No, Linux is not dead on the desktop

In today's open source roundup: Linux is not dead on the desktop. Plus: The city of Munich switches to Linux and saves millions, and how to find the best desktop for new Linux users

By , ITworld |  Open Source, Linux, open source

There are certain constants in life, and one of them is a never-ending spate of predictions that Linux is dead on the desktop. It's inevitable that we see these kinds of article popping up every once in a while. CIO has one of the latest examples of this as it tries to make the case that Linux is dead on the desktop.

According to CIO:

All of experts agree – Windows won every battle for the business user. Mac OS has surged a bit lately, they argue, but the prospect of handing a Linux laptop to end users are long gone. Linux has a stranglehold on the workstation market, for developers, and on tablets and phones. It's time the enterprise decided Linux on a business laptop is finally, totally dead.

More at CIO

Linux dead on the desktop

Bah! I hate having to wade through these kinds of articles, but it's necessary to answer them lest the perception take root that "Linux is doomed!" and all the usual blather that goes along with such nonsense. Every single time I read one of these articles my eyes roll into the back of my head and various profanities burst from my lips.

The article focuses on the corporate desktop, but as we all know there has been a revolution going on inside companies as people move their focus from desktop computers to mobile devices. And Linux has been a part of that via Android and Chrome OS since the very beginning. And let's not forget that we'll soon have phones and tablets coming from Canonical that run Ubuntu.

The author acknowledges the transition to mobile, but then downplays it and focuses back on Windows on the desktop. Well, if Windows is still the main OS being used on the desktop then who's fault is that exactly? I hardly think that the users can be blamed for that, it's much more likely the IT department that is making those kinds of decisions.

The power of IT departments to control the choices of their users is slowly but surely fading away, however. And that will eventually have long-term ramifications for Linux inside companies. The BYOD movement shows no sign of slowing down, and it is forcing IT companies to make way for non-Windows operating systems and devices.

One of the more irritating points in the article is about the supposed lack of applications. I found this section to be completely absurd. There are thousands and thousands of desktop Linux applications available in most distributions. And if Windows applications are necessary, it is quite easy to run them via VirtualBox, Wine or CrossOver.

I think the article really should be renamed to: Is Linux dead on the corporate-business-executive desktop? It would be a much more accurate headline than the current one, which gives the misleading impression that Linux has failed completely on the desktop in all markets. Well that's not true at all. There is so much more to desktop Linux than just the corporate IT world.

Think I'm kidding? Then take a look at this list of switchers to Linux from Wikipedia. Many countries have already switched to Linux on the desktop. or have plans to do so in the near future. The list is so long that there's no way I can repeat all of it here in this roundup.

Governments aside, the Wikipedia article also contains a list of companies that are using Linux on the desktop. Here's a brief sample of companies that have been using Linux on the desktop, I think you'll recognize the names of some of them:

Google
Dreamworks Animation
Novell
London Stock Exchange
IBM

And that's just a few of the companies listed in the Wikipedia article, and it doesn't include governments and other large institutions that often have hundreds of thousands of desktop users. Go ahead, take a look at the entire list and then tell me that Linux is dead on the desktop.

But what about individuals? Let's remember that the list on Wikipedia does not include any of the millions and millions of individual users around the world who run Linux on the desktop each day. Individual Linux users are often overlooked, but they are there and their computing choices matter just as much as those of any government or company.

Desktop Linux isn't dead, it's alive and well. And it's just getting started.

Munich saves millions by switching to Ubuntu
Apparently Munich missed the memo that said desktop Linux was dead. The city has switched to Ubuntu and is saving millions of euros as a result of this choice.

According to BetaNews:

Today, Canonical announces that not only has Munich taken an open approach to computing with Ubuntu, but the city is saving millions of euros too. Using open-source software and saving money? Hell, maybe all governments should make the switch to Linux.

The company further explains, "the switch from from proprietary software to open source has saved the city more than €10 million -- a figure that accounts for both the hire of external companies to implement solutions and the internal man-hours the city has invested in management, training and testing. By 2012, €6.8 million had been saved on Microsoft licensing alone. By August 2013, the cost of the entire project had reached €23 million, compared with an estimated €34 million just to upgrade to Windows 7 and new versions of Microsoft Office".

More at BetaNews

Munich Switches to Linux
Image credit: BetaNews

I find it more than a little amusing that I bumped into this story on Lxer right after finishing my commentary for the "Linux is doomed!" story above. But it really puts the lie to the idea that desktop Linux is dying and it shows clearly that the movement to Linux in general is just increasing around the world.

Kudos to the folks in Munich for making such a wise decision. It shows that they are thinking ahead and that they have the vision to see the virtues of Linux for their city. I suspect other cities and countries will look at them as an example of what can be achieved with Linux.

The best Linux desktop for new users?
TechRadar has an overview of the top Linux desktops that might be useful to new Linux users.

According to TechRadar:

Choice and flexibility are the cornerstones of the open source ecosystem. But spare a moment for the average desktop user just warming up to Linux. They come from a constrained environment and are baffled by the plethora of choices on offer. Many end up making the wrong choice and get turned off and abandon their open source expedition.

Which is why we're aiming to help select the best desktop environment that will suit each user, their workflow and minimise any learning curve. There's something for seasoned Linux users as well. Get a bird's eye view of what other camps are up to and decide if they've progressed enough to warrant another try as your desktop.

Ubuntu Unity
GNOME 3.10
KDE 4.12
Cinnamon 2.0

More at TechRadar

Best Linux desktops for new users
Image credit: TechRadar

I agree that it can be confusing for new Linux users to find a desktop, so this article might be a good resource for them. I don't think a new user could go wrong with any of these desktops though, it's just a matter of familiarizing himself or herself with them and then making the choice that best suits their individual needs.

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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