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Re: [vox] Fwd: Re: is the Linux desktop OS dead?
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Re: [vox] Fwd: Re: is the Linux desktop OS dead?

Michael Cheselka wrote:
> Hello Everyone,
> The desktop is the only place Linux is having a hard time capturing
> market share.

Agreed.  I was surprised to find linux more common than I had guessed.  Home
routers, many NAS, tivo (at least the old ones), many appliances (storage,
spam, firewall), phones (motorola's razr 2, android, palm OS, LiMo), HPC
clusters, virtualization, Clouds, picture frames, ebook readers, etc.

I was optimistic about linux on the desktop for awhile, back before the huge
popularity of the iphone/ipod, apple was in a death spiral.  I think they went
from 15% or so to 3%, importantly major apps were leaving, and apple was
floundering trying to find a decent OS to replace OS9.  Linux was increasing
in market share, for awhile even was listed as higher than apple by some
folks.  The scary thing was Microsoft was getting a scary majority, they seem
almost to have pulled off IE as the "standard" browser.  In my opinion this
was the peak of the microsoft mindshare where they almost managed to start
pushing their own standards for everything.   Various microsoft specific
technologies for servers, web servers, web clients, document formats, a
non-portable version of java, etc.

As far as UCD, campus, oracle, and numerous other companies the world was
almost entirely microsoft.  A large contract UCD signed included apple
compatibility for a critical campus application was satisfied by requiring
apple users to buy a pc on a board and stick it in their apple (at their cost)
*bleah*.  Fortunately microsoft got a late start on the internet thing.
Various .com's got popular, the browser competition started heating up,
various alternatives to microsoft office launches, a few .com's even started
to *gasp* offer APIs.  Suddenly many of the things I'd have wished I had
windows for (maps, photo manipulation, calendar scheduling, encyclopedia
software) were starting to find non-microsoft solutions on the web.

Then it seemed the halo effect from ipod/iphone, switching to intel, and the
all around excellence and polish of OSX started increasing the apple
marketshare.  Then I think the biggest boost to apple laptop/desktop ever,
vista.  Seemed like apple got 99% of the folks that switched from windows
desktops during the vista years.

Then again I'm much less invested in desktops these days.  As the world moves
towards usage (visible or not) of clouds, web applications, and *gasp*
standards I feel much less left out.   Sure the linux desktop has minimal
commercial applications available.  But the programming tools are second to
none, and seems like as a client it works quite well.  Firefox running on
ubuntu manages everything I expect out of a web client.  Amusingly is seems
like many SDKs cover 2 of the 3 major platforms and almost always include linux.

Amusingly the most compelling reason folks seem to have for keeping a windows
box around the house is gaming.

So in any case I think the percentage of people who want a computer and don't
care what it runs is increasing.  Seems like chrome might just hit a price
point (sponsored by google) where people will decide that cheap, light, great
battery life, and trivial to use (click on the icon) might just fit most of
their needs.  Basically a 2-3 pound smartphone.

So as desktops get squeezed from below by thin clients, smart phones, and
netbooks, and from above by servers, workstations, and virtualization seems
like linux is likely to stay a small niche.

> The reason is that Windows is in place and so why should people
> switch...  People go to computers, reluctantly, to run an application
> to get work done and so peruse the avenue of least resistance.

Indeed, but I think folks are increasingly aware of the high cost to own
(hardware upgrade costs, security software costs, cost of clicking on the
wrong thing, etc).  Microsoft tried to get folks to buy pretty expensive
machines with vista and the backlash has cost them marketshare, profits, and
forced a fair bit of reengineering for windows 7.  Seems like the market
largely decided windows XP runs just fine.  Suddenly cheap laptops with crappy
video card and minimal ram are part of their design goals for windows 7.

Basically competition keeps everyone in line, and I have to say from what I
can tell microsoft's feeling much more hungry then they have been.  The result
is windows 7 is a big step forward from vista, even if it's more debatable
when comparing to XP.

> Linux could do better if we fixed the many packing systems.  On a
> Windows system, I can just download and open a .exe or .msi to add a
> package, and go to the control panel to remove a package.  Most
> packages for Windows can be installed on XP, Vista, and Windows 7
> without worry.  On Linux, too often, it matters what your Linux system
> is like.  We need a better scheme.

I'd love a unified packaging system, then again seems like competition between
the redhat and debian ways of handling things keeps them both on their toes.
I've built packages from scratch, it's been awhile.  But currently I don't
really remember or care.  Basically both yum and apt have similar
functionalities these days.  The debian way of doing things used to have a
huge advantage over the redhat... to my knowledge most of those have been
adopted by redhat.

IMO the differences between suse, ubuntu, and redhat seem to fuel innovation
in the linux space, even if it's makes it a somewhat less attractive platform
to target.

> Some way to note what's needed to be provided to a package by the
> system for it to install correctly.

That seems to be getting better and pretty good.  Seems like redhat's
dependency hell, corrupted RPM databases, circular dependencies, and various
other "oh crap I have to reinstall" moments are getting rather rare.

> Standards has helped but there's still more work to be done in this area.

I've not been watching this space, I'd like to think the perfect packaging
system will take over the world, I fear that all current solutions are nearly
good enough to be very hard to displace.  I think for the average desktop user
their use of the package system is mostly search a guy for something they
want, and then click on the blinking red light when the gui says they need
patches.  Redhat, Ubuntu, and (I assume) Suse do that reasonably well.

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