Nobody seems to want to talk about the desktop anymore. It seems that the trend followers have jumped to the next biggest thing. The glamor now isn’t in desktops and laptops, machines that do all the necessary grunt work, but in gee-whiz tablets and smart phones. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but desktops and laptops aren’t going to go away soon – not as long as there’s work to be done.
I mention this because it seems that many of the folks who write about Linux have all but given up efforts to increase the penguin’s share of the installed base. I find this curious, because I think we’ve never been better positioned to get folks to make the leap to Linux.
We’ve got plenty in our favor right now. Because of tablets and smart phones, where Microsoft products are practically unknown, people are no longer afraid of trying out new operating systems. At the same time, the folks in Redmond are rapidly loosing their grip. The specter that was Vista continues to cast a long shadow over the company, and users may have found Windows 7 to be functional, but there was nothing there to get them excited. Now Windows 8 is getting ready to be dumped on the market, with a default GUI that will be strange and ugly on large desktop and laptop screens. Apple’s Mac line doesn’t offer an alternative for most users – whether corporate or consumer – simply because they’re too expensive.
What we’re lacking are well known computer brands offering Linux already installed. The average user isn’t going to buy a new computer just so he or she can install an operating system. Hell, I’m something of a geek, and even I don’t install OS’s any more than absolutely necessary. Right now I have a laptop with an installation of PCLOS that’s so out of date that a clean install would be the best way to bring it up to speed. That’s on my todo list. It’s been on my todo list for two years now. In other words, it’s a round tuit.
Although Dell and some of the other brands do offer Linux as an option on one or two models, they don’t ship them to stores, they don’t push them, and their Linux installs are so crappy that you have to be a geek familiar with the command line to get them to work properly when you first fire them up. This may be little more than an aggravation for you and me, but it’s completely unacceptable for the average computer user who prefers to get work done rather than figuring out how to get the wifi to work first. Have you ever told an average user that all they have to do is download and install a driver?
But even if we could get Dell or HP to get their act together and offer some boxes with Linux installed, properly tweeked so that everything works out of the box, they’re still not going to sell to your neighbor across the street so long as they’re only offered as a special feature buried somewhere on a back page of the manufacturers’ web sites. Even if they were stocked at your local big box store they’re not going to sell, because the sales staff will keep pointing people to their Windows machines – something we’ve seen time and again.
Linux boxes aren’t going to start to sell to the average consumer until Michael Dell or someone of his ilk gets behind them in a big way. Dell could create a market tomorrow for preinstalled Linux simply by making a television advertising pitch and putting a little “we recommend Linux Mint” graphic next to every computer offered. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen, however.
I do have an idea I think would work, though. One that could really put a certain Linux company with deep pockets on the tech map. I’ll tell you about it on Thursday.