A Real Year of the Linux Desktop–What’s Needed

They said it at LinuxWorld in Toronto a few months ago. They’ve buzzed it at analysts, and now the press is saying it to the public. Novell says this is the year of the Linux desktop, and I’m familiar with evidence showing gains in popularity for Linux. Yet, I disagree that this is the year. Nothing is happening this year to make it, specifically, the year of the Linux desktop and I’m going to hypothesize what could change that.

To me, there’s no contest, GNU/Linux systems have been offering more innovative, stable, easily productive, and pleasant desktop systems (KDE for example) for years. However, that’s not enough to move Linux to a place where it challenges the automatic momentum both Microsoft and Apple enjoy within the mindset of the general population (at least in North America–perhaps elsewhere this is different). The mindset of the user/customer environment is what is needed to turn it into the year of the Linux desktop–Novell isn’t making much of a dent in this regard.

Jem Matzen wrote why specialized systems as opposed to fancier eye candy would be a better answer to move in this direction (that’s my very over-simplified paraphrase). I appreciate that notion in part; I’d like to suggest something else though, something which I think would give GNU/Linux and FOSS applications a real poignant way to shift the public’s mindset toward their adoption. Even better, it’s a business model that could only, really work in its entirety within a Free and open source ecosystem. What I’m suggesting, is essentially like something James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones recommend in their book, Lean Thinking, except applied within a FOSS ecosystem.

To catalyze the required mindset shift–and this may appear plain at first glance, let me flesh it out–if a customer could easily buy a computer system, stacked with the desired hardware, configured software, support expertise, update service, backup service, in addition to having automatic access to a range of web services (like music stores or VoIP services) optionally pre-setup, it would be a completely compelling solution. What’s so special? Don’t we see that from the likes of Apple or Dell? Not really. No company that I’m aware of actually does this to the degree I’m proposing but a GNU/Linux OS distribution is the one that would fit this model and allow it to work, now. I’ll continue by talking about what such a fictitious GNU/Linux solution provider would do and I’m going to refer to this fictitious company as Fictux.

A full computing solution should come from a company that pre-bundles everything its customers want, consistently supporting it, for the duration of ownership. It should not require anxious intervention from the owner when the owner desires a new component or new system, and the new system should have all data and applications from the old system installed, setup, and accessible upon delivery.

1) Getting the computer. It’s not impossible to find a company on-line that will sell a computer set up with Linux. There are some hardware vendors offering compelling Ubuntu and Linspire preinstalled systems. Every now and then you even hear about a big box store selling some Linux PCs. Some companies, like Dell, even let you pre-configure the hardware components to varying degrees. Fictux would make this selection easy, it would have pre-tested the hardware to be sure it all works together in combination with the applicable software. This is not a new idea but it must be combined perfectly with the rest of the service.

2) The right software, configured right. The system cannot simply be preloaded with a Linux distro! From the point-of-view of most average users, there probably isn’t a cognizance of getting anything extremely compelling from an OEM with Linux preinstalled, they might as well have Windows. Worse, getting a new system with the standard OS leaves too much effort to the user to seek and install all their desired applications (this is true of Windows, Macintosh, and Linux). Most standard Linux distributions get a running start (bundling thousands of apps) compared to Windows or Mac systems, but sometimes too many apps are a detriment. Worse is when the user gets apps targetting what s/he wants but they’re not necessarily the specific ones s/he wanted (say I want Kopete while my distro automatically gives me GAIM).

A long time ago, when I was a dedicated Mandrake (Mandriva) user, I remember suggesting (and I don’t recall if this was in a user forum, an e-mail, a comment form, or what) that they let users select every software package they want, in advance to downloading an installation ISO. Then the user could download a totally custom version of the distribution. That’s to say that Fictux would offer custom versions of its distribution, tailored to exactly what the user wants the instant the system is turned on. This must be done at the time of purchasing the hardware.

Could Microsoft or Apple get agreements, permanently ongoing agreements, from the thousands of potential proprietary software vendors a customer might want to have installed? Could Microsoft or Apple charge a humane price for such a system? It doesn’t seem plausible. However, a Linux-based manufacturer can do this because of its FOSS ecosystem.

