Desktop Linux: The Dream Is Dead

At last - mainstream IT media is finally catching on to what I’ve been saying for the past 3 years.

Don’t get me wrong - I love Linux as a server OS, and I was a huge advocate of it as a desktop OS for a long time. I used to write tutorials and reviews for Linux Format magazine so I really put my money where my mouth was at the time.

But about 3 years ago, I realised that despite all my advocacy I was still spending more time configuring my Linux OS than I was being productive with it. At that point in time all I wanted was a UNIX-like OS that worked out of the box - no fiddling with drivers or arcane config files. That’s why I gave Mac OS X a blast and I haven’t looked back since.

OS X has it’s flaws, but compared to life with Linux it has been a breeze. I’ll concede that in the last 3 years desktop Linux has come along way, but I really do think it has missed the boat and I think it boils down to the following issues:

  1. There are too many varieties of Linux distributions out there - it’s too hard to know what distribution to use, especially for newcomers. Distributions all have different ways of doing things, and despite efforts to rectify the situation there’s no real standard.

  2. There are too many competing software projects - in a similar way to the distributions spreading their efforts too thin, projects like KDE and GNOME compete unnecessarily. Instead of combining their efforts to make a superb desktop environment, they continue to soldier on in parallel with each other - neither making any real headway.

  3. There are too many hardware variations to support - the biggest problem Microsoft faces for Windows is maintaining compatibility with all the hardware variations out there. Windows gets a bad rap at times but considering how many machines it runs on it’s pretty remarkable really. Linux faces the same problem, but with one major disadvantage - Microsoft got a huge head start.

On the server side, however, Linux is in my opinion the best OS out there. Maybe that’s what the Linux community should be focussing their efforts onto. Maybe if they rationalised the distros and created themselves a reference hardware platform they could totally own the server space. Then and only then should they start thinking about the desktop again.