LinuxJournal: Linux on the Desktop--an Impossible Dream?
May 31, 2001, 18:25 (35 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bryan Pfaffenberger)
Re-Imagining Linux Platforms to Meet the Needs of Cloud Service Providers
Linux Journal weighs in on the dead desktop debate, examining
the comments of the Dell executive who maintained that Linux is
"too technical" for widespread acceptance. The author identifies
the existence of two major desktop environments as a "fork" but
goes on to say that Microsoft will likely contribute to Linux's
gradual acceptance almost as much as any gains made within Linux
"...On the surface, it's hard to deny Smith's point.
Linux can be very challenging for novice users. The desktop
environment is far from complete--and what's potentially more
damaging is KDE versus GNOME fork, which has created two competing
desktop environments that aren't completely compatible. And then
there's the surfeit of applications.
...Still, I believe there's a bright future for Linux on the
desktop, but understanding this future requires going beyond
viewing the Linux desktop in isolation. Smith's point focuses on
the difficulties of Linux in "pulling" users away from Windows and
Mac OS--but that's only part of the story. As the history of
personal computing reveals, major usage shifts involve "push" as
well as "pull". By "push", I'm referring to the actions of Linux's
competitors (read "Microsoft") that alienate users to the point
that they're ready to move to alternative technologies, even if
they perceive these technologies to be more difficult to use or
technically inferior. And as you'll see, there's a good case to be
made that the Linux pull is steadily improving, and that push may
develop into a major factor indeed. Disclaimer: This article
advances an admittedly simplistic and overstated argument--but darn
it, if you'd been around in the 1980s, you'd understand why I place
so much emphasis on the factors I'm about to discuss."