To answer the question about the failure of the often heralded meteoric rise of the Linux desktop, you have to first look at the community.What it’s doing right and what it’s in fact doing wrong. The lack of oversight in the Linux community is in fact its biggest hindrance. The lack of a Linux desktop consortium that overseas the growth and direction of the operating systems ensuring that there’s growth of the best level and ensuring that the various desktop environments remain unique. The current plight is that there’s simply too many chefs, too many Linux desktop solutions are overlapping. In order to compete with the non-Linux alternatives that have dominated the desktop operating system market share, the redundancy and weakness must be removed.
It can be argued that not enough thought goes into the user experience of the Linux desktop offerings. Linux desktops are synonymous with cartoonish, almost clipart style graphics. Failure to embrace the current trends in design language will always be a costly thing. There hasn’t been a move towards flat design at all and with so much of the software targeted at so many different desktop environments, failure to move in this direction as a community means that while some software may look up-to-date on one desktop environment that’s attempted to move with the times, it would look out of place on most others.
There has also been a failure to exploit the Linux brand properly. The masses often need the tracks laid for their train of thought and failure to draw the connotations of Linux success is something else that only serves to hold the platform back from the end user. The link between the Linux desktop and Linux mobile must be made clearer. For the simplicity that is Android can translate to more users willing to give more of the Linux family a try.
When the average user thinks of Linux they often almost immediately think of Matrix style walls of code. The connotations are firmly tied to the command-line (Terminal) and that’s so often off-putting. Users in most cases don’t want to spend time learning how to do what they’ve only ever spent time double clicking to do previously. The user experience for the average user has become so much more pleasant but there’s been a failure to get this reality across. The GUI now reigns supreme on the Linux desktop and it’s a pleasant mouse-driven experience.
We’ve entered into an age where less and less desktop devices are being bought and the almighty usage share the desktop once held is being chipped away at by newer more portable devices, namely phone and tablet. That means that where Linux was once lacking some of the vital software required for say the hobbyist accountant or designer or student, they’ve now seen that there’s life beyond the brand names they’re so accustomed to, alternatives truly exist.
In talking of the software that Windows refugees love, when software is missing, a quick Google will often show users pointing to WINE. WINE is a popular piece of Windows emulation software and is far too often the first place Windows refugees are sent when seeking their favourite software without a Linux version, but WINE is never the answer. However an answer that could exist could come from the Linux Desktop Steering Group. Such a consortium could provide the finance to lay the foundation of building the alternatives. There would always be the option to monetize such endeavours by selling off the software to an organisation willing to take over development at which point they in turn could monetize it by whichever means they felt fit. However, the average desktop user of today is changing their desktop habits. Most of what they use are in fact web technologies including browsers and outside of that said average user has but one question on their mind “can I back up my phone or tablet with this like I can on Windows or Mac?”
As mentioned, less desktop hardware is being bought, this is a fact and it’s this that the Linux desktop needs to exploit. Features on par with the latest iteration of Windows but with the smoothness and fluidity on a system designed to run Windows of at least two versions ago. Make it a harder decision for the user, do you really need a new laptop or do you just want the newest coolest features? And for every user that has converted to the Linux desktop, at the point of them requiring a hardware upgrade, the question is then, do I really want to move away from what I’m so familiar with?
Lastly, with everything that is going on right now in the media regarding Snowden, the NSA and invasion of privacy that the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google seem to have ties to. The Linux desktop should be heavily marketing its affiliation with PRISM of which the companies listed prior have. It’s not a question of whether users have something to hide or not, but the NSA is based in the United States of America where it’s believed that you’re innocent until proven guilty. It isn’t about what you have to hide, it’s about what have you done to warrant your provide communications being tapped and traded around the world. The consortium should be saying it loud and proud that the Linux desktop is perfect for the privacy concious and that’s a guarantee that their competitors can’t boast.