Is Linux Irrelevant?

It's not the distro or even the Linux kernel that matter. It's the things made with Linux -- the servers, smartphones, netbooks, and other mobile devices.
Relevance Is In The Hands Of Users, Not Creators

The final decisions about the relevance or future directions for any given technology aren't in the hands of pundits or journalists (me included), or even the people creating and marketing such things. It's the users -- the people who employ such things in the context of getting a job done.

What Linux's bend-it-shape-it ethos means to end users is that they'll come into contact with Linux in a great many forms in the years to come. It also means they're not going to be directly aware that any particular thing they are using may be Linux -- and in many cases, it won't matter one way or another as long as what they have works. The emphasis there will be on delivering a polished finished product, not banking on digital street cred.

Consequently, Linux may not be destined to replace Windows or the Mac unless it provides an experience that's self-evidently superior in every way. This doesn't mean it's impossible: Look at how Firefox gained a significant share of the browser market in a relatively short time.

But a whole OS is far tougher to get right compared to a single application (which runs on that OS, and elsewhere besides) -- especially when the OS in question is an inherently malleable entity. The OS is, in some sense, an application unto itself -- and an application that exists in so many different permutations that to talk about it as a platform might simply be beside the point.

And maybe that's where Linux's future is most relevant and important: in its success as a server OS, an embedded-device system, and as raw material to be sculpted to economically fit needs for which no system exists. As long as developers continue to have reasons to work on it, and others continue to need to deploy it, it will continue to be relevant.

For Further Reading

Free Operating Systems That Aren't Linux

Windows 7 Vs. Linux: OS Face-Off

Invisible Linux: The Details

InformationWeek's Open Source Blog

Editor's Choice
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Terry White, Associate Chief Analyst, Omdia
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer