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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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  • by s0litaire (1205168) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:09PM (#39846881)

    simple...

    Games!

    Get the games companies to release Linux version of their big titles (Modern Warfare series, Elder Scrolls series etc... etc...)
    and you'll see more and more Linux desktops!!

    Well that and AMD / Nvidia get around to shipping bug free drivers that is.. ^_~ lol

  • Four reasons (Score:5, Informative)

    by Raul654 (453029) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:33PM (#39847321) Homepage

    Here's what I think are the five biggest reasons, in roughly descending order of importance:
    1) Microsoft Office - like it or not, Microsoft Office is by a huge margin the dominant office suite. You have a presentation to give tomorrow? You better make sure it works on that Windows/Office computer that is connected to the overhead projector. Fuck ups in document formatting/compatibility will not be acceptable. Morale of the story: Until an open source program can read and write Microsoft office documents at damn close to 100% fidelity to their windows counterparts, this will be a HUGE obstacle.
    2) Games - Despite repeated predictions of its imminent demise, the PC gaming market should not be underestimated. To some extent, this is a viscous cycle: the Linux community ignores the potential increase in market share from gamers, and software companies ignore the Linux market (because it's too small to be economically viable).
    3) Poor UI choices - Unity. Enough said.
    4) Package installation/management - Let's say a hypothetical windows-to-linux convert wants to install a program. If he's using a distro that uses apt/yum, and if what he wants to install is available in the repositories, and if the distro is configured to use those repositories by default, then he's in pretty good shape. If any of these conditions doesn't hold, then our user is screwed. This is one area where Windows is light years ahead of Linux. If you get a Windows installer and run it, it installs with a minimum of hassle, and you'll never ever be told that your compiler is out-of-date or to use certain compiliation flags or to manually install a dozen dependencies.
    5) Lack of standardization in configuration - It is not helpful to google a problem and get eight different answers depending on which distro you use. Like the poor UI choices, this is largely a self-inflicted wound.

  • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:42PM (#39847461) Homepage

    Let's see ... there's four Windows desktops and laptops and one Linux desktop/server in my household in common use.

    But looking at other systems ...

    Three Kindle Fires, running Android (Linux).
    Two original Nooks, running Android (Linux).
    Two smart phones, one running Android (Linux) and one is an iPhone (not Linux.)
    One Boxee Box, running Linux.
    One Chumby alarm clock, running Linux.
    I'm not sure, but the cable company provided DVR might run Linux. (The DirectTV Tivo I had previously certainly did.)

    In my household, it seems that Linux has already won. Just not on the desktop.

  • Marketing (Score:2, Informative)

    by Wattos (2268108) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:46PM (#39847509)

    The answer is simple. To many people Linux is still this magical OS, which is for computing experts / geeks / hackers only. Most average joe's dont even know that an alternative OS exists.

    Ubuntu for example is the perfect OS for the average joe. I know that most of the hardcore linux community doesnt like Unity (I have changed to KDE because of Unity), but for the average Joe, Ubuntu 12.04 is a fantastic OS. Many people will claim "Compatibility" issues and support issues. The truth is however that most hardware has support out of the box. No drivers installation needed.

    Some examples:

    1) Printers. All I need is to connect the printer. I never had to download any drivers (which I do need to download for my Canon iP 4500 or Brother DCP-9055CDN).
    2) 3G wireless usb sticks. This was a huge surprise. On Windows, I need to install some weird applications to get the internet to work. On Ubuntu? I simply inserted the stick, was asked which Network Operator the sim card belongs to and enter the pin. Im connected to the internet.
    3) VPN... On Windows I need to install additional applications, On Ubuntu? Its built in.
    4) All other hardware. Most works out of the box. No hunting for drivers online, everything just works (On common hardware).

    Of course there is the issue of the people who run non-common hardware, such as TV-cards, special capture cards, etc. where no drivers are provided for linux. But for the common user? Ubuntu is ready, it is just that the common user is unaware...

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

    by Microlith (54737) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:47PM (#39847529)

    "Barbara, not Barbie" is not here to argue in good faith. Her goal here, primarily, seems to be riling up people who like and enjoy using Linux, and otherwise think the GPL is a good idea.

