Why Desktop Linux Still Matters

A developer coding on a Linux desktop PC.Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

The legendary “Year of the Linux Desktop” never materialized, and probably never will. Does this mean that Linux on a desktop computer is irrelevant? Not at all! Desktop Linux is always great.

The year of the Linux desktop?

Dirk Hohndel, then head of Linux and open source technology at Intel, predicted that in 1999 Linux would break into the desktop PC market and move Windows. He is known to have coined the phrase “the year of the Linux desktop”.

Two decades later, we are still waiting. Every year or so, an industry expert will come out and say this year the year of the Linux office. It just doesn’t happen. About two percent desktops and laptops use Linux, and there were over 2 billion in use in 2015. This represents approximately 4 million computers running Linux. Of course, that number would be higher now – perhaps around 4.5 million, which roughly corresponds to the population of Kuwait.

However, Linux makes the world go round: finished 70 percent of websites run on it, and over 92 percent of the servers running on Amazon EC2 use Linux. The 500 fastest supercomputers in the world run Linux. There is even a Linux or FreeBSDkernel derived from your smartphone, whether it runs on iOS or Android, and there are more 2.5 billion Android smartphones.

Any smart gadget in your home almost certainly runs on integrated Linux and network switches, routers, and wireless access points.

Besides the desktop PC, Linux dominated… but does it count?

RELATED: Has Linux Killed Commercial Unix?

Why only 2%?

I speak frequently at events and then I can talk to a lot of people about technology. I’m no longer surprised that most people haven’t even heard of Linux, or that they know or don’t care about an operating system. I met Mac owners who thought their computer was running Windows “like Apple” and Chromebook owners who thought they were using Android. Of course, Android and Chrome OS are built on a Linux kernel, anyway.

It seems that the majority of people – even those who talk about technology – do not think for a moment about what is inside their computer. They want sleek hardware, fast performance and long battery life. Above all, they want to be able to run either the same software as their friends, or what they use at work.

They buy a computer or laptop and get Windows by default, or they buy a Mac. People tell me they bought a Mac because they were told it was “easier to use” or because they like their iPhone, so they bought an Apple computer. People buy computers like they buy microwaves. They don’t care what makes them go, they just want to heat up the food.

Of course, there are others who know the technology better. They can make informed decisions about the equipment they buy or assemble themselves, but they are in the minority. People who use Linux desktops belong to this category, but we are the minority of the minority.

When I talk to people who understand operating systems a little more, the reasons they give for not running Linux are variations on a set of themes:

Games: Games on Linux have improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, but there are even more choices in the Windows world. The perception that it is easier to run high-end optimized gaming hardware on Windows also persists.
Linux will not run certain software: Whether it be Photoshop, AutoCAD, or Microsoft office, this is a break for many people. They are not interested in alternatives or things under Some wine.
Fear of the command line: They don’t want to have to learn something new.
They don’t want to be different: They want to use the same things as their friends and family.
They have no opinion on individual freedoms: Such as free and open source software.
They don’t want to tinker: They just want to continue their work.

Is hardware the answer?

The Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop showing an Ubuntu desktop.The Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop comes with Ubuntu preinstalled. Dell

Dell and HP have offered hardware options preinstalled with Linux since 2007 and 2004, respectively. System76 offers laptops and high-end computers designed for Linux since 2005. There is a new wave of computer hardware that comes with Linux as the operating system, such as the powerful machine line of Tuxedo and the economic line of Pine64.

But who buys these devices? Are they gaining new converts or selling to the established Linux base? It is difficult to imagine anything other than the latter for the domestic crowd, although businesses and other organizations can also invest in it.

The city of Munich moved from Windows to Linux in 2004 and, just as famous, returned 10 years later. They are in the process of returning to Linux.

Barcelona’s transition from Windows to Linux is underway. They replace all desktop applications with open source alternatives. They will switch to Linux when the only proprietary software used is the operating system. The idea is that the staff will already know the applications, so the move to Linux won’t really be a culture shock.

Using Linux at work can change how comfortable people feel when they get home, but it can go in two ways, of course.

Then there is China

In China, we may soon see a sharp increase in the number of people using Linux desktops due to the American trade embargo with Huawei. Beijing has ordered each of its governments and public institutions to replace all computer equipment and software from outside of China, including Windows.

They also created their own Linux distribution based on Deepin to help them achieve this goal, Unity operating system (UOS).

Who uses Linux?

There are people who still use Linux among all of the following:

Fervent and longtime amateurs.
People who have used a * NIX in college or professionally.
Those whose hardware is too old or underpowered to drive Windows 10.
Councils, administrations, businesses and charities.
Major in computer science.
People interested in free software, free software and privacy.
The curious.
People who came to Linux for some reason and ended up at home.
Developers – lots of developers.

If the world is running Linux, the world needs Linux developers. The wealth of development tools available for free on Linux is staggering. Whether for application development, web, cross-platform or embedded, professional quality tool chains are at your fingertips. So much so that the developers left the Windows platform for a superior Linux development experience.

the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) was the means used by Microsoft to deceive them. The latest version, WSL2, includes a true Linux kernel, offering an almost bare Linux experience to the developer.

As Ray Davies of The Kinks sings, “It’s a mixed, muddled, shaken world.” Linux is integrated with Windows 10 and Microsoft has released apps for Linux. It’s a phrase I never thought I would type.

You can install the Visual Studio code integrated development environment on Linux and use it freely for private and commercial projects. You can also use a Microsoft Teams native Linux client to collaborate with your colleagues while you code.

These applications are not open source, so they are free (like in beer, not like in speech). However, someone at Microsoft sits down and takes note. If the world is running Linux, the world needs Linux developers, and Microsoft wants them to develop cross-platform on Windows.

2% of desktop computers: does it matter?

Linux hasn’t taken over the office world, but does it really matter? After all, it’s universal. He already practically manages the Internet and Internet of things. It’s in space, nuclear submarines and autonomous cars. It’s an incredible operating system with an incredible history.

And a small number of us even use it on our desktop computers.

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