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Old Arguments May Cost Linux the Desktop 591

itwbennett writes "The old Linux arguments that pit one tool against another — Evolution vs. Thunderbird, LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice, and GNOME3 vs. Unity vs. KDE vs. everything else — may cost Linux its shot at the desktop, opines blogger Brian Proffitt. 'We can compare LibreOffice to to Office till the cows come home,' says Proffitt. 'But what happens when Google Docs gets truly robust enough for business and high-end document production? Or Prezi gets enough mindshare to start an upwards trajectory of user numbers?' It should be the case that increasing reliance on cloud software will make it easier for businesses to choose Linux, but for that to happen, Linux communities need to stop fighting the old fights, says Proffitt."
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Old Arguments May Cost Linux the Desktop

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  • Old? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Lode ( 1290856 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:02PM (#37045018)

    Is LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice an old argument? It's hardly a year old...

  • "May cost"?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tigersha ( 151319 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:04PM (#37045030) Homepage

    Linux does not have a shot at the desktop and never will. That is some /. nerd fantasy.

  • Umm, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:07PM (#37045072) Journal
    So, let me get this straight: "Linux On the Desktop" is doomed because, when 'cloud applications' come into the fore, there will still be nerds with strong opinions about native applications?

    Isn't that exactly backward?

    If "The Cloud" rises up and devours natives software, nobody will give a fuck about any application on the Linux desktop, except for the browser(the state of which is fine) and none of the suits will care about the raging emacs/vi crusades, so long as they can get their almost-thin-clients booted into gmail as cheaply as possible...

    The hypothetical rise of in-browser stuff renders battles about the relative value of assorted linux-native applications irrelevant, that's sort of the whole point.
  • No point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nyctopterus ( 717502 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:07PM (#37045086) Homepage

    Once people shift to using cloud-based software, the very reason for people to use Linux on the desktop (software freedom) is lost in any case. It will be a case of getting past the post after the race is over.

  • Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Beelzebud ( 1361137 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:10PM (#37045138)
    I'm done caring about the "year of the desktop debate". I use Windows 7 for gaming and I use Linux for everything else. If that puts me in a 1% camp, then so be it.
  • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:11PM (#37045152) Journal

    Is there anywhere in the OSS community where cutting the number of options in half would produce a monoculture?

    Admittedly there is only one Linux kernel, heavily modified, but you could add the BSD Kernels and Hurd to make up for that.

    With desktop environments, a dime a dozen would be highway robbery.

    There are a few that stand out in any of the areas, but in general, a bit more cooperation probably would help more than hinder. Getting rid of the ideological and dick-waving flame wars of who's project is the best solution for a given problem, and seeing (and in some cases, combining) the strengths of the competition (or even, in some cases, merging products) moreso than is done now, would probably help.

    Some of the issues is that there are too many choices, which most users don't want. They want what works, and on average case, does best, not three tools that do about the same thing, but only handle a small part of that "thing" the best.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:11PM (#37045156) Homepage Journal

    In other news this week:

    Call Of Duty vs Battlefield - who could possibly choose? Certainly nobody could ever like both!
    Brown bread vs white - when will the madness end?
    Blondes vs brunettes vs redheads - the human race is falling apart!
    Peanut butter vs jelly - the only choice at breakfast time is to cry :'(
    Coffee vs tea - the hot beverage industry will implode if we don't just CHOOSE ONE gods-damn-it!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:14PM (#37045172)

    1. This article blindly assumes that "linux on everybody's desktop" is a goal. It may be for some people, but if I had to put money on it, I'd say that 95% of linux users don't really give a damn. Linux will always be useful for them, irrespective of whether grandma can buy a desktop with linux pre-installed.

    2. Linux already IS on the desktop for millions of people. It's been on my desktop for 14 years. It may not be on grandma's desktop, but again, why would I care? I use linux because it's the best tool for what I do (and also the most fun and interesting for me) not because I'm on some kind of world-domination crusade.

    Nobody asked this guy to speak for them, myself included. So I kindly suggest that he piss off.

  • Re:"May cost"?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:18PM (#37045240)

    So then my desktop does not exist?

  • Economies of scale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:19PM (#37045256) Homepage Journal

    It may not be on grandma's desktop, but again, why would I care?

    Developers of specialized software lack the resources to support every platform. They choose which platforms to support based on which could make the most money for them. And right now, Windows and Mac OS X have much clearer economies of scale than GNU/Linux. So if GNU/Linux isn't widespread, it won't draw a large selection of specialized software, especially in those markets that free software has historically had trouble serving [].

  • Re:"May cost"?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:24PM (#37045346)

    I keep hearing this. Oddly enough, back when Linux had 1% of the desktop market, its continued to grow on desktops.

    People seem extremely confused about what this all means. Will Linux every have 80% of the desktop market? Not likely. Is the current desktop count under reported? Extremely likely. Realistically, the year of the Linux desktop arrived years ago. As you said, 80% is some /. nerd, idiot, fantasy. Just the same, Linux likely has something between 5%-8% of the desktop market. And frankly, even 1% means the Linux desktop has arrived.

