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Why Desktop Linux Hasn't Taken Off 1264

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-flaming-begin dept.
alphadogg writes "It's free, easier to use than ever, IT staffers know it and love it, and it has fewer viruses and Trojans than Windows. So, why hasn't Linux on the desktop taken off? When it comes to desktop Linux, the cost savings turn out to be problematic, there are management issues, and compatibility remains an issue. 'We get a lot more questions about switching to Macs than switching to Linux at this point, even though Macs are more expensive,' one Gartner analyst says."
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Why Desktop Linux Hasn't Taken Off

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  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RanCossack (1138431) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:13PM (#39846969)

    Hobbyists might value their time less, but employee hour for a company costs A LOT.

    I thought a lot of what you said made sense, but -- hobbyists don't value their time less; they just enjoy their hobby. It's different from a company.

  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:16PM (#39847037)

    I just installed Linux Mint Debian Edition. It's 100% compatible with Debian Testing. I run Debian Sid on every linux machine in my house (HTPC, server, sheevaplug, sound server in the basement). I've tried other distros. My girlfriend has Ubuntu and every single update she bitches about how they changed something. First they forced Unity. Then they managed to make unity worse. She's going to give the latest LTS a chance before switching to Mint or back to Windows.

    I wanted to see if I could finally replace my Mac. I'm very, very impressed and think I may finally switch to a Linux "Desktop" (it's my laptop). MATE is excellent with Compiz.

    But the one problem with Linux is what everyone touts as its biggest advantage: The paradox of choice [ted.com]. When I was setting up scale (aka Expose) on Compiz I could drag the speed slider all the way from 0 to 50. What they ment, fuck if I knew until I tested it. And could I really see a difference between 5.3 and 5.5? No. Say "Slow, Medium, Fast". If nothing else hide it behind a "advanced user" dialog.

    A perfect example is the pointer acceleration/speed in the mouse dialog. XP has 10 discrete spots. MATE has infinite. I spent almost 9 hours getting the desktop how I wanted it. The average user doesn't want to do this, but if they DO want to change something how about we not overwhelm them with choices.

  • Development Tools? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darylb (10898) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:19PM (#39847077)

    At work, I write code that has to run on Windows (multiple versions, multiple bitness), Linux x86-64, and Solaris SPARC 64. Maintaining compatibility across multiple versions of Windows and Visual Studio is trivial compared to Linux. Worse, GUI applications have more complex code execution paths that, under Windows, can be debugged without too much pain. On Linux, I cringe every time I have to fix a broken GUI.

    I'm sure there are lots of Linux developers that are smarter than I am, but, really, Microsoft has pushed hard to make the developer tools usable and productive, so much so that they're actually worth the cost. The result is that it's easier to develop more apps faster on their platform.

    Just one opinion.

  • So? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:20PM (#39847107)

    I've been using as my primary operating system for well over 10 years. For typical programming/office work it's just easier to deal with than Windows. This is especially true when my job requires to connecting to other Unix based boxes and the majority of my work is done on command line.. I feel neutered every time I have to go back to windows..

    Personally I don't care what the masses like..

  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Microlith (54737) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:22PM (#39847139)

    The issues with Linux have not changed in the past 10 years. It's disappointing that no progress has been made.

    Perhaps this is because what you believe to be "issues" are not believed to be by the people doing the work?

    for most people it's not as simple as putting the disk in and running the installer. You'll end up with devices that don't work and that Joe Average can't troubleshoot.

    And when Joe Average has problems with Windows he's equally stuck.

    it's still not easy enough for the general public.

    And the people working on the various Linux distributions generally aren't targeting the general public. Faced with the marketing machine that is Apple and the monopoly that is Microsoft, what value is there?

    The resources poured into Linux for desktop PCs would be better spent building a competent, truly private, truly free, easy to install and again, truly free - distro of Android.

    So long as Android is developed behind closed doors it can never be "truly free." It will always go where Google will take it, and they've got the money and the vendor access to ensure their version is always what is used.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:23PM (#39847151) Homepage

    The great opportunity for Linux on the desktop was a decade ago. Back when Windows 95 sucked, Windows XP was late, and Windows 2000 cost several hundred dollars. That's when it could have happened. It didn't.