If I was the customer, obviously over the computer’s lifetime I’d want to occasionally install something new, but currently when I, for example, install a Kubuntu system for the first time, I have to search through a package repository interface (though it’s an easily unified one) for whatever I want to install, then tell it to install–the consequence is that every time I set up a new computer with the operating system, I spend half a day just adding the applications I want and configuring them. Yet a Linux distribution is already a carefully selected collection of Free software applications, tied and tested together into a whole system. Why is practically every distribution offering its common system (sometimes there is a server or business version) and then asking the user to install all the options? Fictux would ask the options first and make the distribution, the user’s distribution. It could be an audio work-oriented distro, desktop publishing distro, file server distro, immediately upon powering on, and according to the user’s taste. Furthermore, and I’ll expand this when I get to backups, it should already be populated with the information about the user, his/her preferences, and files.

3) Provide the support expertise. Plenty of companies, especially in the open source world, have chosen a business model of providing support services. Why is this often an independent company from the hardware, software, or other services? Of course they’re not all independent companies, but Fictux, in providing each point I’m detailing here would also be the point of contact for any support-related issue. Software questions, hardware failures (even to the point of arranging pickup and delivery replacement service), possibly even in agreement with the ISP.

4) Manage the update service. If there is some sort of hardware recall, Fictux would be responsible. As new technology is available, Fictux stays on top of it and folds the new tech into its service. It’s got to preemptively know which hardware will best support new software and be able to let the user know, without requiring the user to research all kinds of options and configurations. I think the transparency of the many test releases in open source development might be especially helpful in this regard. As fixes for software bugs, security holes, and new versions become available, the company must manage these and make them simple for the user to be aware of and apply. This is essentially a no-brainer for Linux distributions, most of them already do this on the software side, it’s a matter of making this process as effortless on the hardware side. For example, current excitement is the Novell sponsored xgl/compiz combo. It requires certain graphics hardware. Fictux would offer this alongside its software update service so that the user immediately and easily understood what would be needed to get the latest fun features. Linux systems generally are able to support the hardware I throw at them (often more easily than Windows), though some exceptions stand out–as Linux systems gain in popularity, I expect this issue will continue to decrease.

5) Make the backup service easy and more useful than just a data backup. A number of different Internet-based backup services have been sprouting up, both for business and the regular home user, but these don’t interconnect as an integral part of the rest of the products and services I’ve mentioned for Fictux. Backing up data should come easily and automatically. It should be secure and accessible. But let it do more than just back-up data. It could be used for preconfiguring a system. Save all the configuration data throughout users’ computers’ lifetimes, even as new applications are installed. When it’s time to buy a new system, the customer won’t have to reselect all of his/her applications (like the first time) because it would already be known to Fictux. Even better, the computer system that the user receives would include all of his/her data, settings, bookmarks, etc. Many of these could even be imported from non-Linux systems at the first order. This would be like a dynamic “ghosting” system for companies that continually have to order new computers for employees. I’m sure there are vendors that already deliver similar services for large organizations but again, I’m not aware of a company that does it in conjunction with all of the rest of the items I’ve detailed and by scaling from one to hundreds or thousands of units.

6) Pre-setup web services. Deals used to come bundled by some manufacturers, months of AOL at a discount, just click the icon to activate it. Instead, allow the user to select the web services they use or would like to use (say VoIP services, on-line music stores, and even free services such as favourite Internet radio stations) in advance to receiving the computer, it would just be another configuration the company could easily arrange for its customers before the customers even start using their computers and more importantly it would allow Fictux to include the appropriate hardware to support these services (audio file player? headset?, etc.). It may be argued that these services are too vast to manage, but I think Fictux could find a way to bundle a service distribution in much the same manner it bundles the thousands of Free software applications in its repository.

