I saw a post on a blog the other day entitled “2007 is the Year of the Linux Desktop” and it struck me as odd that the Linux Desktop can have so many years. Seriously folks, that quote, title, whatever you want to call it has been the slogan for Linux desktops since at least 2003 and I am pretty sure I can place safe money that it was a slogan somewhere before that.
As the years pass and Linux grows little by little in popularity, it seems the zeitgeists want to push the Linux desktop more and more each year. Now, while I have very little problem with the pushing of the Linux desktop, I do have a problem with the slogan itself. For starters, ever since I have been seeing it, no improvement has been really made. Distributions like Ubuntu have made things a lot better on the average user but even it requires a lot of command line work to get it working even close to the way that Windows does so that the end user does not need to goto the command line.The Linux desktop will never achieve popularity with the “common folk” until the absolute need for the command line is abolished. Do not get me wrong, the Linux command line is a powerful tool, especially if you take the time to learn how to write shell scripts. However, the average computer user does not even realize that there is a command line interface in Windows or even OSX. The constant need to go to the command line in Linux is its biggest downfall, even though the command line might be one of its strongest tools.
Besides all that, people like Windows. They are familiar with it. Windows is what is installed on their work computers and laptops. It is on their cell phones. Windows is everywhere. This one single fact means that Linux has a lot to compete with when it comes to taking over the desktop. Even Mac OSX is making headway on the desktop front. The thing is people like what is familiar. If you put a new operating system in front of them they are going to go back to the “I don’t know how to do that” mentality on their computers. It has taken us geeks years to get people out of that kind of thinking, we do not really want to rush them back to it.
Linux has some strong advantages over Windows at the moment. Most of them have to do with the fact that the operating system is not as popular and thus less targeted. But until we can get away from the command line and make it easy to do things as it has become in Windows, there really will never be a year for the Linux Desktop. That however, does not mean we should stop working towards that goal.