    There was a second chance when the netbooks came in. But that, too, was botched. For a moment, it looked like the future of computing was a $99 Linux netbook in a bubble pack at WalMart. This terrified the industry. The EeePC Linux was badly broken, especially in the networking area. Microsoft frantically revived XP, and then, with the cooperation of the PC industry, tried to destroy the netbook industry. Companies which also produced PCs were told they'd lose their Microsoft volume discount if they sold a Linux netbook. Hence, the "Asus recommends Windows 7" [asus.com] branding. Similar pressure was applied to dealers. You can buy low cost Linux netbooks from suppliers in Shenzen right now, but try to find one at a US retailer. (The current ASUS EeePC 1001, at $200, which is a quite capable little computer. was supposed to be a Linux machine. It's only available with Windows 7.)

  • by DarkXale (1771414) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:23PM (#39847157)
    The PC game market which out revenues the PS3 and Xbox360 together? Before taking into consideration MMOs?
  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:28PM (#39847241) Journal

    Dekstop Linux hasn't taken off because people don't want a powerful OS that does what they tell it to. They want trinkets that keep them entertained. It's the same reason why McDonalds sells billions of hamburgers a year, why Home Ec is the chief focus of The Learning Channel, and why Kurtzmann and Orci keep getting work. People are stupid, end of story.

  • by andydread (758754) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:28PM (#39847243)
    300+ Ubuntu residential installations and many business desktops/laptops and counting. When I approach an infected Windows computer I suggest a migration from windows to Ubuntu. I charge the same price to clean windows or migrate to Ubuntu. When they realise that they don't have to keep paying me to come back and clean windows again and again they chose to go with the migration to Ubuntu and are quite happy with their choice. Almost every one of them have not heard of Linux until I come along and give them the option.
  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arth1 (260657) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:33PM (#39847301) Homepage Journal

    I'm not doubting your story, but that you can draw a a valid conclusion from it.
    Fewer support calls doesn't necessarily mean that something is better - it could also be that it's not as useful or attractive, and that less use means less calls.

    (Linux Desktop user here. It's great for me, but I have no problems seeing that it isn't great for everyone.)

  • by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:35PM (#39847339) Homepage

    Ernie Ball ran a company (they make guitar strings).
    One day the BSA shows up, armed marshals in tow, to do an audit.
    They find a few systems out of compliance, and the lawyers negotiate a settlement.
    These thing happen, right? Cost of doing business, right?

    But then the BSA thought, hey, this guy has name recognition.
    He's connected to music; the kids know who he his.
    We'll make an example of him.

    And they did.
    They ran ads that named him as a pirate;
    they got his case on the evening news.

    Mr. Ball took exception to this.
    So he went to his IT people and told them that he wanted Microsoft out of his company in 6 months.
    So they switched to RedHat.
    More into at http://news.cnet.com/2008-1082_3-5065859.html [cnet.com]

    My take-away from this is that Microsoft is running on inertia.
    Not theirs: their customers'.
    Microsoft persists because their customers don't have a compelling reason to switch.
    But given a reason, switching to Linux is no big deal.

    At any point in time,
    most of the world is 6 months from Linux,
    and Microsoft is 6 months from oblivion.

  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sirdude (578412) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:35PM (#39847347)

    I don't know why people are even considering the 95 out of 100 distros that can simply be written off for any number of reasons. There are only a handful of players of worth when it comes to a reliable, user-friendly desktop for average use. These are in no particular order:

    -Ubuntu
    -Kubuntu
    -Mint
    -Fedora
    -Debian
    -SuSE
    -Arch

    The above list can be trimmed down even further if you merge all the Debian derivatives. Everything else > /dev/null.

    If I consider average users to be Mom and Pop types who are basically simply after a browser, spreadsheet and Picasa, I always install Kubuntu. The only hardware issues I face nowadays tend to be related to the webcam and printer. Those are usually solved pretty quickly.

    IMO, the reasons why Desktop Linux has not yet taken off are:

    -Bundling
    -Power users are happy with Windows/Macs and its the power users who advise the average users.
    -Work culture; people stick to known poisons.

  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:43PM (#39847481) Homepage

    Even simpler with Macs.

    I bag to differ, Macs are a complete clusterfuck. While there is only "one" MacOSX, they upgrade it frequently and break compatibility with essentially each version. So if you are stuck with a Mac that doesn't use the latest and greatest version, simple stuff has software installation can turn into a nightmare, especially when it comes to Open Source software (e.g. most of that stuff is tied to a specific release, requires Xcode which Apple doesn't ship for older versions and so on).

  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:07PM (#39847859) Homepage Journal

    How I am even supposed to begin to recommend Linux for the average user when there are 100 different distros, each with its own quirks and issues?

    Pick one, and deal with its "issues".

    If you want simple users,

    Prefer sofisticated users, but I get your meaning.

    Linux is way too fractured right now for the average user.