Finally, as I said at the beginning, none of these ideas are necessarily new in-and-of themselves, they just haven’t all been offered together by one company. If each can be done by some company, why can’t they all be done by a single company? It should appeal from a business perspective because each provision of service or product helps the company further its sales effort within its own solution chain. The more important point, however is the customer/user. Each step of buying a computer, using it, managing to obtain and use software, hardware, and services, and finally, after a few years, buying a new one, is accompanied by anxiety, research efforts, and ultimately wasted time by the customer/user. A company should eliminate all of that extra effort. Most users only undertake these efforts because they have no choice (read, these steps themselves provide no value for the customer/user). As I mentioned in my second point, only a FOSS vendor can adequately offer such a solution. Furthermore I think a FOSS vendor would be especially suited to do the other steps well (such as the web services/hardware pre-configuration integration) because of its existing expertise in packaging complex and diverse software configurations.

A single vendor that can accomplish all of these steps would be offering something incredibly appealing for the masses (neophytes and computer experts alike) because it would be offering the only solution that is valuable from the start, with a minimum of wasted customer/user effort. I think this kind of solution would differentiate a company enough to challenge the automatic momentum Microsoft and Apple enjoy within the mindset of the general population. When it arrives, it might even shift the gradual gain in Linux adoption to a more pronounced, year of the Linux desktop.

22 Replies to “A Real Year of the Linux Desktop–What’s Needed”

  1. Companies like Novell should make and air tv commercials for Linux. They’ve got money–they might as well advertise their product. They could start some kind of Linux campaign, like Dell did with the series of “Dude, you’re getting a Dell’ commcerials.

  2. I’ve talked to a lot of Windows users, and the problems are:

    (1) There’s still a general view that Linux is about command line work, even though the desktop distros show a different story.

    (2) Not many people know about Linux or have misconceptions about it. Desktop distros need more publicity to reach a wider audience.

    (3) Windows games. Most enthusiasts still refuse, because they can’t place their games! There needs to be a good way to allow this, but not compromise on Linux security.

    (4) Windows apps compatibility. Business users want to jump off, but they need their apps. This point and the previous one (3), need to be addressed.

    (5) We need to offer some basic info or teach them how to use Bastille Linux, because we do NOT want to repeat history! As well, we need some sort of video tutorial solution, to teach the basics.

    (6) Need more companies to offer Linux OSs as a choice, when buying a pre-built system.

    (7) Hardware support. It needs to be wider. We need to write open-source versions of current ATI and Nvidia video drivers.

  3. I would argue that Apple meets all of the criteria you’ve listed as necessary for ‘Year of the Linux desktop’, plus has a reputation of ‘It just works’ and extremely simple user administration requirments, and is currently the style king, but still has not managed to snag more than a tenth of the market (and that’s using optimistic Mac supporter numbers).

    I bought a Mac when they went *NIX underneath because I wanted a good unix desktop that didn’t encourage me to spend too much time tinkering with my work environment when I should have been working. Since then, when friends ask for help fixing their windows machines or for advice on a new computer, I always tell them the same thing, “Get a Mac”. Mostly the responses I get are that the user has too much invested in Windows, or less often that Macs are too expensive, even when the product the user has in mind has fewer features and is more expensive than the comparable Mac.

    Once people do switch, they’re happy they did and become ardent supporters, but getting them there is a very hard sell. I imagine that that is the biggest challenge for the Linux desktop too.

    I would argue that what needs to happen for the Year of the Linux Desktop to arrive would be 1) coporate acceptance and usage (and with IBM having declared some two years ago that they would be fully Linux on the desktop by the end of 2006), and Microsoft coming out with an upgrade unacceptable to many. In which case, the next twelve months may indeed be the year of the Linux Desktop.

  4. Thanks for the Interesting points, d3e1. I’d like to respond to them a bit.

    (1) I think if you’re talking about things like command lines with people, you’re probably talking to a smaller group of people who already have at least an intermediate background/history with computer usage. Yet, I’d venture to say that the majority of people using computers have, at best, only a vague notion that there is something called a “command line.” So I don’t really see that as much of an issue, especially since it is trivial to dispel with one or two screenshots.

    (2) Publicity is a great point. People always say the best publicity is word-of-mouth. If my hypothetical vendor, Fictux, delivered its solution, I think customers would quickly and enthusiastically spread the word-of-mouth notice of how much happier they are with what they got from Fictux.

