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Linux will never rule the desktop

22 Mar in Android, Company, Gadgets, Linux
AndroidLinux

I saw a very short post on Tectonic.co.za stating that: "Linux will never rule the desktop, and here's why: If you draw a line giving the rate at which Linux is taking over the desktop you'll see it'll take several years from now to become the biggest operating system on desktops. This is never going to happen, because the desktop as it is will die long before we reach this point. The good thing is Microsoft will probably die with it!"

I would like to respectfully disagree. On the point of "the desktop" dying - a taxonomy discussion about desktop and dead would be required. I do believe it's obvious based on today's trends that computing will migrate to smaller hand-held devices, and make better use of interconnectivity to other devices and large compute farms (aka. "the cloud"). I suspect the interface might change to one day in the distant future to be voice or thought controlled. Is the desktop dead in this scenario, or has it simply evolved?

However, as economics surrounding the desktop shift, it becomes increasingly difficult for any traditional closed source vendor to compete in commodity markets with mature and vibrant open source. Thus I wouldn't say never for Linux growing signifcantly in market share. If Microsoft were to more strictly protect against piracy, most likely Linux desktop share would jump 10 to 20 percent very quickly. For many people today, Windows falsely appears to be free based on piracy or OEM deals.

With their massive hoard of cash, and immense ecosystem - it would be naïve to expect Microsoft to die anytime soon. Despite their many flaws, there are many people who's livelihoods depend on Microsoft. To expect them to up and change requires some significant motivation that I'm not sure exists yet. Microsoft is also a moving target with many smart people working there. They will no doubt change and adapt as they always have... to the Internet/Web, to online video, to add business applications and content management. Some ventures will be not so successful, others will work out fine.

Comments

At which point will the moneyflow take a real hit

I commented a bit more here http://www.infoworld.com/article/09/03/25/Red-Hat-CEO-questions-desktops... , but I wanted to say that Microsoft as a business is not tied to the Windows (legacy) ecosystem. Their ability to stay in business requires a constant flow of money which we can certainly imagine drying up for various reasons.

With Microsoft much smaller and Linux still improving at the same or faster rate and offering more potential (check out the license), the motivation for service providers to adopt and eventually move exclusively to Linux will definitely go up.

People love not having their hands tied. While Linux is still immature in many ways when you consider its potential, more and more hands keep joining the ship. It's a breath of fresh air.

Worst case today, assuming you have no imagination or desire to work, you can at least find a ready-to-go Linux distro that is quite decent for most needs (perhaps no reason just yet to toss out your (to-become legacy) Windows).

Though I worry and talk about the worst that can happen, the most likely scenario probably has enough significant industry players moving their primary support to Linux, making life very difficult for Microsoft with more and more employees continuing to bail ship (especially those that see the potential in what has continued to give Microsoft greater headaches each year). A much smaller Microsoft to cater to a "niche" seems very reasonable if we look 10 or 15 years into the future (it may not take that long).

Microsoft is a middleman that can add significant problems to those dependent on it. The reason is because they used closed source and currently have every reason to fight hard to preserve their levers and monopoly profits. They are bad news. Bad news can only lock themselves in for so long amid rising opportunities.

It's those with imagination that will flourish tomorrow.

-- Jose_X

PS: There are many ways for accounting to make a company look healthy. Booking a sale is not that difficult. With enough cash flows, accounting can continue to be overly optimistic. Can Microsoft afford another Vista? Can they keep their marketing costs so high? Can they continue to lose employees? Isn't Linux being adopted and improved faster today than yesterday? We already know that past stock options are adding a lot of pressure to MSFT stock.

You do have some good points, and...

Thank you for the comment Jose_X.

Your points are well taken about Linux growth/evolution. There is potential for HP, Dell, and other large sellers to decide they would like a cut of the operating system revenues by offering Linux. The latter would only happen if the costs of doing so (i.e. supporting it) are less than the revenue boost from not paying the Microsoft tax. As Jim Whitehurst said - I think companies are trying to anticipate where the market is going and arrive there rather than chase the old market.

