Is Linux Ready for the Desktop?

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Linux logoLinux today is speculating on whether Linux is ready for the desktop. This is an exciting question, and an important one. It is also a very old debate. Linux is not currently threatening the place of Windows on most desktops, but it has made some inroads. Hosting at Shire Enterprises is on a Linux server at Midphase. While I flirted for a while with hosting on a Windows server, Linux is far more reliable for hosting. Hands down.

But on my desktop? When I consider how far Linux will get on the desktop, I ask myself how much time I would have to spend explaining the new interface to my mother. She’s my benchmark on usability. Mom’s not an expert, but smart. I do not see her taking much time to figure out an operating system. If Linux wins its place on her desktop, it’s got to be easy. At this point, I Linux does not pass the “Mom” test.

The question of software availability is a big one. Convincing the average user that “Linux has all the software you need” is a stretch. Kids and games. Say no more.

So, how far will Linux get? That depends on the road Windows takes with Vista. According to

Another allegory is appropriate here. Windows is a standard mass-production house where you can change the color of walls or perhaps a floor coating. Linux is the house which you have to build yourself, but make it roofless or perhaps underwater if you like to.

Now, after 10 years, this difference is diminished. Windows has more options and tunables, Linux comes preconfigured with a lot of “default” settings. Still, there is much more freedom in how you set up your Linux box, compared to Windows. And that’s what I like on my desktop. After ten years, I’m still using the same window manager–IceWM–because I can configure it in a way that’s convenient for me, not for the average Joe that Microsoft interface designers have in mind.

10 years is a long time to spend with any operating system. And many Windows users have been there at least that long. Will Windows do itself in by making the system more complex? Yesterday, I reported on the huge system drain that Windows has become. Starting out with a 200 gigabyte hard drive just to make the OS happy sounds incredible.

Will Linux find its rightful place after all?