Lets get the preconceptions out of the way first. Linux is a very viable option on the desktop. All the major distributions are easy to use, do not require you to learn the command line and long gone are the majority of hardware issues that plagued Linux in the past. But, and it is a big but, why hasn’t Linux broken through on the desktop then? Lets take a look.
By the time Linux came onto the scene Microsoft had already cornered the market. Windows was coming preinstalled on almost every PC and laptop and Microsoft had the backing of all the major manufacturers. Since not many people change their operating system on their laptop or PC it was very hard for Linux to gain traction.
2. It was and still is seen as a techies plaything
Perceptions can be good or bad and in Linux’s case it hasn’t really helpt that it is seen as an operating system for techies. This was maybe true at the start but over the years distributions like Ubuntu have tried to bring Linux to the masses with new interfaces and less command line stuff. Peoples perceptions though are very hard to change.
3. It’s free
When people see FREE they usually think what is the catch. It is the same with businesses. In this case FREE means no licence fees and the freedom to do anything you want with the operating system (unlike with Windows). You pay for support if you want it in the same way as you do with Windows, however again due to peoples perceptions FREE is seen as not very good and only for techie minded individuals.
4. Windows Vista
Windows Vista should have been Linux’s finest hour. Surely with so many people hating Vista there was an opening for Linux to go mainstream? Well not quite. As it turns out people and businesses turned back to Windows XP in droves, hence hardening their commitment to using Windows. Manufacturers weren’t convinced about Linux’s viability as a desktop operating system enough to start preinstalling it on their hardware and instead went back to XP. The opening had gone.
5. The iPad
Back in 2007 the netbook was born with the introduction of the EeePC 701 and it came preinstalled with Linux. The market immediately took off and for a time suggested Microsoft’s dominance could finally be challenged. In 2010 Apple released the first iPad and killed the netbook off overnight. It had better specifications than a netbook but more importantly it had WOW factor. Once again Linux had been thwarted.
So what now for Linux? Everyone should try Linux at least once and I can assure you any preconceptions you may have will be blown away. It works and it works very well. The year of the Linux Desktop however has long gone. The PC / laptop market is shrinking and consumers are switching to tablets and smartphones. In the business environment most businesses are so entrenched in Micrososft products that it would be very difficult for them to switch over to Linux. But there is one shining light and that is tablets. Most tablets on the market use Android which itself is based on Linux so the year of the Linux Desktop may be gone but the Year of the Linux tablet is coming!!
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