It used to be a rallying cry, then it turned into speculation and finally it became a joke: That the next year, or the one after that, or very soon at least, would be “the year of the Linux desktop”. Even the meaning of the term has changed a bit, depending on the time and the publication. Maybe it means the year when Linux will be a majority operating system on desktop computers. Maybe it means that Linux accounts for a significantly increased share of the market.
Maybe it just means getting over our inferiority complex.
Of course, while we waited and promoted and encouraged and evangelized, everywhere but the desktop was racing ahead. Embedded gadgets? We rule that. Servers? Doing good. Super computers? Complete dominance. Android? Basically rules the world. Chrome OS? Selling very well.
Some have argued that those are the areas that should matter anyway, that we should take the broad view of what “computing” means. Today, people increasingly use their phones, tablets and other light, portable devices. If we can push Linux there, then we’re still winning, whatever that means.
I’d like to argue that the year of the Linux desktop already came and went. We just didn’t notice it.
Majority share on the desktop would be nice, sure. First class up to date hardware support for every piece of hardware that comes out? Yeah, that’d be great too. More support from big software developers? We’d all like that.
But as I have been using Linux in the past several years, it has increasingly occurred to me: We’re at a point where we have a large number of incredibly polished distributions available. You can run a Linux system for a standard user without barely ever touching the terminal. There’s a wealth of software, both applications and games available, most hardware works without any worry, and the days of manually editing xorg.conf, our old best friend, are pretty much gone.
In the last half year, I’ve run Ubuntu, Debian, Kubuntu, Elementary OS, openSUSE and Antergos. In each case, I simply loaded it on a USB stick, put it in, installed and rebooted. Fully functioning system that let me do the things I needed to do.
Yeah, there are differences between those (and maybe I skewed the results by having 2 Ubuntu derivatives) but in the end, it “just worked”. I didn’t have to spend hours configuring everything just to get basic functionality.
Can we get bigger? Of course we can, and we should. We can still make huge improvements in terms of availability. But for the average desktop user, we’re here already. The year came and went and we didn’t notice, because we were busy doing the things on our computer that we wanted to do. Everything that happens from here on out is a pleasant bonus, on top of an already fantastic experience.
Agree? Disagree? Contribute a comment below and let me know if you feel we are there yet, and if we are, when that happened.