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2018 the year of the Linux desktop

Red Hat employee Christian F.K. Schaller addressed why GNU/Linux missed becoming a mainstream Linux desktop operating system for average person or open source enthusiast. From the blog post:

Having spent 20 years of my life on Desktop Linux I thought I should write up my thinking about why we so far hasn’t had the Linux on the Desktop breakthrough and maybe more importantly talk about the avenues I see for that breakthrough still happening. There has been a lot written of this over the years, with different people coming up with their explanations. My thesis is that there really isn’t one reason, but rather a range of issues that all have contributed to holding the Linux Desktop back from reaching a bigger market.

Top reasons why Linux failed as desktop operating system

  1. Fragmented market
  2. Lack of software applications
  3. Lack of API and ABI stability
  4. Microsoft aggressive response
  5. Apple resurgence
  6. Piracy
  7. Red Hat mostly stayed away from Linux desktop
  8. Canonical business model (“Ubuntu desktop”) not working out as they failed to monetize it
  9. OEM support/hardware driver problems
Linux desktop operating system

The future of Linux desktop

The post reasons desktop Linux become a serious option from a technical perspective. The hardware support is getting better every day. Many new games and apps are available. There is also the chance that ChromeOS or SteamOS take away the glory.

Personally, I think Linux (or *BSD if you want authentic Unix-like experience) may become the only desktop OS in the near future. Windows 10 is well known for privacy problem, and macOS is close garden ecosystem controlled by Apple. However, the browser has become the OS on the desktop. Most apps are now running in the cloud with website interface. For the most user, the browser and mobile devices are more than sufficient. The desktop is dead. The only good option left for desktop is Linux operating system. What do you think? Could 2018 be the year of the Linux desktop?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I switch from dual-boot to Windows-only configurations due to the lack of support for Adobe software, as well as Cinema4d and similar, specific pieces of software I cannot abandon as a professional.

    I have the same problems with Windows and coding. But there are workarounds, and I can actually make python or java work on windows.

  • Add number 10 which is computer illiteracy among average users who think more in branding than in tooling terms.

  • Not going to happen this year, just like it didn’t happen last year. Platforms succeed when they attract the right apps. People will not switch to Linux without Office, Photoshop, or a host of other apps.

  • Not going to happen. Linux desktops have been around for years … There has been plenty of time to get it right. Every once in awhile I’ll give it another shot, still clunky, still not a good user experience. We all like to complain about Microsoft but Windows is not going away anytime soon.

  • Every single year, I hear this. Every single year, it hasn’t happened. Unfortunately.

    Also, why do you say that Windows and MacOS aren’t OSs? They are going to be around, no matter the amount of services which move to the cloud.

  • I thought this, 20 years ago. I was anticipating that we would have heard rumors of Microsoft having a version of Office for Linux. That never happened. I’ve tried to make Linux my primary operating environment. After intially getting Ubuntu 17.10 set up and running, I began to run into problems that my technical, but non-Linux expertise has been able to straighten out (Resilio Sync would not run in –user mode, as documented, and the authentication daemon doesn’t run automatically—which prevents me from logging in normally). It has come a long way in 20 years, but I cannot recommend this for my Dad yet.

  • The desktop is dead?? I think not. There are wayyy to many native applications, OS independent, that cannot be in-browser. ‘Most apps are now running in the cloud with website interface.’. No, they’re not. SOME, sure, but not MOST. I bet if you weigh browser apps vs native applications across the entire computing ecosystem, regardless of OS, ‘most’ won’t hold up at all. It’d be a tiny fraction.

  • Hahahah… no. Sorry, there is no linux distro user-friendly enough for the average joe like windows and macos are… Privacy? Many pay with their privacy to use free products (Facebook, Google…) Their privacy is already sold so it doesn’t matter if another company (Microsoft) gets it.

