Thursday, January 23, 2014

Desktop LInux

I've seen many articles about how Linux won the server market and the mobile phone and tablet market, but not the desktop market.  Mat Asay in an article on Read/Write where he studies what his hair dresser, Valerie, would want or need on a desktop.  His focus on the non-technical market is an excellent point: what do non-technical users want on a desk top? 

My wife is the closest non-technical user I know.  I gave her a machine with Linux on it about six years ago.  The machine was friendly and useful compared to Linux machines in the 90s.  The machine drove her nuts.  The little annoyances of desk top LInux would drive her crazy.  Things should work as easily in Windows.  I caved in, and put Windows on a hard drive in her machine, which made her happy.  She has Windows 8 now, running Classic Shell so the OS works the way she expects.  When I think about this, I realize that Windows 8 now has windows Managers, just he way Linux distributions do.  (Linux has xfce, Enlighten, Cinnamon, Gnome, Mate, etc.)  At any rate, she, just like Valerie is happy with her Windows 8 machine that acts just like Windows XP.  Her activities include web surfing, watching You Tube, and plenty of Facebook with Facebook games. 

That's the usage of an over 40 year old nontechnical person.  The kids, though, use a smorgasbord of Operating Systems.  Usually Windows, Mac and Android.  The interesting part about them is how they use Google Documents for their home work.  And Google Documents and other cloud services will make a huge difference in what operating System people prefer.  As Valerie found, its more about what works with your electronics than what makes them run.  She couldn't edit her photos in Mac OS, which, for her, was a deal breaker.  And this is the strength of Chrome Book because it is a thin client that uses Internet Cloud Services.  The other strength of Cloud Services is the way people can use any device to connect with others.  People are no longer limited to Windows because their school or office insist on Microsoft Office.

And truly, that is where the Linux desktop has suffered over the years.  Mainstream electronics device manufacturers make a Windows version of their soft ware and a Mac version, but never a Linux version.  Schools make rules that Macs and Windows machine can abide by, but not Linux machines.  Mainstream software and device developers do not develop for Linux most of the time because they seem to be paranoid of a free (in the Richard Stallman sense of freedom, not the sense of giving away free beer) operating system.  This held true until the destructive innovation of the Android system came along and suddenly non Windows devices became widely adopted.

The destructive innovation of Android is contributing to the undermining of the traditional Wintel duopoly.  Intel would make a new processor followed by a new operating system made by Microsoft. 
Today, Microsoft attempted to keep up with Android by making windows 8, an operating system good for any type of computer.  Unfortunately, the Valeries of the world were not ready for it.  And the same is true of the Linux desktop.