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Why Linux Can't 'Sell' On the Desktop 1091

New submitter VoyagerRadio writes "Recently I found myself struggling with a question I should easily have been able to answer: Why would anyone want to use Linux as their everyday desktop (or laptop) operating system? It's a fair question, and asked often of Linux, but I'm finding it to be a question I can no longer answer with the conviction necessary to 'sell' the platform. In fact, I kind of feel like a car salesman who realizes he no longer believes in the product he's been pitching. It's not that I don't find Linux worthy; I simply don't understand how it's ever going to succeed on the desktop with voluntary marketing efforts. What do Linux users need to do to replicate the marketing efforts of Apple and Microsoft and other corporate operating system vendors? To me, it seems you don't sell Linux at all because there isn't supposed to be one dominant distribution that stands out from the rest. Without a specific product to put on the shelf to sell, what in the world do you focus your efforts on selling? An idea?"
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Why Linux Can't 'Sell' On the Desktop

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @06:51AM (#39424979)

    Two words - Microsoft Office.

    You're not really asking the right question.... the operating platform (whether Linux, BSD, Windows, OSX, ReactOS, VMS or wutever) is largely irrelevant in comparison to what you can actually do with it. You may as well compare the colors and grips of different screwdriver handles. What matters to the screwdriver buyer/user is "will it work with my existing screws, and will it work well for my future screwdrivering needs?".

    There's a significant majority of pre-existing screws that are Microsoft Office shaped, and in order to work with not only your own screws, but other people's screws too, you will want to guarantee compatibility, so you get the tool that fits the standard.

    The Office file formats in their various guises, have been around for long enough to ensure that storing things in other formats is a royal PITA now and for the future.

    Beyond the basics of document editing and saving, non-MS-Office applications have just enough compatibility issues to be a PITA, and non-technical users rightly or wrongly still want those 80% of the features to be available. Just in case.

    Why do you think MS lobbied so hard against the non-MS document standard? Office is the product that keeps them in business. Windows? W7 is just W2000 with bells and whistles. It's the information storage, retrieval, and management tool that controls the desktop.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @06:53AM (#39424999)

    I sell desktop computers and laptops with Windows becaise it's the right tool for that job and it works.

    I sell servers with Windows Server and Linux because they are the right tools for that job, where Linux fits that's what I sell, if my customer needs Active Directory, DNS and Mail I sell them Windows Server and Exchange Server.

    I sell iPad's for tablet computing because it just works how people expect it to work, my corporate clients use their iPads to remote desktop to their office PC's - never had any complaints.

    I sell Apple Mac's where people are doing DTP/Graphics work because that is the environment they are used to.

    I advise people to either get an iPhone or an Android device dependent on what they need it for.

    Everything integrates seamlessly at the network level because I make it work that way.

    I would never sell or install Linux as a desktop operating system, it's about 10 years behind Microsoft and Apple in that regard.

    If I was to put Linux on a desktop PC it would run XFCE, XFCE is way ahead of all the other Linux GUI's because it presents a familiar environment, Unity, KDE and GNOME took a huge step backwards a couple of years ago and I could never ever implement either of those in a corporate environment - too confusing for "Joe User".

    Windows 8... hmmm... even though it's only preview I'm already getting support calls asking how to use it and how to "fix the desktop corruption - all the icons are really big and the screen keeps flickering when I press the explorer button", wondering if I should send the bill to Microsoft, Metro is like Marmite, 90% of people hate it, 10% love it...

  • Re:Why not (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @06:54AM (#39425003)

    "It simply works" -> no, it does not. It works great, but it is not "grandma simple".


    The iPad is "grandma simple" in the same way as the VCR is "grandma simple". I.e. as long as granny only does what she's allowed and the system doesn't have any problems or errors.

    "Apple has chosen 1 a long time ago"

    NO. Apple has chosen "I will TELL you what you will do, therefore it will be easy to do".

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @06:56AM (#39425011) Journal

    I think the problem for MS's competitors is that, as we saw with the Vista launch, even if MS get something badly wrong, they've got a market dominance safety margin because a) their older OSes are still out there and usable, barring some kind of actual kill-switch and b) the competition needs, in many key areas, a few years to catch up to them even if MS stands still.

    Agree that Apple rather than Linux is the more dangerous competitor for MS, particularly if Apple starts to take gaming more seriously in a post-Jobs world. Don't underestimate how many people's OS choice is driven by the games that they and/or their kids play. And it's in gaming support that MS is currently many years ahead of the competition (gaming on Linux appears to have made little substantive progress over the last decade).

