Linux has a long and rich history. It is a powerful operating system. It has a loyal following. Yet, at the end of the day, it still finds itself being used on a paltry 1-2% of the desktop computer market. Why?
One of the reasons is the Linux community itself. And on a tightly related note, it is because it requires corporate backing. Yeah, I said it…
For me to explain myself on this one, let’s back up a moment and look at the Linux community itself.
The Linux community is inherently very anti-commercialism. That spirit is part and parcel of the entire Linux movement. And that is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. It leads to a great OS being distributed for free and everybody likes that.
EXCEPT when it gets in the way. The noncommercial nature of Linux means that the community is responsible for it’s development. Again, good thing…except that it also leads to a lot of confusion. There are practically more Linux distros now than there are Linux users. Each distro does things a little bit differently. The typical desktop user would look at this scene and, well, their eyes will cross and they’ll run the other way. And the distaste for proprietary code in Linux means that many of the conveniences OS X and Windows users enjoy need to be set up manually by the Linux user after installation.
Linux Community Isn’t Exactly That Helpful
Linux users are the most high-and-mighty of the nerd community. We’ll laugh at the hardcore Mac followers and the “mactards” who hang on every word that comes out of Steve Job’s mouth. But, a lot of Linux users are just as snobby about their choice of operating system. And there is no “welcome mat” at the Linux door.
When a Windows user looks to convert to Linux, it is inevitable that frustrations enter because Linux doesn’t do things like Windows. And all too often, such a suggestion is met with a tongue-lashing for daring to suggest that Linux become a little more Windows like.
Another example would be the scolding a Linux die-hard might give to a person who uses Ubuntu Linux. Are you kidding me? Calling an Ubuntu user a “newb”, as if that is some kind of insult, is exactly the WRONG reaction you should have to a person testing the Linux waters.
Ubuntu As an Example
Ubuntu is, today, considered the de facto standard for Linux when it comes to newbie Linux users wanting to test the waters. It is because Ubuntu is among the easiest Linux distros to use. And what’s more, Ubuntu has a commercial sponsor in Canonical Limited. By having a company serve as the central development for the Ubuntu operating system, they have actually managed to make Linux into a usable operating system that a newbie can understand and use.
Canonical is doing with Linux what Mark Shuttleworth said needed to happen with Linux. Namely, they need to become more like Apple. They need to make Linux easier to use and “more beautiful”. Shuttleworth happens to be the guy behind Canonical.
Windows and OS X do well because they are easy to use and each has a central base for development, namely Microsoft and Apple. Each supports the product and provides a central focus for everything regarding that OS. Canonical is doing this with Ubuntu, which is why that distro is having the success it has.
The Linux community is dooming itself to failure due to its own nature. Facing that fact and getting some of that tough love is the only way Linux has a chance of being on a desktop near you. And, dare I say, I think it will take a commercial company to pull that off. I don’t think the unorganized nature of the Linux community can pull it off. And, no, the world will never just get smart and embrace Linux for the desktop. It needs to be user centric, and today it is not.
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