  • Linux will always be the same a hobby
    The year of desktop linux will never happen because the world needs standards windows / Mac / Linux not windows / Mac / 60,000 different linux distros all with different packages and repos . We need a core Linux system and let it become the real Linux and stay with that . But how do you pick fedora or Ubuntu Deb or RPM. It’s just never going to happen.

  • I believe the number one problem is that OEM hardware and driver support is poor. The suggestion that Microsoft is the problem is just old and tired. Apple OS has really helped and the community of MacPort and Homebrew developers have succeeded where pure Linux has failed for the desktop user.

  • Been there done that … There is never ever going to be the year of the Linux desktop. Linux CLI. It is here and not gonna go away 😉

  • People have been saying every single year since 1996 “This is the year for Linux!”
    Know why it never is? Linux cannot break away from terminal for everything the simplest of functionality.
    That’s what it ultimately boils down to. You can argue that people’s favorite software isn’t included all you want, but there’s enough native FOSS alternatives to negate this.
    Linux will never get where it’s needs to until distributions forgo the terminal and so truly person customization within the GUI.
    And FYI, the desktop isn’t dead. Just because people aren’t buying new computers as frequently doesn’t mean they’re getting used any less

  • Major applications such as audio, video, cad are the biggest issues. Compatability with rendering MS Office products is a real pain. Many people want only to use Outlook. Whereas Outlook drains more IT resources than anyting else.
    It is a big ask to get people to change . We cannot change our Cad package because of the lockin file formats. The thing is these things are locked into MSFC, also there is no viewer/renderer on Linux.
    There are a few of us who are using Linux and we have a strategy to move some desktops, however the hallablou from accounting and sales is impossible to solve.
    Linux is a great desktop. If it was the first to market it would be king.
    Maybe more cooperation internally wouls help. Maybe a concerted approach would be much more effective. Then again everyone thinks they can be king. Same as this pathetic democracy we have 🙁
    Android is Linux and (Java). Maybe that, s the way it has to be?

  • Apple Mac OS is extremely close to being cancelled, and MS Windows is running about 10 years behind. Linux will soon be the last man standing for laptop and desktop OS systems. There is an opportunity for someone here with the traditional workstation, but the big bucks are chasing tablets, mobiles and wearables, while the workstation is turning legacy/niche.

  • Drivers. Games.

    I want to go to a Linux desktop

    I’m not going to run a desktop OS that requires me to hunt for wifi adapter drivers for 3 hours. Get source. And then hack make files and dependency lists to get it to work

    I don’t have that kind of time in my life. ( This was my experience this year with my wifi card and Ubuntu and it was frustrating enough to do the “fdisk format reinstall” dance

  • Linux needs better multimedia apps–they always lack features, polish, or both–and innovation. There’s way too much of a ‘it was good for win XP so it’s good enough’ mentality. Even with improvements in gaming, the poor polish and limited multimedia experience keeps me on Windows. And while the cloud concept continues to be pushed, I think that will remain largely mobile and corporate space. Linux will grow, but it is far from having the utility of Windows. But I keep hoping.

  • Yeah… But this time for real…

  • WTF was that? That was painful to read first of all. Secondly, would you mind elaborating a little bit on some of the points you made about why Linux desktop did not succeed in 2017? I think the reasons given were a bit vague, and what are your sources? How about some citations? Furthermore, my Linux desktop is alive and well, so how is the desktop “dead”

  • The desktop is far from dead. I use one every day in my life. Especially when it comes to apps like MS Word or MS Excel or even outlook for that matter. the web based competition just isn’t up to it, features or performance. Sure, office 365 can do most things, but performance is still an issue.

    In large corporations which are mostly dominated by various flavours of Windows, there is simply no chance that those desktops will be replaced with a cloud based alternative. The momentum is simply too great.

    I’m a database developer in a large corporation whose work depends on apps apps that run on windows . the apps that run on Linux or on the cloud or on macos for that matter just don’t have the breadth and depth I need to get my job done everyday.

    Also, since I work for a financial institution, there is simply no chance that anything like that would be moved to the cloud. the government regulators would freak out.

  • Clickbait

  • I’m a Linux user and I personally don’t want Linux to became mainstream, I’m perfectly happy with my options as they are, the more attention Linux receives the more attention it will get from some greedy corp that will end up ruining things for us, games are not of interest to me, I personally rather use a console for that.

  • It’s becoming not all that interesting a target to support omnipotent control of a system by those who don’t want it.
    Security-enhanced app containers that mobile OSes provide make a better value for the inexperienced.
    For the experienced, they’re using Linux in whatever developer form helps their task.

  • Poorly written article

  • I’ve been a Windows user all my life and I have honestly, more than once a year tried to give Linux a go and give it a chance at least.
    To me, the average end user, the only one up there that is true is the lack of software. Things are improving but more often than not you have to deal with poor “knock-off” software. Yes you can try wine but inexplicably sometimes it’s an utter nightmare to get it set up and working, and other times it works pretty well. Until you get to more obscure software and it totally falls on its arse. If I can’t do everything on Linux that I can do on Windows, it’s a non starter.
    The main point I find though is that the OS (and generally speaking, the community) is just unriendly. Yes, I have read the man page, no, it wasn’t useful. Yes I have read the other manual but it relies on so much other prior knowledge that I just can’t be bothered spending hours trying to make it work when I can install Win10 and have it working in 15 minutes.
    Why the hell is so much software provided as source only? Just give me the binary or let me apt-get the thing. I really don’t care to learn how to compile the software, I just want to use it. Keep the source available by all means to those who do care but I couldn’t care less.
    Having to drop to the terminal to do those simple tasks is bang out of order. Why do I have to dick about so much just to change the mouse scroll direction on my laptop? It’s one click on Windows. Stupid little things like that get my goat.
    I tried it moons ago on the PS3, back when you could do that, and it took me 3 hours to change the screen resolution and get the NIC working. This was on a build *specifically designed* to run on the PS3. Crap like that leaves a bad taste. And it was unusably slow in the end, half a day I’ll never get back.
    I’ve tried to use it at work for a cheap build as an idea. People got annoyed over libre office taking 2 minutes to start where the same machine with Win7 would load excel in less than 1 second. It’s just not acceptable. Libre office is that slow on Windows too so it’s not really Linux’s fault but I couldn’t get office to work under wine particularly well. I kept having to drop back to Windows to run that one or two obscure bits of software that only worked on Windows, making the whole exercise pointless.
    The problem is, too many old greybeards that are desperately clinging onto the old ways, the same obscure commands that they used in the 70s when it was first written. There’s too many ways of doing the same thing, each with esoteric little differences that mean nothing to the average home user and just add to the confusion. Some people call tit choice but its just fragmentation.
    Someone needs to simply the whole thing and make it user friendly, because as it stands at the moment, it’s just a mess. It just adds up to dozens of lost hours and it really isn’t worth it.
    But that’s my 2c, as your average end user. I will keep trying it every now and then, I do want it to be a genuine alternative to Windows for me.

  • My issue with Linux is too many cooks in the kitchen. One distro will work great for one thing but not at all for another, when it comes to a graphical interface… Out of all the different desktop out there I have not found one that can do it all. The amount of builds I have tried and destroyed after something didn’t work at all is staggering.

  • Simple answer… no, it won’t. And that’s not even speaking from a technological perspective. The problem here is psychological… more specifically, behaviour and behavioural change. The average user won’t move to Linux unless somebody more technical that they are, pushes them that way. Compounding this is the retail industry. You can’t walk into your local tech store and purchase a laptop or desktop with Linux preinstalled. What users get is windows, and unless they’re already into Linux, which as stats will tell you is unlikely, they’re not going to reload the machine with Linux, or even create a dual boot.

    So again, in short, the answer is no. 2018 is not the year of the Linux desktop. I’m not saying your points aren’t valid, they are, but unfortunately their impact in facilitating a move to Linux is extremely low. Your argument the are of a technical nature, but they do nothing to overcome the great psychological hold windows and macOS has the market.

  • This article happens every year. Windows will never go away, because games and programs rely on it.

    Adobe refuses to develop for Linux, so right there you lose a HUGE chunk of Windows/Mac users.

    Linux is getting better, but will never take over. I just installed Ubuntu on my desktop and things were broken out of the box. The same desktop I install Windows 10 on AND hackintosh with no issues!

    That right there goes to show how far Linux is behind, when Mac OS installs and works better on Windows hardware.

  • i like to see Linux could be the future of desktop operating system & better hardware support.

  • I really hope you’re right but fighting against Google, Apple and Microsoft is not an easy task. The lack of drivers isn’t helping, they are a very delicate piece of software which requires a lot of time to be written and a lot of time to be tested. Applications can be written sooner or later but drivers a

  • Honestly, average Jane & Joe Doe don’t care what powers their devices & gadgets, as long as the experience is pleasantly easy and it does what they envisioned.
    Being a gamer via Win10 Pro, mobile via my Pixel 2 XL, my ‘office’ as a ‘small town educator’ running off Google EDU services and Chromebooks (imagine even I’m SAP, MCSA, LPIC-2 certified) my educated guess is that Google will more and more gain traction. Especially with their container integration in ChromeOS (I think it was called Crosstalk) that allows to run any application from any platform/ OS – starting with their Play Store. All you need is the hardware for it, and if you look at Google’s new Chromebook flagship, the Chromebook Pixel, how much over-beefed its hardware is for what ChromeOS really needs, as an indicator where Google is heading.

  • Again? I thought it was going to be 2012? 2013? …?

    I’ve been using the same home directory since about 1997 and kept upgrading and using Debian. I have gotten so used to multiple desktops and a reliable system that I don’t really see the lack of driver support or software applications.

    On the contrary I am getting annoyed out of my mind when I start looking for software for a friend’s windows machine, getting bombarded by browser ads and fake versions of Firefox, having been used to the simplicity of apt-get for so long.

    You have to watch your every step to not accidentally install malware to your computer, because there’s basically no way to check authenticity of a source. With a software tree that is different.

    The browser will never replace the entire operating system, but it can move the industry forward to being more open to new concepts and step away from the heavily paper-based approaches that still exist in most corporations.

    Stuff that doesn’t exist for anything but windows will soon be off the market because of those browser apps.

    However, as long as there are still so many native apps for windows that only exist for windows, we’re going to have to wait for businesses to move forward first before hoping that this will be the Linux breakthrough.

    Throughout the years, Linux has built the reputation of being complicated, however professional, but nerdy. This got stuck in people’s minds.

    An Ubuntu desktop is anything but complicated. We need more average Joe type of people showing that they use Linux instead of all of those nerdy guys showing you lots of stats and terminals on their triple screen ratpoison desktop.

    That will still take some time.

  • I would love to use Linux as my main/only operating system. The problem is most software I need to use and most games I play are not comparable or written for windows. I have never had any luck with things like wine either getting windows programs to run in Linux. I don’t know what people do to get that to work. I can usually get a program installed but then running it is unstable at best but usually just doest work at all.

  • Seems it already is. I’m using a Chromebook which runs on Linux. 😉

  • I have trashed Microsoft using XP. I stumbled upon Ubuntu by accident. I’m turning more and more people on to Ubuntu or Linux Mint. It’s brilliant and powerful. People are scared of it, that is what I see. Keep it up guys, I’m with you all the way.

