Linux isn’t really dead, but that bold statement has been passed around the Linux community recently after some fairly damning words from Miguel de Icaza this past week explaining the need for a revitalized, single distro to bring the Linux community together and build a viable operating system to lure in larger OEMs.
As much as his article was picked apart (even by Linus Torvalds himself), I can’t help but to find myself agreeing with the basic premise of his statement.
Hovering around one to two percent of the consumer market, Linux hasn’t really made many gains against commercial platforms like Windows or OS X. Sure, it dominates the server world and a Linux core sits at the heart of the Android operating system, but we haven’t seen a desktop Linux distro break through the market share barrier yet.
Ubuntu came very close. Branches of it were found on netbooks and installed on many Dell systems over the years. It became the most popular Linux distro for a variety of reasons. Healthy financial backing and a growing number of developers that concentrated on user experience made the project a success, but it still hasn’t become a force to be reckoned with in the OS world. Why? Simply put, people want an environment that their favorite software companies support.
Windows is all most users know. OS X is gaining here and there, but only a fraction of the larger market has ever tried Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, or Red Hat. IT professionals and fellow geeks are about it, aside from the occasional grandparent a geek set up for basic Web browsing and email use.
The Linux Community Needs a Flagship to Rally Behind
There are more distros floating around out there than most open source developers can even name. I’ve seen countless charts and infographics that have attempted to list them all out and explain how they connect to one-another, but even these attempts are obsolete before they even make the rounds. It’s impossible to really wrap your head around what makes each distro unique, let alone explain it to the average consumer.
Do you think grandma knows the difference between Ubuntu and Linux Mint? How hard is it to describe Xubuntu and Kubuntu to someone that hasn’t used either of them before?
The open source community is incredible, and most of the software I use every day is open source. I run Linux Mint on my home server, and boot my MacBook Pro to Ubuntu on a regular basis. It’s how I work and live, and I couldn’t tell you which Linux distro is best for an enterprise or a small business. Why? Because each one evolves at its own pace and there is too much fragmentation out there to for the average user to keep up with.
Give me a single Linux distro that acts as a flagship for the entire community. That would be something more technology writers would write about. Software developers would flock to it faster than you could imagine, and OEMs would almost certainly offer it on their systems.
Do you disagree? Do you agree? What would save Linux for desktops?