    (3 & 4) I think this issue may actually be the most challenging. Fortunately for business uses, in most cases, there are FOSS-native equivalent applications. Where the issue is really highlighted though, I think is in the gaming side. There really are not game equivalents in the same way as other applications. Perhaps the best option is through something like Cedega. Unfortunately, even with Cedega, the games issue is still one that prevents Fictux from providing every single detail I recommended in the solution plan. I’m afraid I’m at a loss to offer a workaround for this. However, I don’t see this one point as being so problematic as to foul up the whole thing. Rather I think that Fictux providing everything else would be compelling enough to capture such an audience of customers/users, that it would be the necessary catalyst to Linux growth and adoption, for game developers to finally want to natively support Linux. In other words, presenting the solution could, in essence, bring the change required to ease its remaining problem.

    (5) The Fictux sort of solution, done correctly, would not have to offer basic teaching for things like Bastille Linux. It should solve that in advance to requiring the user to waste any time learning about it. A user should not have to spend time on things like that, it will not benefit him/her. It should just work from the start. I do believe Red Hat made some huge progress in this regard with its SELinux integration.

    (6) I think this misses one of the more important aspects of the solution. You should not just go to any vendor’s site and get the option of Linux on its hardware. The current vendor game rules are for a proprietary vendor model (Dell or Apple). More companies offering the option of a preinstalled Linux system won’t cut it. I think the rules have to be redefined to support the continuous flow in the product/service chain I tried to outline in the article and as only a FOSS-based vendor can really provide. The vendor must ask the options first and make the distribution, the user’s distribution (point 2 in the article).

    (7) I agree that wouldn’t hurt. I think however, that those are only two specific exceptions. Providing the Fictux solution as outlined would eliminate that issue from the start.

  5. Tom, with respect, I think I understand your viewpoint but I have to contest your argument that Apple meets all of the criteria. In particular, Apple doesn’t and can’t deliver on the second item I outlined in the article.

    Apple is interesting because it seems to be striving in a few ways to actually do some of these things. I know it offers a number of useful net-based services, but it doesn’t provide all the steps in an integrated flow. When it comes down to it, no matter how nice its products are, Apple can’t break out of its proprietary model, so it is trapped competing with companies like Dell. It won’t get past that small user percentage because it’s participating in a losing game from which it can’t free itself. In fact, having owned a number of Apple products, I think the company sometimes even takes a stance in what they provide, which may be considered hostile toward the user. Some of the current DRM/iPod issues may provide a good example.

  6. Do not expect too much from Novell – they owned WordPerfect for a while, and they more or less killed this great product and sent it into oblivion. Hardly any PR was seen after their purchase of WP. Novell however big has not been able to do what PCLinuxOS has done: make a distro for ordinary PC users. If I am not mistaken, Novell’ll use Linux to shoot it self in the foot. Novell with Linux is like the the Irish with a nuclear bomb (they would never use it on the English but drop it on themselves).

  7. Sorry, but the “Year of the Linux desktop” chance has come and gone. If you’re expecting some combination of KDE/Gnome with various bits and services added on to another random distro then you’re living in a fantasy world of yesteryear.

    The year of the “linux desktop” will come when someone starts from the bottom (kernel/drivers), designs a real desktop operating system on top of the kernel, and doesn’t rely on upstream providers to control their destiny.

    That takes resources and until someone with the resources and commitment comes along you can forget about it.

  8. With laptop sales ourpacing desktop, maybe some of the focus should go that direction. I have used linux for about 4 years, but finally threw up my hands in despair when I moved to frequent laptop use. No busy person wants to waste time configuring sound cards, network cards etc.. I hate to say this, but using Windows is so easy and so far in my expeience everything is working so well. So what possible reason do I have to use linux, unless it can be a complete workable package as the article suggests?

  9. I think that when Xara comes out we will have the majority of applications that most users need. I am currently using Mac OS X 10.4 and Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake. When someone wants to get a new computer, I tell them to get a Mac, because I am not confident that I can solve all their problems on Linux or get someone else to for a reasonable price.

