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The Dead Desktop Debacle: A Roundup of Rebuttals to Reichard's Requiem

May 25, 2001, 04:08 (18 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Michael Hall)

By Michael Hall

The question of Linux's death on the desktop drew a varied set of responses from around the 'net. We collected some that came in today into a single item.

First off, we had a piece from osOpinion entitled "osOpinion: The Desktop is Dead, Long Live the Desktop!" which takes the view that the Linux desktop isn't dead, it's just taking its time. The evidence? Prior performance in the server arena and ever-growing file compatibility with the software found on other platforms.

It rather angrily declares "Linux on the desktop is dead. What a crock! How analysts can make such conclusions based on the fact that two companies had trouble selling it is beyond me. Linux didn't achieve its server success by relying on the success of its co-players. Why should anyone believe that the desktop should be any different?"

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Anthony James of Pinehead, less belligerent but as optimistic, also had something to say on the matter in his column "Linux Desktop: A Simple Question and Answer?":

The question was, what would it take to get these users to migrate to Linux? First off we need to clarify what users we are talking about. I am talking about everyday home and office desktop users. It might seem like a fairly simple question, but is it really?

I believe their two reasons why people don't make the switch to Linux. If you were a regular user, only using Windows, without the Linux knowledge you already have, could you take a Linux cd and install it easily without any help? Chances are you cannot.

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Another osOpinion column says that the problem with the Linux desktop might be the very two projects trying their hardest to promote it: GNOME and KDE:

"So how can we harness the power of Linux and use it to capture the existing market? We give consumers something they can't get with Windows. The answer is actually right under our noses -- we give them freedom of choice.

We stop building applications for specific desktop environments and start building them with a common Linux GUI standard in mind. We make this GUI extensible like XML so we don't have to release a whole new package if we want to add new features, and we tell people that they can now produce the same output, but do it with software that works for them."

Complete Column

We also had one reader take the time to write us directly. He comments that he believes Mr. Reichard's comments were meant to motivate the Linux community to work all the harder. We have it on good authority that there was no such agenda. Matthew Johnson writes:

What a few weeks we have had, relative to a few storms. It's probably time to take current stock of what is going on.

First, the Mundie episode. Thanks for the great advertising, MS. The only people who will believe all that are your most loyal subjects who will not use reason on those comments. Most people did and came away laughing.

On what I call a more serious issue for those who consider the desktop very important was the article from Kevin Reichard (Editor for LinuxPlanet) who wrote "RIP: Linux on the Desktop". The boldest statement of the week most certainly. This certainly set off a storm to say the least, but what were his motives? The death of Eazel could not possibly kill the desktop for a variety of reasons as it was just a file browser and not even one mention of KDE, nor of Konquerer. By the way, Konqueror is very good as it stands as a file browser, and it's only just warming up. What were his motives? Why did he not mention more desktops? As far as I believe, they remain unanswered. Maybe, just maybe he is actually trying to mobilize the Linux community into more thought and into more action as it was kind of quiet with the odd plodding along. Maybe people will re-think and re-focus on what is important.

Actually, what is most important is that Linux distributions get profitable. If they accomplish this, then a huge part of FUD will disintegrate even further, but currently the economic environment makes that difficult, so its time for them to focus on an area that is the easiest to break: the server room, of course.

"There once was an Ugly Duckling..."

All in all the Linux desktop is far from dead, but its yet to fully emerge from its "ugly duckling age". It's certainly showing great signs of being a majestic swan and it's this that is scaring the executives seated in Tower Redmond. Of course, on the server it's a Swan, and you can notice its effects across the server platforms, just take a look at Netcraft.