Does it still make sense for Linus to want the desktop for Linux?

Image credit: The Linux Foundation

In today's open source roundup: Linus still wants the desktop for Linux, but is he trapped in the past? Plus: Should open source developers support Windows more? And share your first experience with Linux

Linux has long lingered in the single digits in terms of desktop market share. But some recent comments by Linus Torvalds at LinuxCon have brought renewed hope that someday Linux might achieve a more dominant position. eWeek looks at what Linus had to say about about the desktop and a range of topics at LinuxCon.

According to eWeek:

Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman moderated the discussion and commented that Linux already runs everywhere. He asked Torvalds where he thinks Linux should go next.

"I still want the desktop," Torvalds said as the audience erupted into boisterous applause.

The challenge on the desktop is not a kernel problem, Torvalds said. "It's a whole infrastructure problem. I think we'll get there one day."

More at eWeek

I can sympathize with Linus' desire for Linux to have a larger share of the desktop market. It would be wonderful if we all woke up one day to find that Linux had 30% or more of the desktop market. There would be many celebrations among Linux users if that ever happened and it would send shockwaves across the world of technology.

But part of me can't help but wonder if maybe Linus is trapped in the past a little bit. The days of the desktop being the primary computing platform for many people are over. Oh sure, it's still very important and it will remain so for a long, long time. But a lot of users have moved much of their computing habits away from the desktop in favor of mobile devices such as tablets or phones.

So even if Linux suddenly had a huge percentage of the desktop market tomorrow, it really wouldn't mean as much it would have ten or fifteen years ago. The desktop computer market seems to be in a long, slow decline and I don't think Linux or any other operating system can stop that.

I think mobile devices are much more important to the future of Linux. Chrome OS and Android are obviously based on Linux, so in that sense Linux is already dominant in the mobile arena. The users of such devices may be completely oblivious to the fact that they are based on Linux, but that doesn't negate the fact that Linux is there.

However, I'd like to see other Linux-based options besides Google's offerings take center stage on mobile devices. Ubuntu, Debian and various other desktop distributions would be welcome indeed in a mobile form on tablets and phones as an alternative to Android. Ubuntu has been working on this, but it would be nice if other desktop distro makers followed suit.

None of this means that the desktop should be ignored, but the days of focusing primarily on the desktop are already over. Mobile devices should be considered a higher priority at this point because we are truly living in a mobile world now.

Should open source developers support Windows more?

TechRepublic thinks that open source developers should support Windows users too.

According to TechRepublic:

It's easy to forget about Windows. Despite claiming more than 50% of the server market, according to IDC data, it's Linux that keeps stealing the headlines... and open-source developers' affection.

And yet, look beneath the covers of most successful enterprise open-source projects, and many companies choose to run their open-source software on Windows. We may have a serious disconnect between open-source ideology and a more pragmatic need to "get stuff done."

But that disconnect shouldn't blind open-source developers to the need to support Windows.

More at TechRepublic

I'm no fan of Windows, and I tend to agree with the general spirit of TechRepublic's article but for a different reason. The article notes that supporting Windows can help open source developers make money and fund their projects. That's fine if the developers want to pursue it and it works for them.

But I have more of a desktop-oriented mindset on this issue. I like the idea of open source applications being available to Windows users because it might help encourage them to eventually move to Linux. Once they get a taste of a wide range of open source applications, it opens up a whole new world to them that they might not have been aware of in the past.

Perhaps I'm being a bit overly optimistic here, but the longest journey starts with a single step. And if the journey to Linux starts with installing an open source application on a Windows computer then it makes sense for developers to support Windows.

Your first experience with Linux?

A redditor asks you to share details about your first experience with Linux.

According to Reddit:

I'll go first.

My uncle gave me an old gateway desktop back in 2001(I was 8 at the time) and the only thing it lacked was a hard drive. My neighbor was a computer nerd and offered me one of his extras. I asked him if he had a Windows ME disk I could use, he didn't :( but he have a disk for something called "Debian" that he gladly forked over. I installed it on my own and had it running by that night. I had some good times on that system. It lead me into learning programming in various languages and learning extraordinary things about computers I probably wouldn't have learned any other way.

So what is your first experience with Linux?

More at Reddit

Discussion threads like this are always fun to read since so many people have had different experiences that brought them to Linux. But it has been so long for me that I'm hard pressed to remember the details of my very first experience with Linux. I've had one cup of coffee this morning, but alas it's not helping my memory very much.

I believe it was probably with SUSE Linux, I seem to remember buying a boxed version of it but I cannot recall exactly when that was or where I got it. I do remember being extremely aggravated with Windows, and desperately wanting a better operating system. And SUSE opened up a whole new world to me.

That was many years ago though, and Linux has come a long way since then. What was your first experience with Linux?

What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.

The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of ITworld.

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