    If a company targeted toward the home user would offer what Linspire does but stay up to date on software and provide telephone support, then I could tell people to use Linux. Also there needs to be some serious redesigning of Gnome and KDE to make them easier to use and set up so you *never* need to use a command line no matter what goes wrong. One of the things that would make it much easier for the average user to install applications would be to get Klik running reliably on at least one major distro.

    Linspire is the closest that you can get to this as I know they do a number of your suggestions like: have a music service integrated, bundle ISP dialers, they sell computers with Linspire pre-installed, you can install hundreds of user selected applications in one click, and probably do more things that I am not aware of.

    The big problem is getting someone with enough money and resources to pull this off. I am not sure who could do this. Linspire has the sense – they just need a sponsor with big pockets.

  10. Josh, I re-read your article to see if I missed something, but I don’t think I have. You basically want it to be a hybrid OEM/distro. Someone might be able to make a couple bucks doing that, but I don’t think it’ll really change anything regarding “year of the linux desktop”.

    But I don’t see anything beyond that. I didn’t see you mention any new software development. What I”m saying (and I’ve been using Linux at work for 9 years now, but I’m not emotionally attached to any kind of open source “movement”), is that the current momentum of desktop linux will never be great enough to make the vast majority of people to switch. That until people stop looking at KDE and Gnome as the answers to desktop Linux then there’s really no hope. Those desktops will never give anybody any reason to switch.

    What is needed is what I’ll call a “winner”. And what I mean by that is what is needed is a distro/desktop/(maybe OEM too) that will come out on top – where ISVs can say ok, here is our standard desktop linux environment. But that’s just not happening and part of the reason is that everything is open source and various bits can be cobbled together by anybody, which in itself causes fragmentation because it’s hard to target and the installers are all different, and the directory structure layout is different enough on these distros, and there’s no universal installer, etc…

    Tom is basically right. OSX is what desktop Linux aspires to be, but OSX is special because even if Apple decided to shrinkwrap OSX for vanilla PCs, you couldn’t just recombine various bits and make your own “Josh’s OSX distro”, causing fragmetnation.

    There’s no incentive to put the resources into doing “the right thing” if everybody can just steal your code. A hybrid approach might work, where some parts are open and other parts are closed, but I’m doubtful that a pure open source desktop will ever be able to leap out above the others and become a standard. And a standard is what Linux desperately needs.

    Put it this way, if Google decided to hunker down, lay out the resources, take the kernel and X, and build a desktop system then it would probably be the standard. But they would probably keep parts of it closed too. Free as in beer is barely an incentive and free as in source code is irrelevant to almost everybody that uses computers.

  11. I think the requirements are far less than what is being stated.

    The main obstacles in my opinion are:
    1. awareness,
    2. software availability,
    3. standardized hardware certification, and
    4. ISP support.

    Of these key issues the most important is the lack of awareness of what Linux already can do, how affordably it can do it, and how easy it can be to use. I have installed Linux on more than one person’s computer knowing that they did not use their computer in a way that would run into obstacles 2 though 4 and after installing it the response has been something along the lines of “if Linux is so cheap and I am able to do everything I am doing then why are people paying more?” The issue is that there is a lack of awareness amongst people who only use a computer to do internet activities and transfer digital photos or music that Linux does this with little effort. The more tech savvy are the ones that know what Linux can do but need it to do more while the less tech savvy don’t know about Linux and are constantly getting viruses, filling their computers with freeware or spyware, and need support from family, friends, and tech support. The software delivered on the computers of these less tech savvy and more casual users of the computer plays a part in this because they stick with what they have and they really don’t feel comfortable with switching.