I note Apple's change in direction to build on top of an open source based platform as a potential outcome. What would stop Microsoft from offering explorer/IE on top of Linux? For now, they're still making much money with Windows. Should that change, no doubt they would make a pragmatic decision.

You can see some of what we're talking about here peeking through at Microsoft. Matt Asay does a great job noting the old vs. new Microsoft in Microsoft's many open-source faces.

Tomahawk switched to BSD

Tomahawk Desktop switched to BSD from Linux.

Link: http://www.tomahawkcomputers.com/fund-raising/phase-one.html

What do you think on this?

Thank you for this link.

First, let me say that although I'm not a FreeBSD expert, I know some and greatly respect them. I've run FreeBSD in the past and even though I personally choose Linux, I think FreeBSD is great.

I do have concerns about the business plan of this organization. No question that botnets, malware, viri, trojans, etc. are nasty and a problem. Though, this article does seem to be a bit overly FUD'ish in it's presentation.

When I get a moment, I'll comment further about the illegal comments about Linux & closed source binaries. I wasn't aware this was the case. I'll research this and then comment from an educated position.

As Redhat CEO Jim Whitehurst said: "I don't know how to make money on it. Very few people are running a desktop that's mission-critical so they do not want to pay the company for a desktop OS". Thus it would take something innovative/disruptive to be successful in this area. I'm skeptical that there's anything innovative or disruptive here. $1M in funding is not insignificant. Frankly, as an investor, I wouldn't even consider this plan for a lot less money unless I saw a handful of committed customers. If I was a Dragon it'd take me less than a few seconds to say "I'm out".

what?

Title: Linux will NEVER rule the desktop

Quote from Article: Comment: With their massive hoard of cash, and immense ecosystem - it would be naïve to expect Microsoft to die ANYTIME SOON.

What?

This is what


Thank you for your comment, though I'm not 100 percent sure what you're asking. I'll assume you're questioning the point of my blog post and thus reiterate the key message.

Microsoft is being threatened by Linux and open source software across many fronts. In a handful of areas, the open source alternatives have wrestled 20 percent of market share when other closed source competitors were crushed. This is what you'd expect when the open source alternatives reach maturity - there's no single competitor to acquire or force out of business. Since costs, risks, and more are shared - Microsoft competitors (IBM, Sun, HP, Google, Redhat, Novell, Canonical, etc.) can gang up by supporting software like Eclipse, Mozilla, Linux, and more. This creates a situation of co-opetition where these companies collaborate on the commodity software and differentiate on the value-add on top such as services, closed source extensions, etc.

It is silly to expect Microsoft to shrug and close down business. They have adapted before, and will again. The likely outcome of this will be eventual exit of certain commodity markets or perhaps even more likely - open sourcing of commodity software such as MS Windows and Internet explorer. For now, Microsoft has considerable power and influence on the industry and though their cash cow is Office, Windows is still very entrenched on the desktop.

All of that said, technology change is disrupting the traditional desktop based computing world. People are working from "smart phones", "netbooks", "web applications", and other interface evolution that makes the plain old desktop (POD) less relevant over time.

Is this more clear?

Linux is already dominating the desktop

It's funny that you made this post today. I was having discussion with a "traditional IT" friend of mine Saturday and he made the same comment, that Linux had not been successful at replacing Windows on the desktop. I respectfully disagreed: Web apps are replacing desktop apps and Linux and its derivatives (i.e. the LAMP stack) are running a majority of the servers hosting web apps, so in effect Linux is well on it's way to ruling the desktop. It's just perspective.

Agreed, though this is just the start.

Thank you for the comment. Definitely, agreed - web applications on LAMP have done very well. I believe what we're seeing on netbooks, hand held devices, and clusters is more profound as the economics are such that Microsoft Windows as it stands today simply can't compete. You *could* do just fine with Windows/IIS/etc. - why would you want to, but you could.