For quite a while now, Linux users have constantly been discussing whether the open source operating system will ever experience a “year of the desktop” where Linux’s desktop market share suddenly rises in relatively dramatic fashion.
In most discussions, there are always those that are hopeful for such an event, and those who argue that it’ll never happen. But what are the actual chances of it happening, or can you even call it the “year of the desktop”?
One of the most important points for desktops is the amount of hardware that is supported through Linux drivers. While a lot of people complain about how there are a lot of drivers missing in Linux that you can get in Windows (and I do admit that overall Windows has more support), there is still a heck of a lot of hardware that is supported in Linux as well. You also have to remember that most desktop users will only be using peripherals such as a keyboard, mouse, webcam, flash drive, etc.
Of course it won’t be as easy to get Linux to work well with specialized hardware such as digital turntables, but you have to think to yourself, “Will the adoption of Linux as a popular desktop operating system be affected if highly specialized hardware doesn’t have out-of-the-box support?” No. Plus in any case, if Linux gains in popularity, hardware vendors will be more willing to crank out such specialized drivers for Linux, so there is even less motivation to count drivers as a reason why Linux isn’t being adopted as much as current users hope.
The next important point for desktops is the selection of software available for the operating system. Linux distributions usually have tens of thousands of packages that can be installed with a single command or click, all from a single location. This contrasts to Windows, where all the software is highly scattered across the Web.
While Windows’ overall software selection is still bigger, the Linux software selection is still very respectable. However, most tasks can be taken care of with software freely available in Linux, so this isn’t quite an issue either.
The main reason why the whole “year of the desktop” debate even exists is because of the current commercial adoption and what people hope will happen in the future. Currently, Linux has a small amount of commercial support on desktops, where a couple of products and games such as Oil Rush run on Linux. However, that support seems to be growing, albeit slowly.
This is the main component of whether Linux will experience a “year of the desktop”, so a year where commercial support massively improves would be considered a watershed year. I really don’t see it happening like some people hope it will, but I think it will happen rather slowly so that the change is too gradual to be considered noteworthy. For now, software such as WINE is helping more Linux people use commercial software, but it’s far from perfect.
So, the final answer? Linux users won’t see a year of the desktop anytime soon, if ever. The fact that it has decent support for hardware (despite what some people have to say) as well as a large collection of usable and productive software is an indicator to me that it’s already an operating system that is good enough for any desktop. If things go the way they have been lately, more commercial support for Linux will arrive, but that will take its time. And therefore, I don’t believe there will be a sudden, magical year for Linux where desktop adoption dramatically increases.
What’s your opinion of the future of Linux on the desktop? Do you see something differently? Let us know in the comments!