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Why Linux on the desktop is dead

Tony Bradley | March 26, 2012
Linux is awesome. It's a powerful, capable, flexible operating system with tremendous potential. But, it's never going to be a factor on the desktop, so don't even waste your time considering it.

Linux is awesome. It's a powerful, capable, flexible operating system with tremendous potential. But, it's never going to be a factor on the desktop, so don't even waste your time considering it.

On the server side, Linux is kicking ass and taking names. An IDC report from 2010 claims that Linux made up more than 20 percent of the server market. I've seen some estimates claiming it could be significantly higher than that today. Recent reports claim that Amazon alone is using as many as half a million Linux servers in data centers around the world to power its cloud services--a strong indicator of just how established Linux is.

That's great, but on the desktop side of the fence Linux is a non-issue. Compared to Microsoft Windows, even Mac OS X has trivial desktop market share, but it's enough to put it on the radar, and Mac OS X has been growing strong in recent years. Linux, on the other hand, has never really been more than a rounding error. It is up slightly, but it generally makes up about one percent of the desktop OS market.

I spent a month experiencing Linux as a desktop OS. What I learned from the 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux experiment is that Linux is, in fact, capable of being a desktop OS. But, the whole 30 days felt like I was swimming upstream--constantly tinkering and finding workarounds to get everyday tasks done. Using Linux as a replacement for Windows takes more effort than it's worth, and in the end I was still left with a poor substitute lacking tools I rely on like Microsoft Office, or native syncing for my iPhone and iPad.

Granted, Linux is not entirely to blame. Microsoft or Apple could certainly step up and make products available and that would solve the problem to an extent. But, they haven't, and they won't because Linux is not a big enough player in the desktop market to warrant the attention.

To its credit, Linux has a phenomenal support system, and loyal, knowledgeable users willing to help guide you through the murky waters. Of course, it's often difficult to find them through the sea of self-righteous flamers who berate you for not knowing what you're doing.

Linux is an awesome server OS. If you're replacing or adding servers at your company I highly suggest you look closely at Linux as an option and consider the benefits of Linux servers. But, if you're in the market to refresh or replace your desktop OS, stick with Windows and Mac OS X. Linux will be more headache than it's worth.

 

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