    Disagree. Instructed my sister on how to install it over the phone. She would have called for help with windows as well, so don't go there.

    It would probably also help if you could get Linux users to stop fighting amongst themselves over every little goddamn thing.

    That's not going to happen, and I'm not sure its an issue if you just use one distro. Even so, how exactly does OSS infighting harm you?

  • Re:Four reasons (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dadoo (899435) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:35PM (#39848173) Journal

    1) Microsoft Office

    I think you're overstating the importance of Office. My wife uses Ubuntu as her main desktop, and exchanges documents with people who use office every day. She claims she has very little trouble.

    2) Games

    I'll agree with you, that the PC games market isn't going anywhere soon. Linux could get into that market, if they were more programmer-friendly, which I'll go into in a minute.

    3) Poor UI choices

    Yeah, I think Unity's terrible, but my wife likes it.

    4) Package installation/management

    I honestly don't have a clue what you're talking about, here. If you want to install some software on Linux, you bring up the package manager, select the software you want, and it installs automatically. It doesn't even ask you for any money. What could be simpler than that? The only distribution that had problems with its package sources (that I'm aware of) was SuSE. The user could solve that by switching distributions. The computer manufacturer could fix that by selling units with Linux pre-installed.

    5) Lack of standardization in configuration

    Again, I think you're overstating this problem.

    In my opinion, the biggest reason we don't have desktop Linux, is its programmer-friendliness when writing GUI programs. The first thing we need is a proper IDE. Linux and Windows programmers alike tell me nothing on Linux even comes close to Visual Studio.

    The second thing we need is a single user-interface API. If you're going to write a native Linux application, do you write it in KDE, Gnome, XFCE, or something else, entirely? Yes, I know you can run KDE programs on Gnome, but you have to go to the trouble to make sure the KDE libraries are installed. Some KDE programs also require some services that Gnome doesn't run, and vice-versa. Having them both go to D-bus was a step in the right direction, but they need to go further. Desktop environment should be a user choice, not a programmer choice.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:44PM (#39849205) Homepage

    Can we, please, stop posting fake "complaints" and "explanations" that come from Microsoft, and serve no purpose other than FUD-mongering and misdirecting the Linux development?

    Should I remind everyone that Microsoft's settlement terms after (mostly toothless) antitrust lawsuit expired recently, and Microsoft is now free to continue their monopoly-maintenance practices such as "taxing" manufacturers' devices with non-Microsoft OS, without even trying to conceal them?

  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DuckDodgers (541817) <keeper_of_the_wo ... m ['yah' in gap]> on Monday April 30, 2012 @04:01PM (#39849455)
    Not bullshit. If you do business, you have to track finances, period. Your accounting department expenses are an inescapable cost.

    Tracking software license compliance is an added cost. So you don't weigh software costs against the $0 cost of free software, you weigh software costs plus license management and compliance costs against the cost of free software. I understand the reality that many essential applications run poorly or not at all on Linux, there is a lot of division in the free software community, and many end users would rather saw off a limb than forego Microsoft Office. But I spent the last six years at a company with less than 20 employees, and for us managing Microsoft software licenses is a royal pain in the neck, and adds a lot more to our operating costs than the actual licenses themselves. Microsoft seems to have a corporate edict against user friendly license management, and it suits me fine - we get more done in less time with Debian on our servers, so the COO gave the go ahead for a gradual transition to Linux.

    I'm sure a Fortune 500 company can hire a few employees whose entire job is license management, and the cost is statistically insignificant in the overall company budget. For small businesses, the cost really is significant.
  • by HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) on Monday April 30, 2012 @05:27PM (#39850531)
    The funny thing is how many people will respond to this with "But OpenOffice! but Gimp! but FreeCAD!" without realizing that even on a Windows or Mac machine, MS Office, Adobe's suite, and AutoCAD absolutely DOMINATE their markets. They have become de facto industry standards, and competing software is only used on the fringe to get access to obscure features, while still interfacing as tightly as possible to the market leaders. Often, people will even use both (as in, Illustrator for most vector work, but Corel Draw for vector work that requires a specific technique to separate spot colors). This is why other software can stay in the game; they offer as much (or nearly so) as the standard software and tack in a few clever features; but they don't try to go heads up against the giant.

    Sorry, but even if a software is actually better, if it's competing with an industry standard, it sure as hell has to conform 100% to that standard in addition to being better. David may have won one time, armed with a sling, but he'd have had an easier time of it overall if he was armed with sandal polish, instead. It's just the way it is in a lot of industries, at least until the sandal-shiner is consistently clever enough to rise as the new dominating force.

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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