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LinuxJournal: Linux on the Desktop--an Impossible Dream?

May 31, 2001, 18:25 (35 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bryan Pfaffenberger)

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 itself.

"...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."

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