobile systems draws into question all the assumptions of IT. 2007 or so was the crack in the dam. Ubuntu did make progress with some OEMs but they were never enthusiastic. The netbook opened the door further because the first ones ran GNU/Linux but M$ saw it was their partners producing them and made offers that could not be refused. Then the smart phone came to be. Because M$ had no product in the mix, manufacturers were not already in the camp of M$ and could freely do what they do best, produce products for consumers. The surprise that tiny chips with FLOSS could do most of what people needed doing has changed everything. OEMs are advertising their new products on prime-time TV and other media reaching wide audiences. The gadgets are portable and in the public eye. The performance is so great that they accomplish most of what users of PCs do with a fraction of the cost and hassle.

Essentially GNU/Linux and Android/Linux have succeeded as they would have on the desktop but in the mobile space. Since many people use mobile devices on their desktop, the revolution will compete head-to-head with M$’s and Apple’s stuff on desktops. We already see docking systems for smart phones as useful as anything the Wintel regime has ever produced. To assume that desktop Linux has failed in some way is ludicrous. In spite of the monopoly, obtained illegally (although given a big push by IBM early on), GNU/Linux will succeed and has already accomplished a lot. The push from Android on ARM is the final battle. Retailers are selling these things. They will sell GNU/Linux on x86 and ARM sooner or later. It’s already happening in regions and in a small way everywhere. There is no lack of central control holding it back. At the moment a shortage of parts is slowing Android a bit. Manufacturers are working at capacity cranking out systems.

For a laugh read The Desktop Linux Paradox

“The pieces crucial to making a cohesive desktop are scattered between too many different authorities, and the end result is an environment where attempting to create stable software for end users is a lot harder than it needs to be. Worse yet, it’s an environment that is hostile to proprietary software — which, for all of the bile directed at it, isn’t going away anytime soon.”

HAHAHAHA! ROFL! Last time I checked many organizations are cranking out first-rate software for end-users: FireFox, Google, LibreOffice … to name a few. They don’t seem to have any extra difficulty producing software for GNU/Linux. Even producers of non-FREE software succeed on GNU/Linux: opera, Adobe (Flash, anyway), IBM, Oracle, … The authour must be paid by the word or something and needed to get in his quota.

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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10 Responses to Desktop Linux Success

  1. Yep. We saw that with government/educational migrations, OOXML debacle, and various anti-trust incidents. A business that is so big it feels it can push whole countries around is too big. M$ has operated for decades as though it were above the law.

  2. Richard Chapman says:

    Hey “oldman”, do you have a problem with governments imposing market constraints on businesses? How about a foreign, private company doing the same thing.

  3. If governments, schools and businesses can choose that other OS, they can choose GNU/Linux. It makes sense to them.

    Countries that promote GNU/Linux include Brazil, Russia, India, China, Malaysia,… Coincidentally they are all doing well in expanding their GDP.

    see The State of Linux: Malaysia’s Strong OSS Growth in Servers & Desktops

    GDP Real Growth Rate: Malaysia 7.2%, Brazil 7.5%, Russia 3.8%, China 10.3%, and India 8.3%. Russia is doing OK but the others are spectacular. Could it be that Russia has come late to avoiding “the tax”?

  4. oldman says:

    “In how many of those stores was the choice to exclude GNU/Linux made by consumers? ”

    Irrelevant, Pog. The store has to stock, advertize and support the computers that they sell. The only computers with a proven track record of sales are those loaded with windows OS. If they eiter don’t believe that it will sell or have had a bad experience trying to sell computers with linux installed, its not going on their shelves no matter how much you and others here migh believe it is viable.

    “There are countries where one can find GNU/Linux desktops, notebooks etc. on the shelves. Brazil, Malaysia, Russia, India, and China come to mind as front runners.”

    With the exception of state mandated programs where linux as the cheap solution is imposed by government fiat whether or not it is wanted, I am willing to be that the Linux desktop is used by the same percentage of people as it is used in the so called developed world.

  5. Success is not a checkpoint but an on-going process.

    In how many of those stores was the choice to exclude GNU/Linux made by consumers? There are countries where one can find GNU/Linux desktops, notebooks etc. on the shelves. Brazil, Malaysia, Russia, India, and China come to mind as front runners.

  6. Yonah says:

    Serdar Yegulalp’s is excellent. I pretty much agree with everything he outlines. Linux needs some serious leadership in order to whip it into a consumer grade desktop Operating System that appeals to the masses and not a small cult following. He only needs to mention Ubuntu because it is considered by many to be the most serious attempt to date to get Linux into the mainstream.

    Robert, early in your article you say, “GNU/Linux has succeeded on the desktop…” But then near the end you say, “…GNU/Linux will succeed and has already accomplished a lot.”

    Now, I’m not an English major, but how can you say that something has succeeded (past tense) then later go on to say it will succeed (future tense)? Saying that something will succeed implies it was not already a success. You can call desktop Linux a success for you personally, but that’s not the context the author of the article was using, and I think that’s something many Linux users always forget. The context that people use to view Linux includes others outside yourself. I can walk into just about any computer store in the USA or China and not see a single GNU/Linux PC on the shelf, nor do I recall ever seeing any boxed Linux software sitting on a single store shelf. Is that your definition of success? GNU/Linux can not in any way be considered a success in the PC desktop operating system market.

  7. oe says:

    For being an official “Microsoft-only” shop we sure are re-purposing a lot of old CPU’s (which that Other OS certainly generates a lot of from the upgrade treadmill) to run OpenBSD, Linux and FreeDOS. Old network gear gets closeted, “lost” and then brought out for an air-gapped “data-collection” network… I don’t think we’re by any means alone in this quiet movement. None of these machine count towards the 1% Linux marketshare.

  8. Dann says:

    The success of GNU and Linux has largely been because of (and as Ballmer so put it) “Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers.”

    Except with FOSS, the developers are not harassed by management, patents, weak ecosystems, expensive hardware and licensing, deadlines (well, we make our own), and the dastardly “waterfall model” of development.

    It’s no wonder that FOSS took off and proprietary offerings are left in the dust.

    If vendors can make proprietary stuff work on “Linux”, it’ll go a lot farther than proprietary-on-proprietary software, but not as far in the long run.

    Definitely made some great points that we all need to be reminded of.
    Personally, I prefer rolling release cycles. Can’t have that with any Apple or Microsoft operating system.
    Plus I can get my software on almost any hardware architecture one can purchase. Microsoft’s making a big deal when moving to ARM. Debian and Gentoo are laughing at that bulky, wheezing, waddling pile of bloat.

  9. The desktop will be important for years to come. It just won’t be a private club.

  10. Richard Chapman says:

    The problem with the Ignorati is that they keep drawing new lines in the sand for GNU/Linux to cross. They’ve been doing this for 12 years or so. Well, there’s this little corner of the beach left called the “desktop”. And even as they are busy defending that corner it’s losing its power as the all important market.

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