Rather than continue to fight for a tiny sliver of desktop market share, Robb says developers should concentrate on areas where Linux is strong. "Linux is already strong on small, mobile devices. If you're looking for ubiquity and impact on the planet, the Linux community should pat themselves on the back because they've already secured a victory on mobile."
And it looks like Robb is right. Even before Google's Android emerged, LG and other companies had turned to Linux to power the underpinnings of feature phones. Now Android and, to a lesser degree so far, WebOS (which HP recently acquired in its buyout of Palm) are putting Linux at the forefront of smartphone and tablet innovation.
Simultaneously, Linux has emerged as the go-to platform for embedded systems that power Web-enabled HDTVs and set-top boxes ranging from Roku and Google TV to Boxee and a multitude of others. Of course, to the end user, Linux is transparent in these offerings, and the experience is a far cry from what traditional Linux desktop enthusiasts have come to know and love. Notably, these implementations tend to be closed rather than open, showing only a simple set of menus to the end user.
End of the Road?
It has been a long trek since Linus Torvalds wrote the first Linux kernel as a college project in 1992, and the landscape has shifted considerably along the way. Despite grim prospects on the desktop, Linux has clearly asserted itself as a major platform that's here to stay. And of course, passionate open-source proponents will rightly stand by their favorite desktop distributions despite the challenges ahead.
But at this point in history, it's hard to deny the evidence: With stagnant market growth and inadequate content options compounded by industry inertia, Linux basically has no chance to rival Mac OS X, much less Windows.