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11/2/2009
04:19 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Linux AWOL From Desktop Upgrades

It hit me the other day that something's missing amid the Windows 7 launch hoopla. Last time around--indeed, during every prior upgrade cycle--we've witnessed the fanboys pop up like Whack-A-Mole survivors to hector us about the big mistake we're about to make and to proffer the open-source operating system as the better option. This time, nada. Why?

It hit me the other day that something's missing amid the Windows 7 launch hoopla. Last time around--indeed, during every prior upgrade cycle--we've witnessed the fanboys pop up like Whack-A-Mole survivors to hector us about the big mistake we're about to make and to proffer the open-source operating system as the better option. This time, nada. Why?This Linux-gone-AWOL meme is paradoxical--its market share hovers around 1 percent--when you consider that the open-source OS actually runs better than ever. Thanks to Ubuntu, you can get an easy-to-install distro, complete with a healthy support ecosystem, and be up and running on your desktop in no time at all.

I think the deal is that Ubuntu's ease of use is more than offset by the fact that it remains a pain in the neck for the average, non-geek to install. Downloading an install and burn an ISO DVD is still an impediment toward usage for most of humanity.

More than that though, it's Linux's lack of turnkey multimedia apps which is killer. It's pretty hard for the average ooVoo-coveting teenager to download a Linux compatible version, since one doesn't exist. It's undoubtedly equally daunting to hunt up all the other multimedia codecs need to turn one's "I'm a Linus" homebrew box into an "I'm a PC" equivalent.

However, taken from a different perspective--a corporate one--Linux may a better option than ever. There are free, online alternatives to Office (one coming soon from Microsoft itself), and SaaS applications don't much care on what OS is underneath the browser in which you're running them.

All in all, I'm hard put to explain Linux's pitiful position on the desktop as we close 2009. Perhaps its continued non-recovery dates back to the antics of the recently deposed Darl McBride, who when he ran SCO metaphorically pistol-whipped CIOs away from Linux, even as he occasionally literally packed heat. (For those we don't remember the history, in 2004 SCO wussed more than a few CIOs away from trying Linux because of its blusterous lawsuits against Autozone and DaimlerChrysler.)

Or perhaps Linux has been subject to an effect similar to that seen with urban crime a decade ago. Namely, as the perps--or, in this case, advocates--mature, they abandon their old stomping grounds for quieter pursuits.

Certainly GNU Project founder Richard Stallman -- don't call it Linux! -- appears to be as much interested in political advocacy as software proselytizing

All I know is, all the reasons I gave in my 2007 piece, 7 Reasons Why Linux Won't Succeed On The Desktop have either been rendered irrelevant, moot, or are still true. (The seven reasons were: Prohibitive app porting costs, fanboy factor, no way to make money, user resistance, Windows works out of the box, too many distros, no strong Linux evangelist.)

So for desktop Linux, little has changed, and certainly nothing has emerged which would give it a push forward. Further, the open source movement missed exploiting the window of Vista opportunity. That is, they didn't take advantage of the period during which Microsoft was fielding an unsatisfactory desktop client. Now Microsoft is back, better than ever with Windows 7.

So bye, bye desktop Linux

Follow me on Twitter: (@awolfe58)

What's your take? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at alex@alexwolfe.net.

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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.

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