The World Runs on Linux
Fifty years from now, historians will look back and realize the unparalleled impact Linux has had on human civilization. Most people don’t realize it, but the world in 2008 already runs on Linux. I’m not simply talking about how the majority of Internet servers run on Linux, but the ubiquitous use of Linux in embedded devices ranging from televisions to laser printers/copiers to military avionics.
However, one area where Linux will never succeed is the desktop.
Linux apologists can make any number of arguments why Linux should take off on the desktop. First of all, it’s a server-grade operating system that’s available for free. No Apple Tax. No Microsoft Tax. Companies such as Dell are now even shipping PCs from the factory with Linux installed, removing the uncertainty of support. Second, Linux is efficient, allowing you to breathe new life into old computers. Lastly, all of the trappings of a traditional desktop PC are now found in Linux, ranging from Xgl/compiz for Aero and Quartz-style visual effects to OpenOffice and even Firefox.
The problem is that people like shiny things.
While technology geeks may be interested in breathing new life into their older PCs, Moore’s Law continues to make the argument irrelevant. In the era where an entry-level PC was over $1,000, this may have made sense. Nowadays, an entry-level system has a dual- or even quad-core CPU for a fraction of that cost. The cost of Windows Vista is about $50 to a manufacturer such as Dell, less than a full tank of gas. The problem arises when the consumer decides to upgrade to get a new printer or a new HDTV tuner and suddenly discovers that Linux does not support the new hardware.
Linux works for technology geeks because, when you have the time and inclination, it can be fun to tweak and fiddle with your PC. If you’re a technology geek, it’s fun to try out different window managers to get the perfect fit or to troubleshoot and debug your setup. However, most consumers want plug-and-play, and that’s where Linux fails.
The Failed Sandbox Model
To succeed in Linux, you have to play in the Linux sandbox. You have to research ahead of time to make sure that new hardware is fully compatible. While Linux promises oodles and oodles of applications (just look at any distribution), the options are far less when it comes to the stuff that really matters. Want a modern Web browser? You’re stuck with Firefox. On the PC, you’ve got the option of Google Chrome. Want to process RAW digital camera images in Linux? You can choose between Bibble- and dcraw-based applications. On a PC or Mac, you have a wider range of options. You can use Bibble and dcraw, but you also have Capture One, Lightroom, SilkyPix, Photoshop, and countless others.
The problem is that for most consumers, Mac OS X offers most of the benefits of Linux with a better sandbox to play in. It’s just as stable as Linux and offers the same or even better out-of-the-box security, but has even wider software and hardware support and a set of best-of-breed native applications.
Those requiring additional flexibility in hardware support can go with a PC on the desktop. While you have to deal with the security risk of Vista and the annoyance of Vista’s UAC, the trade-off is fair to most consumers in being able to avoid the idiosyncrasies of Linux. Even Linux’ temporary success with netbooks has been short lived. After initially embracing Linux for the cost savings, many netbook manufacturers such as MSI are backing away from Linux after recognizing a 4x higher return rate. The power management features in operating systems such as MacOS X or Windows XP are superior to those of Linux, and a Windows XP-powered Eee PC lasts longer than a Linux-powered Eee PC.
Here’s another way to look at it: create a list of the best Linux applications for the desktop or home user. How many of those are also available for the PC or Mac? Now try creating a list of the best PC or Mac applications. How many of those are available for Linux? The very best applications that Linux has to offer are probably offered in a Mac OS X or Windows port as well. With OS X shipping with X11 and UNIX compliance, even custom software development can be achieved on a Mac.
Anonymous prediction for 2009 - 0.3%
So more stable? perhaps, but certainly not in my home.
It is getting better every version that launches, but still needs a lot of love. Wine use should be simple and stealthy. That is, put a x86 windows cd, and wine detects and pulls out a auto run. You get the idea.
when that happens Linux will check mate Win/OSX. Compiz/Fusion is already prettier than OSX (and with great promises) and the system is much safer. And faster.
Lets wait and see.
Mac is comparing itself to windows OS or rather they should be. The Apple community is content believing that PC(Personal Computer) means Windows. They simply don't know the difference. Note to mac users: Macs are PCs also. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_computer
Also, listen to the music in the background. It's lullaby nature appeals to the mentality of Mac users as does the original color pallet 'box of crayons' in the system settings. They didn't design it that way by accident.
That's why Mac users love to boast about the commercials and their computers. Basic - ignorance is bliss.
It's not your fault though. It's not like personal computers have been widely available since the late 1970's but you haven't bothered to take one class on them right? You haven't?! That's a pity and thank you.
It's people like you who keep the entire PC(yes you too) technical community employed.
Dunno about all below the wine, as I don't use linux for anything other than firewalls. But I don't think wine will ever get to a level that allows linux to replace windows. Mac OS has a chance - but only if they somehow can make game developers compile mainstream games for the mac.
Though the article in general is very well written, I still find it fails on one simple aspect. Gaming. Every single pc I've built in the past 5 years was expected to play pretty much any non-top-tier game. Ie. not crysis, but if hugo or pixeline, or any other childrens game, was shipped with some magazine or put on discount, the people I built the computers for, expect that the software will work. That can't be realized on a mac unless it runs windows - at which point there's no reason to buy the more expensive mac.
If we imagine a future version of flash, silverlight, java or any other internet based system could address the hardware in a pc via a standard interface - like directx or opengl etc but on the actaul hardware, instead of on the gui. And without the programmer needing expert knowledge of the limitations of the features, then virtualization won't even be needed. Stuff would just run directly on hardware. A bit like a seamless window on a citrix system, but with the hardware being used locally, and the drivers being a bunch of software embedded in the hardware burried beneath the gui.
But that probably won't happen for another 10 years, so windows is safe, even with a complete idiot at the wheel.