    With the idiocy which claims the Linux desktop hasn't arrived means OSX hasn't arrived either. That's dumb and by all reasonable accounts, completely untrue.

    Realistically, the lie is that the Linux desktop is a lie.

  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:24PM (#37045352) Homepage Journal

    Linux, and open source in general, will never be that popular, simply because of cognitive load. It's software designed by engineers, with no clear understanding of style or ergonomics.

    To use a car example, it's like a car with high torque and excellent gas mileage, but ugly to look at and the instruments are labelled differently and in the back seat.

    Many companies hire artists and usability experts to look at the final product and make tweaks and recommendations. Some even take the trouble to engage focus groups of customers to find out what features are confusing, what aspects are uncomfortable, what looks ugly. They take this information and change their product for the better.

    For the most part, the success of Apple products is for this reason: the iPod was not the first MP3 player on the market, but it's usability and aesthetic appeal and robustness made it highly popular.

    Open source, on the other hand, is usually done by a single engineer putting in most of the effort. The results usually have the following pattern:

    1) Documentation: Writing documentation is boring. Put up a wiki and let the users fill in the details.
    2) Aesthetic looks: This is not important. Give the user a panel to change the environment to suit their tastes.
    3) Compatibility: Not important. "Search for text" is different in every application, it's impossible for your fingers to memorize the action.
    4) Simplicity: More features is better! Try viewing the man page for "ls" some time. Or preferences in VLC.
    5) Descriptives: Don't choose descriptive names for anything. Instead of "Internet Explorer", "Paint Shop Pro" and "Media Player", use terms like "Gimp, Firefox, and VLC".

    This last is one reason why old folks have a tough time using the new technology. They have to learn a completely new language: Every random word that they *thought* they knew ("pidgin", "handbrake", "calibre") means something different in the new system.

    Gimme a break.

    The top five or so open source projects try to deal with these issues, but the overwhelming majority are robust, strong, functional, and totally enigmatic.

    Where are the open source tech writers? The ones who take that part of the problem and work alongside the engineers to ensure quality documentation? Where are the open source ergonomic experts, the usability analysts, the aesthetic artists? Who ever does usability studies, or consistency between apps?

    Until the engineers get a clue, open source projects will never be more than a closet of hobbyist projects.

    Making good software is more than robust coding.

  • Re:"May cost"?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by datajerk ( 63203 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:27PM (#37045416) Homepage

    Linux does not have a shot at the desktop and never will.

    Define desktop. If it is the principle UI that you use to communicate with the Internet and run applications, then...

    There are 7 billion people. ~2 billion PCs and ~5 billion phones worldwide. The growth UI will be in phones and other low cost devices. *That*, is the new desktop and it will be Linux-based.

    My TiVo and my Blu-ray player run Linux. That could be considered a media desktop. Or media UI. For some, sadly, TV is their principle app.

    Linux has won the desktop OS wars. It's just that nobody knows it yet.

    As for desktop UI apps, the future is HTML5.

  • Re:"May cost"?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:29PM (#37045458)

    hostile support community

    That's a new one.

    and general lack of hardware support (desktop)

    That's just simply not true. Linux has superior hardware support than does Vista and Win 7.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:31PM (#37045478)

    Which is not what the question was at all. I don't care.

    On top of that as indie game studios now often support linux, I am not sure you are correct.

  • Re:No point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:34PM (#37045554)

    "Once people shift to using cloud-based software" ....they will get bitch-slapped by its limitations.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:37PM (#37045610)

    Not at all. The point is they don't want to choose, so FUCK'EM!
    These are the same people that would complain about too much money, idiots!


  • by Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @12:49PM (#37045796)

    You assume that Linux is developing in a vacuum, and it magically got good enough to be on your desktop. But that's not how it happened.

    Linux got good enough quickly enough that various critical players assumed it would soon (or at least eventually) be a viable desktop alternative. So they began to support it. You probably wouldn't be using Linux on your desktop (at least not exclusively) were there no nVidia drivers, various HP printer drivers, Broadcom (yes, a late comer) and, yes, Flash support available for it. But what you willfully refuse to see is that all of those things became available because their vendors assumed they'd get some advantage from providing them.

    There's a whole rash of things that never became available (Quicken, games, etc), because their vendors didn't see the advantage of Linux support, or were holding back to wait for critical mass, or wanted to jump in, but were stymied by the need to choose a platform on top of Linux (GNOME, KDE, etc) to target.

    If it becomes obvious that critical mass will never come, those last players may never jump in. And the first group may jump out (no nVidia drivers for new classes of cards, etc). Hell, even Firefox support on Linux is lagging Windows these days. So you can argue all you want that 'choice is good' and 'I can use Linux, so why should I care', but you can only use linux because other people have cared in the past. Wake up. World domination is not the goal - viability is, and that goal can slip through your fingers even though you are happy with your Linux setup today.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant