YOLOTD: Could 2015 Be Linux’s Big Year?

It’s no secret that the Linux community has been in a state of upheaval these last few months, thanks to a little piece of technology known as “Systemd.”

That the strife has been divisive hardly can be disputed. That it’s been distracting us from more important matters is the case Linux Girl would like to make today.

Need an example? Here you go: When was the last time you participated in a rousing revival of the good old “Year of Linux on the Desktop” (YOLOTD) debate?

Hard to remember, isn’t it? That’s because it’s been a long time — more than a year, by Linux Girl’s reckoning.

We’ve been shirking our duties, FOSS fans!

Clearly, it’s a dire situation. Fortunately, ITworld’s Jim Lynch was on hand last week to remedy the problem.

‘The Year Was Around 2009’

Linux Girl

“Will 2015 finally be the year of the Linux desktop?” is the title of the item Lynch posted last Thursday, and its arrival had quite an effect down at the blogosphere’s packed Punchy Penguin Saloon.

Perhaps it was the Systemd fatigue; maybe it was all the tequila being served that blustery day. Either way, a spirited debate soon was under way on LXer and beyond.

For the first time in a long time, things began to feel a little more normal around here.

“As far as I am concerned, the year of the Linux desktop was around 2009,” offered Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien, for example. “That is when I switched for good.”

If desktops remain relevant in the future, “I expect Linux to eventually dominate there just like every other sector of computing,” O’Brien added.

The First Mover Advantage

“It’s a race to see which will happen first: Linux dominant on the desktop or complete desktop irrelevance!” Linux Rants blogger Mike Stone suggested.

“I do think that we’ll start to see Linux appearing more and more on desktop-type computers,” Stone added. “Linux is plenty easy enough to use, and hardware support is there.

“The biggest barrier to Linux adoption has always been the fact that people use what comes on their computers,” he pointed out. “If people had to switch from Linux to Windows, I doubt the majority of home users would do so; what’s really kept Windows dominant all this time was the fact that it got to the desktop market first.”

In today’s era of cloud computing, however, “the platform you’re running your browser from doesn’t really matter,” he explained. “Hardware manufacturers can branch out and maybe even manage to squeeze out from under Microsoft Thumb 10.0.”

It will be a gradual process, though: “As much as I’d love to see a ‘Year of the Linux Desktop,’ I must admit that even if Linux does manage to dominate the desktop like it has pretty much every other market, it probably won’t happen over the course of a single year,” Stone predicted.

‘Linux Is Now a Serious Player’

It all depends on what one means by “The Year of the Linux Desktop,” suggested Chris Travers, a blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

“There is a lot of innovation going on in the Linux area in desktop user interfaces right now,” Travers pointed out. “Whether this is a good thing or not depends on your perspective, but I think it is clear that it is having an impact throughout the industry.

“In other words, market share or not, Linux is now a serious industry player regarding desktop computer systems,” he explained.

Of course, “the desktop market is not monolithic — I suspect we will see targeted efforts to get Linux desktops into specific markets over time,” Travers added. “Chromebooks are a part of that, but many other things are going on too. The biggest competition for Linux desktops currently is not Windows but OS X, because the latter covers so much more of the same territory.”

‘More Linux, Less Window$’

Every day, “I see more desktops with GNU/Linux inside and less window$,” offered Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. “I see more Apples than before, but less than GNU/Linux machines.

“Metaphorically speaking, I think this desktop year passes like a small wave under our surfboard, and further ahead, Google will be surfing it with Chrome OS and mainly Android/Linux,” he added.

Indeed, “Steam machines, Android devices, Android all-in-one computers, Android and Chromebook machines, they’ll all do great — perhaps even better than anyone expects,” Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol agreed.

Linux itself, however — “the truly Free Software” — will be “overlooked, as it always has been,” Ebersol opined. “Our society awards what sells.”

‘Targeted for Elite Users’

The Year of Linux on the Desktop will come, but not in 2015, Rodolfo Saenz told Linux Girl.

“Let’s be honest: Linux is still an ‘underground’ OS,” Saenz explained. “It is still targeted for elite users. That day will come when Linux becomes a truly intuitive OS that’s good enough for the masses, but to be honest, I don’t want that day to come soon — it’s part of the OS’s charm.”

SoylentNews blogger hairyfeet took it even further.

“Short answer? No,” hairyfeet said. “Long answer? Noooooooooooo!”

‘The Year of Windows 10’

If 2015 is anything, “it will be ‘the year of Windows 10,’ as Nadella is the leader MSFT has been needing for years, and the first OS on his watch is everything.that.users.wanted.from Windows!” hairyfeet explained. “It’s a faster, lighter, feature-rich version of Windows 7 with the OPTION of using the Metro UI.”

As for Android, “according to their SEC filings, Google loses a BILLION a year on Android,” hairyfeet said. “It just doesn’t show a sign of ever even breaking even. This is probably the reason for the locked-down Android One and the winding down of support to AOSP.”

Canonical, meanwhile, “will keep losing millions throwing ideas at the wall trying to find a viable market,” hairyfeet added. In fact, it’s “still on track for my prediction of giving Ubuntu ‘to the community’ and making a last stand on the server in 2016.”

‘There’s Just No Dark Shadow’

Last but certainly not least, blogger Robert Pogson saw it differently.