  • by roothog ( 635998 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:03AM (#39425083)

    I have two offices, each with a different desktop (WinXP on one, OS X Lion on the other), two MacBooks (Lion on one, Leopard on the other), and a home Linux system (Ubuntu/KDE). I find all systems to be fairly usable, and for the most part, I don't really care which one I'm using. I just want to be able to use the computer, so trying to push one type of system over another seems pretty pointless if they're all ultimately usable. The differences among the systems end up being pretty minor:

    - Easy connectivity to remote systems/servers.
    - Easy to find, install, and uninstall software via apt-get, with reasonable assurance that the centralized repositories aren't hosting malware.
    - I never think about licenses, everything is free [beer].

    OS X:
    - Easy connectivity to remote systems/servers.
    - UNIX with a pretty GUI (though KDE is pretty nice nowadays).
    - Many applications have easy installs/uninstalls, just drag the folder into /Applications or from there to the trash. (Though having to remember which applications uninstall with a drag to the trash and which need to run an uninstaller is annoying).

    - Usable as long as I can stay away from the start menu (which I find cumbersome).
    - Needs a real command line that lets me ssh & scp. Having to use a GUI program to scp annoys me.
    - No customizability. For example, I can't figure out how to have the clock on the taskbar also list today's date.
    - Installing software via downloads of .exe's from random websites is worrisome.

  • Actually, I think you have that backwards. Windows 95/98/ME were trying to compete with Linux. Microsoft used illegal means to compete -- fair competition would have resulted in OS/2 and Linux on top.

    Finally, in 2001, Windows XP achieved some parity with Linux and OS/2.

    OS/2 has gone away; Linux hasn't. But, even today, Windows 7 is no particular match for Linux. Does Windows run on Z-series mainframes? Sparc? Anything other than x86? Big-endian? Embedded? With how much compatibility?

    The Linux kernel is remarkably successful. What is amazing is that even with all the illegal efforts at exploiting a monopoly, and actual engineering efforts that have been put into Windows 7, that Linux is even considered competitive.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:20AM (#39425183)
    This is an easy question to answer:
              I can't go to the store and buy software for it.
              I can't play ANY games on it that aren't total crap or 10yrs old
              It's hard to use for most people. (editing text files in emacs is not easy for most people)
              The linux support community are a bunch of assholes. Try and post a question in a linux forum asking how to do something, you get treated like an idiot.
              Even if you had someone to support you, the entire appearance, function and utility of it differs widely from distro to distro... even from release to release. Win7 may be a lot different than Win95... but not nearly as different as 2 Ubuntu distros that are less than 5yrs apart. So even a linux pro can be lost unless you drop to command line, and even then they may be confused unless you're using the same distro... not to mention that its virtually impossible to support a novice, over the phone, while they're entering console commands.

    None of this is new... it's the same problem that linux has always had.
  • some reasons (Score:5, Informative)

    by e**(i pi)-1 ( 462311 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:23AM (#39425215) Homepage Journal
    I use linux as my main work platform since 15 years. Here are a few reasons why I still use a mac. Here are the tools, I use regularly where I did not find analogues.
    • dead simple and robust video editing with quicktime pro (copy paste) which is able to read and export in essentially any format
    • screen recording which allows to archive any video which is visible on the screen.
    • pages, to quickly make a flyer, syllabus which looks great.
    • garage band which just works and does not need to be learned because one can just plug into the epiano and work.
    • PDF manipulation: preview is a fantastic tool to rearrange, copy paste pages in PDF files. Nothing like this exists. I use Adobe professional to reduce the size of PDF files (especially from scanned books). Most of the time the space reduction is a factor of 10.
    • Scanning: with a Fujitsu scanner, I can get a digital version of a book (cut the spine and throw it into the scanner, push one button). The result is a perfectly OCRd PDF file. No hassels, no time waste. Nothing like this seems to exist on linux.
    • presentation software. The simplicity and robustness of keynote is fantastic, especially if you want to play embedded videos.
    • digitizing DVD's. With handbreak, it is trivial to get a nice video file from a DVD. Throw in the DVD, push a button and wait.
    • Backup. I even use time machine to backup some linux directories. Sync them over to the mac, where things are archived nicely.
    • hardware: since a couple of years it is virtually impossible to get reasonably prized displays. The imac has 2560x1440. Almost all monitors one can buy now have only ridiculous 1920x1080. Even the ipad has with 2048x1536 pixels twice as many. Also the macbook air is unmatched.