    The second issue is software availability. For people using a computer to get work done there are some missing pieces. Linux now has a good office suite and a great web browser but personal and small business financial software, graphic software, and web development tools aren’t yet to a level of polish expected by many users. There are many pieces of software in the personal finances area making good progress such as Moneydance, KMyMoney, and GnuCash but these are key features missing such as tie-ins to tax preparation software, the tax preparation software itself, and the ability to import reliably from Quicken or Money where people who track their finances currently have their data stored. Most importantly for small business what is lacking is an accounting and payroll solution (with tax table updates) which is as affordable as the equivalents on Windows. In the graphics area it seems like the hole in the offering will be filled very soon with projects currently underway such as Xara and Gimp although some focus probably needs to be given to usability for users coming from Adobe products. In the area of web development Bluefish, n|vu, Quanta Plus, and MonoDevelop are making good progress but in web design Macromedia components are common and there isn’t really much offered yet for web developers who have been taught web design using Flash and ColdFusion

    Standardized hardware certification is important because one of the things that really detracts from the Linux experience is when hardware doesn’t work and troubleshooting and research is required. People need to be able to go into a computer store and buy computers or components and know if it will work by seeing a Linux Certified logo on the box. This is one of the harder problems to solve when there are so many distributions out there all using different kernel versions, different hardware detection mechanisms, and in some cases custom kernels. Obviously a hardware vendor shouldn’t need to spell out the hundreds of distributions its hardware may or may not work on. Some hardware compatibility versioning is required to deal with backporting features in the kernel, hardware detection methods, etc so that someone can look at a logo on a box and a coresponding version number and know that the hardware will work without effort on their computer running Linux.

    Lastly, ISP support is an issue that causes problems with less tech savvy users. Not many ISP support Linux and that is a deterrent to those who need help setting up the internet. In addition, some ISPs have special connection software which makes it an unpleasant welcome to Linux. BigPond and AOL clients need to be provided with Linux to convince users of these ISPs to make the move to Linux.

  12. I understand what you’re saying but I believe that Desktop Linux will take off when Virtualisation using VT or Pacifica is widely accepted for the Dekstop – it’s a steam train and it’s just round the corner.

    In the Enterprise, a user’s desktop is filled with office based applications (MS Office…) and the odd client application. Some of these are entrenched into Windows and prevent a company from moving to a Linux desktop (OpenOffice 2 is still not 100% compatible with MS Office – Impress and Powerpoint for example do have the odd translation issue, especially around images).

    However, what is needed is virtualization. Once the user’s desktop has a VM of Windows for their legacy environment then the door is wide open for Linux Desktop to appear on everyone’s desk. Due to being opensource it is of course possible to lock down and minimize the size of the Linux environment and create multiple desktop VM silo environments for say Corporate Emails and for confidential internal applications and even possibly a sort of DMZ VM for the user to browse the internet etc. Much more secure, much more portable (a VM would no longer be locked to a workstation and it’s state coud eventually even be saved on a memorycard for immediate access elsewhere in the corporation).

    Desktop Linux will take years to achieve acceptance if it just copies what MS and Apple do, it needs to be more compelling and this is why I believe Desktop virtualization is the way forward as it brings many new possibilities to the desktop which really makes Linux the ideal O/S to sit alongside the user’s legacy O/S and eventually be the dominant system of choice due to having the smoothest migration in the history of operating systems.

    Your thoughts?

  13. AMDUSER, you wrote “Desktop Linux will take years to achieve acceptance if it just copies what MS and Apple do, it needs to be more compelling and this is why I believe Desktop virtualization is the way forward as it brings many new possibilities to the desktop which really makes Linux the ideal O/S to sit alongside the user’s legacy O/S and eventually be the dominant system of choice due to having the smoothest migration in the history of operating systems.”

    See the problem is that you have duplication of effort, no leadership, and no courage to really go out on a limb and take the risks to make desktop linux more compelling.

    But virtualization does bring up an interesting mix into the situation. Nextgen hardware will have virtualization built into it, so we might get to the point where you can pop in a CD or download an exe and have a linux system running on near bare metal.

    But the bottom line is that cloning Apple and Microsoft’s offerings won’t really move desktop linux into any kind of significant mainstream presence.

