Waiting for the arrival of the year of Linux on the desktop is, and I allow myself to steal the phrase from Chesterton, something that requires more patience than the job of fishing. For many of us, more than a goal is a joke, although there are some true believers who still do not lose hope.
The truth is that somehow the discussion became abstract. With a slight delay caused by the pandemic, the decline of desktop computers seems unstoppable. Higher-power mobiles and Chromebook-type devices should be the majority devices in the coming years. And, in both the winners have been defined for a long time
Linux is left with the consolation of dominance in cloud services and supercomputers.
But, the debate is still interesting on one point. Understanding what we didn't do (and what Apple and Google did) will allow us to be ready for the next paradigm shift.
Table of Contents
What would be the year of Linux on the desktop?
To guide the discussion, let us agree on what the expected response would be.
We can define it in two ways; From a technical maturity point of view, it would be the moment when there is a Linux distribution capable of being installed by the average user and allowing them to do exactly the same as they do with Windows or macOS.
The second way is market share.
The great obstacle for the supporters of the first position is the games. TO Despite the fact that the number of titles is constantly expanding and there are technologies that allow running Windows games, the result for the moment is quite mediocre.
The user doesn't care. Why should he?
Some time ago a person took the trouble to make a video responding to one of my articles. His argument was that Linux shouldn't worry about having more users. If they don't want to accept it as it is, keep using Windows or macOS.
We are seeing the flaw in his argument these days. Burned developers, projects with serious security problems, and companies making money off the work of others. All this is the result of the same problem. The free and open source software community does not care about the end userl. As a consequence, the end user is not interested in free software.
Let me make it clearer:
Number of users = money = developers dedicated full time to developing free software.
Colleague José Miguel from the Tecno y Soft blog summarizes clearly the problem:
What is the common user looking for?
A recognizable and easy-to-use operating system, available on the market and with its own name: Windows. That is what it sells, considering that because it is free software and respecting the user's rights it would be something significant, it has been a mistake. With all this, I am not saying that issues such as free software, respect for user rights or sustainability are not important, but they have not been, nor are they enough to cause a drift to our beloved desktop. That change has not occurred, more than anything, because despite everything this is not a matter of consciousness. It is the real lack of need for change that has caused and is causing the stagnation of the Linux desktop.
What are we giving the home user?
A huge (and often incompatible) offering of distributions each with their own set of pre-installed libraries and drivers and software. There is a reasonable chance that a program built for Windows 8 will work on Windows 11, and quite the contrary that a program that works on Ubuntu will do the same on the version of Fedora released a month later. Even in the same version of the same distribution, but with a different desktop, problems can occur.
As the market share is so small, there is no incentive for independent developers or companies to go to the trouble of porting their applications. As there is not a wide range of applications, the number of users does not increase.
The solution lies in the creation of a new entity (The Linux Foundation is too much influenced by the same companies interested in keeping everything as it is and the Free Software Foundation is too involved in the ideological aspects of free software). This new entity should aim to expand the free and open source software market starting with Linux distributions. For this, it must investigate the market, and support the development of innovative products that respond to the result of that research and can be self-financing in the future.
This means letting go of egos and shifting the focus from where developers and their programming skills are at the top of the pyramid to one where problem solving and user wishes come first.