“A war may consist of a hundred battles,” Pogson began. “GNU/Linux has not won the desktop war, but it has won many battles: it has many millions of users, it has been installed by millions, it’s being installed by users and by OEMs, and it’s now on retail shelves in many parts of the world.”

In fact, “I think the year of the GNU/Linux desktop was a few years back, when Asus and Dell made GNU/Linux available to millions, who bought out stocks,” he said. “That proved all the lies to be lies.

“GNU/Linux is now fighting from higher ground and is taking and holding territory,” Pogson pointed out. “The list of countries over 2 percent usage is longer now than the list of countries over 1 percent from just a few years ago. GNU/Linux is growing while the legacy PC market shrinks or is stagnant.”

Android, meanwhile, “has clearly won and, for 10 to 15 percent of users of IT, it is the new desktop and certainly the king of mobility,” he asserted. “Chrome OS is making great gains, and it’s not even been sold globally yet. GNU/Linux on thin clients is also doing well.”

In short, “there’s just no dark shadow over GNU/Linux on desktops except in the minds of some pessimists,” Pogson concluded. “The rest of us are moving on.”

Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered journalist by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.


    • jlalguire wrote, "Until LINUX gets premiere software parity…"

      That’s not what’s holding back desktop GNU/Linux. OEMs and retailers did find GNU/Linux sells well, when the netbooks appeared. It’s they that have decided selling that other OS is better business. Now that business has fallen drastically, the OEMs and retailers are getting serious about GNU/Linux, shipping Ubuntu GNU/Linux, Chrome OS GNU/Linux and others widely and in the millions of units. There’s still not universal availability on retail shelves but that will come. In the meantime, M$ is cutting prices, proof there is finally competition working in the market. Expect major developers to seek growth by releasing more software for GNU/Linux.

      Chrome OS is proof there are enough applications available (even one is enough for a large segment of the market) for the market to accept GNU/Linux. The last barrier is retail shelf-space. There are only a few square feet of shelf-space for GNU/Linux in my nearest big city. Chrome OS does better but even that is not universal. Canonical, Dell and Linpus have all done a lot to make GNU/Linux more widely available but they don’t have much retail shelf-space except in China/India.

      • The comparison of Windows to Mac OS is not the same as a comparison of Windows to Linux. Apple’s OSs only run on their own hardware (ignoring Hackintosh), while Windows and Linux run on the same hardware. Microsoft didn’t compete with Apple on IBM hardware or the subsequent clone market, so it’s not relevant to my statement. No, PCs come with a Microsoft operating system, and the fact that Microsoft was well entrenched the day Linus Torvalds wrote the first line of Linux code is still the main obstacle to Desktop Linux adoption to this day.

        • If you want to use that metric then Xbox-one is the most successful console in history since they can count ALL of MSFT’s revenue in their figures…isn’t data manipulation fun?

          Look at how much has been spent on android and how much REVENUE FROM ANDROID has been and you find a VERY different story, with Google spending a billion a year on android and not seeing even 100 million a year from ad clicks from android users.

          Sorry but its a black hole, you can try to manipulate data all you want but android hasn’t made a penny, most likely never will make a penny, hence why android is going proprietary via Google pulling a EEE.

          If you would like to learn more read "Google’s iron grip on android" on Ars Technica, there you will see real figures as well as how much of android has already been tied to the Google Playwall which is proprietary.

  • hairyfeet wrote, "according to their SEC filings, Google loses a BILLION a year on Android. It just doesn’t show a sign of ever even breaking even. This is probably the reason for the locked-down Android One and the winding down of support to AOSP."

    Q3 – 2014 Revenue $16.5billion

    Q3 – 2014 Revenue $13.75billion

    Income from operations is steady at $3.7billion

    R&D expenses increased from $1.8billion to $2.65billion. That’s still only 16% of revenue.

    "The number of aggregate paid clicks increased approximately 17% and 22% from the three and nine months ended September 30, 2013 to the three and nine months ended September 30, 2014, respectively."

    That’s the kind of growth you get when you unleash another billion users of Android/Linux onto the web in a single year.

    Indeed, Google lists, as a risk, the possibility of folks not using Google’s services. Android/Linux spread increases the chances of folks using Google’s services.

    "More people are using devices other than desktop computers to access the internet and accessing new devices to make search queries. If manufacturers and users do not widely adopt versions of our web search technology, products, or operating systems developed for these devices, our business could be adversely affected."

    So, money spent on Android/Linux is not a loss but an investment in the continued vitality of Google.

  • Blogger Mike Stone says "what’s really kept Windows dominant all this time was the fact that it got to the desktop market first."

    This is a completely fallacious statement. While some first to market products do dominate the market, many do not, but do pave the way for others. Microsoft was not first to market with any OS. Apple was ahead of them with the their Apple ][ series OS and later with the MacOS paving the way for the GUI-based OSes that followed. Mac OS was first to market and yet Windows still became the dominant player. Apple wasn’t the first to market with a music player, phone or tablets, and yet they are dominant in those markets.

    I think that the Year of LINUX on the desktop will be the year that major software developers like Microsoft and Adobe, release versions of their software for LINUX. Until LINUX gets premiere software parity, they will always be a niche OS.

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