Not that that's surprising, mind you -- Ubuntu is the biggest "brand name" in the Linux world, and it's far and away the most popular distribution on DistroWatch. This latest release, too, is clearly the most consumer-friendly Ubuntu so far, and multitouch capabilities are now a part of its netbook edition. Canonical's R&D efforts for Ubuntu also suggest that there's great promise for the future.
With Ubuntu, so many of the issues that have dogged Linux on the desktop in the past--such as drivers--are going away. I believe Ubuntu is Linux's best tool for extending further into the mainstream, and recent data shows that's already happening. Just today, for instance, Australia's Sydney Linux Users Group said that the operating system is visibly reaching past the Linux community and into wider mainstream usage than ever before, with schools and government agencies among the country's leading users.
"I'm noticing Ubuntu gradually gaining acceptance as a desktop environment with more and more enterprise-sized companies, government departments and non-profit agencies adopting it as an acknowledged part of their networks," the group's secretary, Melissa Draper, said.
None of this is to say that Linux doesn't still face challenges, of course. Inertia, first and foremost, is what maintains Microsoft's monopoly, I believe, along with Redmond's active efforts to preserve it. Then, too, there's Linux's fragmentation, lack of a single corporate sponsor and lack of marketing--the all-important tool that keeps Apple in the game, in particular.
There's also the question of whether the desktop will even matter in a few more years, as cloud and mobile computing increasingly take hold.
But for now, to say that Linux is dead on the desktop is a great exaggeration. It's in more than one-third of large enterprises, and it's on more home computers than we'll ever know, thanks at least in part to the emerging Ubuntu brand. It also boasts more advantages for businesses and individuals than either of its main competitors.