Has Linux lost the desktop forever?

Today in Open Source: What went wrong with Linux on the desktop? Plus: Will Chromebooks kill Windows? And more Chromebooks coming in 2014

By , ITworld |  Open Source, chromebooks, Linux

Has Linux lost the desktop forever?
I bumped into an interesting column via Reddit today that looks at why Linux failed to take over the desktop.

Even though there was a point back in 1994 in which Linux passed Mac OS to take the number two spot in the client operating system market, Linux didn't hold onto that spot for long. In the long view, Linux didn't win on the desktop, but is that really the end of the story. Other forces came into play that has reduced the influence Microsoft's Windows has in the lives of end users.

As we know, the world has been changing rapidly and this certainly is an important factor to consider. Desktop and Laptop systems are no longer considered the only way to use applications. Smartphone and Tablets are increasingly seen as the platforms for applications customers are using.

More at Kusnetzky Group LLC

Hat Tip: Reddit

I've run into these Negative Ned stories about Linux failing on the desktop before, and they always seem fixated on the market share of Windows. I reject that kind of thinking as it was never necessary for Linux to "beat Windows" on the desktop to be successful.

What Linux needed to do was provide a viable alternative to Windows and other operating systems on the desktop. And it has done that over and over again for years. Any Windows user who wants to dump Microsoft can do so today, and can move to Linux for his or her computing needs. So how we define the success of the Linux desktop really does matter.

Mobile devices are obviously an entirely different matter. Android and iOS completely dominate the mobile landscape while Windows-based mobile products languish in market and mind share. Microsoft lost that battle a long time ago, and the best they can hope for is to carve out some middling bit of market share over the next ten years.

The story also does not take into consideration the growing sales of Chromebooks and how that product has Microsoft spooked in a big way. As I write this, the two bestselling laptops on Amazon are the Acer C720 Chromebook and the Samsung Chromebook.

So it's far too early to say that Linux has permanently lost the desktop to Windows. As more and more people experience Android on mobile devices, Chromebooks, and desktop Linux distributions such as Linux Mint, it will be harder and harder for Microsoft to keep users locked into the world of Windows. Once the Windows-only mindset is broken, users seem to have little or no loyalty to Microsoft.

Could the Chromebook kill Windows?
Speaking of Chromebooks, ZDNet has an article that examines the possibility of Chromebooks killing off Windows eventually.

NPD, a retail market analysis company, reports that sales of Chromebooks exploded from zilch in 2012 to more than 20% of the U.S. PC market in 2013. This helped push overall notebook PC growth up by 28.9%.

Meanwhile, Windows notebooks sales were as flat as a pancake, and Mac sales shrank by 7%. At the same time, overall PC sales declined in 2013 by a record 10.1%.

Why is this happening? There are many reasons. Microsoft's flawed Windows 8.x continues to be as popular as hot chocolate in July. And OEMs are feeling less loyal to Microsoft, which alienated its hardware partners by competing with them with its Surface line of devices.

More at Computerworld

So much for the invulnerability of Windows on the desktop. The article points out the power of a cloud-based operating system for many users, and Windows is nowhere to be seen.

More Chromebooks on the way in 2014
CNet thinks that we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg in Chromebook offerings.

As Chromebooks gain in popularity, device makers are gearing up for new entries in 2014.

Both Asus and Toshiba will enter the market, according to a report on Friday from Digitimes.

That report is backed by plenty of supporting evidence. The Toshiba Chromebook leaked when a review was posted prematurely. And the Asus Chromebook has been rumored for a while now.

More at CNet

I suspect that there's quite a bit of hand-wringing and quiet sighs of desperation in Redmond these days. As if Android and iOS mobile devices weren't enough of a headache, Microsoft now has to contend with an onslaught of new Chrome OS based laptops that undercut Windows on price and push people to Google's cloud-based services.

2014 is shaping up to be a great year for Linux on the desktop.

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

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