  14. This is pretty interesting discussion, especially considering that there is no fundamental disagreement with the thrust of Mr Chalifour’s article. Just a final footnote — from me that is — on this general subject.
    I am the proud father of 4 fairly tehnically savvy sons, who have basically derided my extolling the many virtues of Linux the past few years. Of course, I tried to minimize the number of times I had to go back to Windows because I had some kind of toy that was not supported by Linux. As I mentioned earlier, once I could not use my laptops without a lot of work, I realized that the ridicule heaped upon me by my progeny might have some legitimate basis.
    Yes it will take a lot of creativity, marketing, money, and patience for linux to become the OS of first choice by most computer users. The thing is — open source products such as Open Office, Firefox, Thunderbird work well on Windows. Combined with free prdoucts like Picasa, and (gulp) Windows Media Player/Real Player, and free or low cost security software, what basis does a person who doesn’t give a hoot about what is under the hood have for moving into Linux as an OS?

  15. I really need to put some kind of threading thing on here. It’s hard to keep track of the comments. :-)

    * Rick
    I sort’ve agree that it’s a hybrid OEM/distro I’m describing, but it’s also a lot more. It incorporates things that no other OEM or distribution do in a unified or complete way.

    I am convinced that the whole model for what is being offered should change. Take the offering into a new direction, playing by new rules that can’t be accommodated under the existing/legacy OEM/OS sales models.

    * EnviroTO

    The way you pulled in ISP support is great… It really is an issue. in my opinion, in should be a part of the solution package offered by the “Fictux” sort of company.


    The quote, “Desktop Linux will take years to achieve acceptance if it just copies what MS and Apple do, it needs to be more compelling…” is great. Virtualization could loosen a user’s legacy dependence in some ways. I’m not sure I can see it as being immediately compelling to a majority of users though. Ideally, a Fictux sort of company shouldn’t rely on that as it puts a kink into the whole solution flow I proposed. Perhaps in the short term it could be an acceptable workaround for a few rare tricky spots. I can’t help but worry that it would introduce more complexity than simplicity for the average user though.

    * Ron

    You asked “…what basis does a person who doesn’t give a hoot about what is under the hood have for moving into Linux as an OS?” I think, barring a lengthy discussion on the greater philosophy behind it, the easiest, most direct way to convince people, would be to stop providing a straight-up comparison to the systems you can get with Windows or Macs. Without arguing specifics, they’re, in the most general sense, at par. The weakest common spot for the general user is that Windows and Mac systems require the user to spend countless hours hunting for software and services, configuring them, spending money on them, figuring out what new hardware is needed for new applications, not seemlessly working with net services and data backup, etc. for the life of the system and beyond. Change that whole way of doing things to make it easy, unified, and not a waste of the cusotmer’s time. Then you’ll have something compelling in a whole new way that Windows and Macs can’t touch.

  16. After reading your comments on what will need to be done to boost Linux to OS OF THE YEAR, I think we need first to admit our children are hooked on Windows via pc gaming. Untill Linux supports most popular games or games are written for Linux there will be no reason for the next generation to consider Linux OS a viable choice over Windows. Start a child on Linux and most likely they will support that OS. Or so you would think but when classmates are talking about the latest craze in gaming or toys Linux will take a backseat to whatever platform supports what is popular. I speak from experience. My 16 year old son won’t talk to me about how much cleaner my PCLinux runs over his XP. It doesn’t matter to him. CounterStrike runs on his box but won’t on mine. My 13 year old daughter does play games on my PC but still falls back to hers for windows based games. To gain a solid foundation of support for an OS developers must consider the demands that fuel successful marketing of systems today. Business might drive sales to a point but enterainment cannot be overlooked as a major catalyst. This is where to start. Offer whatever software and packages. Be as user friendly as possible. Without capturing and holding the attention of the gaming and entertainment enthusiasts Linux or any other new OS will never have a year on top.

  17. Bill DeJohn, it’s actually worse than you make it out to be because the average gaming age is around 30 these days. So it’s no longer “the kids need gaming”.

    But that is a big reason why desktop linux won’t take off. Now if there was guaranteed libraries on a system and there wasn’t so many distros that had all their own little quirks, there would be something that game makers could consider, but alas that didn’t happen.

    Personally, I pretty much laugh at all this rabid “how do we get them to switch” business. I usually just run Linux and Windows at the same time.

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