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Will it ever be the year of the Linux Desktop?

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.

We are looking for aspiring bloggers and journalists for The Mukt. If you are interested, apply now!

Agree? Disagree? Contribute a comment below and let me know if you feel we are there yet, and if we are, when that happened.

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Ivan Sorensen

I'm a 34 year old Dane, transplanted to the west coast of the United States. I've been living the Linux dream for 10 years. I like gaming, heavy metal and cats. Maybe the cats like heavy metal too.

43 Comments

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  4. The “Year of the Linux Desktop” seems to mean something different for every person. Have a look at Linux Voice’s poll on the matter and you will find all sorts of interesting and valid opinions.

    For my part, YotLD will only be achieved when major software and hardware vendors have at least some support natively for Linux; when you can phone up tech support and they will actually be able to service grandma when she says she’s on Ubuntu (or one of the official spins).

    I used to be a Mac Classic user, and have seen the gradual change from having nothing on the Mac, to some key-things-only, to partial Mac support (feature subsets in the Mac versions) to Mac being on equal footing with Windows in levels of service and recognition. I’m waiting for that to happen in Ubuntu.

    I mention specifically Ubuntu because, as far as I can see, that’s the entry gate through which the rest of the Linux community will be able to benefit from. As an Open Source community, we can build a lot of things ourselves, but as a community, we are disparate in desires. Some of us do want the commercial services to be delivered on a Linux platform. If only we had the DEBs, natively provided by the publishers, to take apart to flush into our own systems.

    That, for me, will be YotLD.

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