  • I feel the ‘fragmentation’ argument needs refinement. Another name for it is market responsiveness, and I just can’t see that as a bad thing … especially when it comes as a last-ditch recourse to the overbearing, ham-handed, autocratic ‘drives’, such as Mate and Cinnamon as a response to Unity and Plasma. We, the users, don’t want that anymore than we wanted the ribbon in Office. Thank God the Libre team has had the good sense to resist that temptation, and to ignore all those voices claiming that the title will forever elude them as long as they ‘resist the future’. The Linux community really can’t afford to make the same mistakes Microsoft is refusing to learn from. But articles like this frighten me into believing that we have those ‘visionaries’, or rather would-be kings (think Castro, Hitler, Guevara, Trotski, Mussolini, etc), all bent on defying the will of the majority in order to drag us all down their personal rabbit-holes with them just so they can claim responsibility.

    I you want to see Linux on the desktop, Microsoft has made too many critical errors in a row, creating a magnificent opening, but the Linux community remains hamstrung, unable to step into the void. And Apple isn’t the reason. Mark Shuttleworth is the reason. RedHat is the reason. Ubuntu could have been to the desktop what Android is on the palmtop, but then they had to get stupid, and actually delude themselves that they were Steve Jobs, and their adherents a bunch of fan-bois. And RedHat just wants to play it safe in server-space. STOP IT! Linux Mint is the clear winner for a Linux desktop. Get behind it. Until/Unless they get stupid and start trying to force us to accept what we don’t want. Let’s get them funded by creating an efficient, and honest, application-level crowd-funding system. (I, fore example, would love to help Evolution, nano, and Mate, but how? And how do I know that it actually helped them, and not someone else?) Let’s get them rolling. Let’s make apt *THE* package management system. Let’s get all the bugs worked out of all the software. Let’s organize and structure the support system. (after creating one, of course) Lets simplify and ease the user-feedback and bug-reporting mechanism. Let’s improve the development tools. It’s the open-source nature of this beast that gives it its strength, so let’s strengthen that while M$ is still insulting its customers by ignoring them.

  • The year of the Linux desktop is a running gag at this point. We should stop kidding ourselves, Linux is for specialists and hobbyists; it will never be for grandma and grandpa.

  • I’ve been also +20years in Linux Desktops, but jumping from time to time to Windows.

    Generally speaking, I’ve never “been able” to love without Windows. For whatever reason I could mention, be it PC Games ecosystem, or propietary software for real-life-purposes that (due to how the world is) ONLY EXISTS IN WINDOWS. Architectural software, financial software.. any industry that has corporate players in the game work with Windows in mind. Also in Apple world something (but in a very tiny scale compared to that) happens with audio/video specialized software. THEY ONLY EXISTS ON OSX.

    What I meant is: I think you are wrong.


  • microsoft and apple exist. you have to accept that and cope with that. linux is great but it’s lacking handiness and the graphical design of its distroes is absolutle tastelessness.

  • I haven’t read the original article, but I think your opinion is highly optimistic and unfortunately not really connected to the reality of the “common user”.

    In regards to your reasoning as to why Windows will die, I’ll add one more reason to Schaller’s list as to why Linux on the desktop did not succeeded: end users blindness to security and privacy problems.

    Linux has a much better security and privacy story than Windows or MacOS, but we have a problem – nobody cares!

  • Hardware support is done. Vendors support linux, period.
    Qt’s model is working and its stable and used to develop windows and linux desktop apps.
    The only thing left is supply and demand based, programmers need to get paid for what they do. When Adobe can make money selling its products in the *nix market again it will. That will happen after some smaller applications start to compete. Which is happening:
    The linux community is softening its tone on the GPL license. Now that several game ‘engines’ and tons of CAD software are ported to and running on linux there is starting to be a market for selling closed source software to full time linux desktop users like me.
    Happy new year.

  • Things like hundreds of distros, systemd hate groups, Gnome deft ears are not helping.These are only a sample, there are dozens of issues that are hurting Linux Desktop acceptance by the general public.