    Why do I use linux then?

    • Have complete control about the machine
    • Have a second leg just in case.
    • Not to be dependent on a vendor, who might just one day decide to discontinue with operating systems because it is not profitable. (I do not believe that to happen with the Mac, but I had been burned several times in my life, like with Next). This is not going to happen to me again.
    • Have a fast machine. Lag and delays (even fractions of seconds) drive me nuts. Linux allows me to customize my machine so that this never ever happens. Its like going with a racing car. I use a minimal windows manager (blackbox) and disable anything which is not needed, and also regularly buy a decent new CPU. On the mac, especially with "versions", things can become frustrating. open a document for a moment, then close preview, delete the document, then open preview. The program tries to find the old document and blocks the machine. An operating system never should slow down the user.
    • Fun. I like to tune things but do not like to do too much sysadmin. Typically, I do not have to do anything once things are running.
  • Re:Why not (Score:5, Informative)

    by mvdwege ( 243851 ) <> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:54AM (#39425425) Homepage Journal

    You're trolling. The default on Ubuntu is brasero, which gives you the option to burn on the fly right in the dialog.

    Next time, pick a less transparent lie.


  • Re:heh (Score:4, Informative)

    by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:04AM (#39425499)

    Which graphics card drivers do you use? If you don't care and use the proprietary ones from the card maker, fine. If you get all panty-bunched about they have to be open, then you're just as bad as Apple is with their locked-down-only stuff.

    Actually, I don't care which graphics driver I use, because I haven't had to install a graphics driver on Linux in years. Since gaming is a wash on Linux anyway, and Intel graphics can easily handle stuff like compositing, I don't see the point in installing an after-market graphics card on my Linux systems.

    And while it may not be gaming, specifically, that is the crux of the problem: proprietary software that only supports platform X. Both Windows and Mac have their share of software like that, and people are stuck with vendor lock-in. *that* is really what's keeping people from installing Linux wholescale... until you stop needing to run Application Y, there's not a lot you can do about it.

  • Re:heh (Score:5, Informative)

    by hawkinspeter ( 831501 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:33AM (#39425763)
    My experience is that Windows is missing lots of features. No SSH support; no support for filesystems other than NTFS and FAT; no low level disk tools (dd); poor NFS support; doesn't come with a decent text editor.... I could carry on, but you get the idea.
  • by unapersson ( 38207 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:49AM (#39425899) Homepage

    1) You don't need to, but anyway, it's been a long time since I've seen boxed PC software in the wild. Online there's plenty of software you can buy for it.
    2) Humble Bundle. But that said, I game on PC a lot less than I used to, the Windows only policy of a lot of PC game developers drove me to console gaming.
    3) Which decade did you last use Linux? I don't think I've even got emacs installed.
    4) Given the tone of your post, I'm not surprised, but in my experience that's inaccurate.
    5) Gibberish.

  • Re:Why not (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:15AM (#39426233) Journal

    'growisofs -Z /dev/dvd -R -J /path' would have done the trick for you. The trick to using Linux effectively is to ignore all the GUI crap and focus on its strengths. Once you learn to use the command line, Linux is a better desktop than anything else around.

  • Re:heh (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:42PM (#39430969)

    No. All of his points are valid.

    1) You can configure Windows to log on automatically with no password.

    2) The last three Linux distributions that I've used (for Android development) Ubuntu, Kbuntu and Mint have all had at least one update that required a reboot per month, so the reboot argument is bullshit too.

    3) Familiarity? One word: UNITY. And if you are going to argue that one can switch back to KDE of Gnome, Windows 7 can be made to look and behave like Classic Windows too.

    4) Compatibility: Laughable. I can and do run apps that were written for Windows 3.1 and 05 on Windows 7 today. Try that with Linux without recompiling.

    5) Ease of use: Subjective

    6) Lagacy Hardware Support: A 486? REALLY?

    7) OS Upgrades breaking things: Are you kidding me? I've had new linux kernel releases break Cdrtools due to the ubstable driver ABI. meanwhile the same cdrtools binaries worked on FreeBSD 5-7 machines with no problems. On multiple occasions I've had Ubuntu's upgrade process render the system inoperable after letting it go for a long time (six months or so) without updating.

    I could probably go on but have a life and won't.

    The bottom line is that if you think those bullet points are 100% factual, you live in a ideological bubble and are beyond help.

"Paul Lynde to block..." -- a contestant on "Hollywood Squares"