    For instance, in the last flamebait article I went back and forth with her as she (even now) continues to describe [slashdot.org] a flawed "workaround" that would allow proprietary vendors to violate the GPL in a way that couldn't be defended against. The logic is utterly broken, and seems more focused on hatred of and attempting to undermine the GPL rather than posing a rational argument or real technical flaw.

    The irony of it is that as much as she hates the "cult" she describes, her own attitude and behavior don't paint her in any better light.

  • by bbbaldie (935205) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:06PM (#39847839) Homepage
    My experience too. But first, customers must be qualified:
    • Do they run Quicken or Quickbooks?
    • Do they require Office specifically, or could they get by with any office suite?
    • Do they use any websites which (damn the developers) require IE?
    • Do they need Photoshop?

    If the answer to all four questions is no, then I build their system and provide an hour of training, and then make myself accessible over the phone. I very seldom get any calls afterwards. I do get raves from my customers though. :-)

  • by Benfea (1365845) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:14PM (#39847963)

    ...I'm afraid it's a valid concern. Not because of anything you said, but because Microsoft really does pay shills to post at places like this and pose as a regular person. It's not just Microsoft either, as this is a very common marketing tactic nowadays. We have no choice but to be skeptical of anyone who says anything positive about a product from a large corporation. That's not to say that all positive comments about products from large corporations are automatically the output of paid shills, but as a community we should be immediately skeptical of such things.

    In a perfect world, corporations would not use this tactic, and thus we could immediately dismiss the "yer a shill" accusations whenever they come up, unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. We live in this world. Any such positive statements must be treated with skepticism.

    The difference is in the validity of the arguments, and in this case, I happen to agree with yours.

  • by gfxguy (98788) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:56PM (#39848475)

    Of course; I tried to explain this to my son the other day. He knows I prefer Linux over any other OS. He knows I use Windows all the time, and that I have a Mac at work, and that Linux is my choice because I can customize it... the was the WM focuses the windows, the way I can align them and snap them together, the functionality of the command line (the choice between GUI and command line has been clear to me for a long time: the answer is "both.")

    On top of that, I suggest that Libre/Open Office is ready for 99% of primetime use. If people don't like it, it's not because it's good (in the same way I don't like MacOS or Windows), it's because they are not accustomed to it.

    I also suggest that, except for professionals (and even including a lot of professionals that don't work in print), that GIMP is just as good. Yes, I know some of you out there can come up with some pathological example of why it isn't, but for 99% of us, all the functionality we could want is there.

    I'll grant the gaming one, hands down.

    I'll also admit that what you've written is NOT inaccurate, either, despite my support of the alternatives - because people want what they want, and they want what they use at school or work, they want what their family and friends use - and they often get these things for "free" for one reason or another (not the least of which is pirating, but many legal ways, too). My only argument is that people are mostly being short sighted about it - they are being short sighted because they don't care, and it likely will never adversely affect them in any way they will ever notice. They don't understand how things proprietary formats hurt the customer because, for them, their software can read their files, and that's all that matters. It's just the way it is.

  • by Locutus (9039) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:57PM (#39848501)
    It has nothing to do with advertising really but far more to do with the money the large OEM vendors get from Microsoft as part of their "Marketing Program". This money is out side of the licensing costs/deal but still tied to it. Microsoft pays vendors for putting those Windows stickers on the packing boxes, keyboards, and computer chasis along with logo's on the web pages and in the purchase literature. Lots of money.

    And then there are the preloaded software kits companies like Adobe and others have contracts with the OEM's for so time-limited or entry versions of their software is installed on the computer already. The OEM's make money off that too.

    I guess there is a 3rd primary reason too and that is the fact that Microsoft's _people_ will come knock on your door if you start putting Linux on some of your systems. They will smile, sit down with you, as an OEM, and place your existing licensing cost sheet down on the table and then ask if you think shipping Linux systems is really financially worth your while. Smiling, he'll say to think hard about it while tapping his finger on your existing cost sheet for the Windows OS license.

    That's about it so even if customers ask about Linux, the vendors really can't put Linux on the systems unless they are the small fry guys and even then they'll probably talk you into putting it on with a 2nd disk or as a 2nd boot option on the same disk. The big guys can not cut off all that marketing money and reloaded software money when that is where they make their profits from.

    LoB
  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:4, Informative)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:11PM (#39848717) Journal

    The GPL guarantees all freedoms except the freedom to take those freedoms away from others. It is very explicit about that.

    If you want the freedom to restrict others, tough! Guess what, you can't own slaves, either.

    Also, your points about 3 is wrong. You are entirely free to make binary adaptations. You're not free to distribute them.

    And then there's freedom 0 - the freedom to run the program for any purpose.

    Note the keyword "run".

    The GPL has no restrictions on RUNNING the program. That's not the same as DISTRIBUTING the program.

  • by aztektum (170569) on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:42PM (#39849181)

    All the problems people grouse about with Linux on the desktop exist on Mac and Windows. You can find 100 pieces of hardware that won't work out of the box and require tweaking, newer drives, etc. on all of them. You can find another 100 that work on all out of the box.

    Wave a wand so that Linux has 80+ percent of the desktop share instead, and people will bitch about how Windows has the problems they pin on Linux today. "My built in motherboard card didn't work without tweaking/driver." Yeah, I just built a media center PC with new components. I put Windows 7 Ultimate on it, since it will be a Netflix box. I spent ~20 minutes waiting for the OS to install and another 30+ installing drivers and plugins and whatever.

    Most users don't deal with that shit because they buy a laptop from Dell or HP who does it for them. They can do the same with Linux and the user would never know. Except they don't, because MS strong armed them into loading Windows for years and now no one gives a rats ass to use anything else. For them "it just works", when really "it just works" because Dell and HP did the work for them.

    Google has banned Windows internally except in situations where a business critical app requires it; Mac or Linux only otherwise. I know of dozens of small companies that are purely Linux (many of them are not involved in dev or IT) It can be done and done well. It's just buying the licenses and installing it is seen as "easier."

    You know what: until you get beyond a certain point, it is. At one small company, we had 30 Windows users, I made disk images with various software loads and updated them every 6 months. Later, I worked on a huge SCCM deployment project to manage a universities desktop computers (comp labs and offices, ~5/k machines) and it was a fucking nightmare, because Windows is a horrible network OS. Meanwhile, the UNIX team hardly touched their networked machines thanks to a robust and relatively easy to deal with Puppet setup (including various addons).

    Windows is better because it's everywhere and people are use to it and really it works well most of time. Linux is not as ubiquitous, but also can be made to work well most of the time. This argument is rarely based on technical merits and typically devolves into opinion and preference. And Macs are only used by douche bag hipsters :P

  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:59PM (#39849429)

    "In the home, however, Linux is far superior to Windows."

    No it isn't, because it fails in a big way with media, meaning sound and video. Windows "just works" when it comes to things like that. Most onboard audio cards are UAA so they don't even need a driver, but quality WDM drivers are available for all audio cards and Windows actually has a functional audio standard and support so once installed all that works great. Likewise, there is a fully functional video acceleration layer in the form of Driect2D/3D with a consistent driver interface for graphics cards to use, and all the providers have drivers that work with it. It provides not only things like 3D graphics, for cards that can handle it, but acceleration of the UI and importantly these days hardware H.264 decoding, which nearly all chips have.

    So what that means is Windows has no problem even on modest hardware playing full screen 1080p Youtube videos. Just install Flash (or use a browser like Chrome that includes it) and go. No issues, it plays at full speed, you can even do video playback while doing other things like sliding the window around and it doesn't miss a beat. You can have a video playing with sound, and music playing from another program and they mix seamlessly.

    Linux? Not so much. You CAN get a Linux system that can do that, well mostly, but getting an arbitrary system to do it is far harder. Linux has all kinds of problem when it comes to audio and video.

    Gets even worse if you start talkign media production. Say Joe Blow has a nice AVCHD camera and wants to make videos to upload to Youtube. Don't say this isn't a "normal user" thing either, the vast quantity of crap on Youtube attests otherwise. Well on Windows it is real easy. It has a built in program (Movie Maker) that can do basics, but you can easily get all sorts of programs like Vegas Movie Studio that do a real good job. It is as simple as plugging in your camera, importing clips, editing, and then having the software upload them to Youtube.

    It might be great for a home user if all they do is check e-mail and surf the web, and if surfing the web doesn't involve too much in the way of video. However you find home users often do a little more, and Linux falls down on it.

  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:4, Informative)

    by celtic_hackr (579828) on Monday April 30, 2012 @04:12PM (#39849633) Journal

    What a load of bull.

    Let me sum up Barbara-not-Barbie's complaint about Linux.

    Linux has no native SimCity4 release.

    Based on her post, she claims to have years of experience with Linux, but hasn't learned how to export her data from her mail client, webbrowser, and other applications to import in a new distro. Nor knows how to create a home partition that doesn't get upgraded. But complains about problems when trying to use upgrade functions, that have warnings in the most pronounced ways possible to not use them in many places popular with Linux folks. Then when she couldn't come up with a problem for Mint invents some phony BS about them not knowing which direction they are going. WTF!? So, Ubuntu with it's near infinite flavors is more stable? I've not seen anything but rock-solid stability in Mint. Total BS. Barbara-not-Barbie gets -5 street cred for just the Mint comment. Then she slams Linux servers, which are so unstable they run half the Internet. Well, howdie do Bill! Glad to see you coming out of retirement, for another pot shot at Linux.

    Sorry, this is all the troll feeding time I have.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday April 30, 2012 @04:34PM (#39849929)

    If not MS-Office, then it's Photoshop, or AutoCAD, or some game, or whatever.

    On my home desktop, I don't need any of those apps, so I use Linux, and I consider it a far superior desktop experience in every way.

  • Re:"Just Change It" (Score:4, Informative)

    by sam_paris (919837) on Monday April 30, 2012 @04:49PM (#39850127)
    What on Earth are you talking about? I'm talking about BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY, do you even know what that means? It's like saying that a Playstation game will play on a Playstation 2. This means that PS2 is BACKWARDS COMPATIBLE. Windows 8 is backwards compatible with Windows 7.

    How do I know this? I've been developing Windows 8 apps (for Microsoft) since October of last year.

    Who's the moron?
  • Re:Way too confusing (Score:4, Informative)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday April 30, 2012 @05:27PM (#39850523)

    Then she slams Linux servers, which are so unstable they run half the Internet

    no, Linux servers run 75% [netcraft.com] of the internet.

    So perhaps the header should be "When will it be the year of Windows in the datacentre?". We need more Sharepoint!

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

    by pz (113803) on Monday April 30, 2012 @05:30PM (#39850583) Journal

    Heck, installing Linux from scratch on random hardware can be far easier than
    doing the same with either Windows or OS X

    True, this. Installing Windows XP on a blank system to the point that it's fully updated and has all drivers loaded is a right royal pain in the butt. In my experience, most network interfaces aren't supported by the distribution disc, so I have to plug in my lone and highly valuable Intel card to gain access to the net. Then eons spent downloading the right drivers for that particular motherboard (and a dose of good luck). Then Windows Update, reboot. Update, reboot. Update, reboot, etc. I think I counted 11 reboots once. Uninstall network card. Reboot. Somewhere along the line validate the installation. Avoid Windows Genuine Advantage through all of that, too. Then install favorite anti-virus, answer inane questions about MSIE configuration, install MS Office. Update, update, update. Run AV to check that everything's OK. Defrag disk. Easily most of an afternoon. Maybe versions after XP are better, but I've not touched them, yet.

    Doing the same for Fedora is much, much easier, as it involves one reboot, and a single, if large, update. Maybe an hour total, and far fewer interactions required by the operator.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:18PM (#39851253)

    This article is based on estimates from Gartner. They are both biased and ill informed. From the article:
    __________
    In addition, the free versions of Linux are only supported with free fixes for about a year, says Michael Silver, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner group. "You have to switch to the new version of Linux every year," he says. "Microsoft supports each version of Windows for ten years -- I don't have to pay any more money, and I still get security fixes. Even vendors that do offer extended security fixes for Linux, like Novell or Red Hat, they're going to charge every year for the privilege."
    __________

    The claims made by the analyst are simply false.

    The bottom line is that the desktop form factor is in rapid decline. Tablets and phones are eating away at them. In addition, most stores do not offer Linux preinstalled. The consumer, a mindless sheep, uses whatever is placed in front of them.

    The article is both a non-starter, and old news. What is the premise, other than FUD? Do they really think that Linux users will abandon their cherished operating system because they are at "2%" market share? No, the article is to put pressure on IT shops and software companies to abandon their Linux efforts.

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