No matter what anybody says there are numerous reasons why desktop Linux still doesn’t have traction. None of them have anything to do with the fact that there are a gazillion distos available.
Sure, it’s true that with the release of Vista there was a golden moment when desktop Linux could’ve flown high, but the fact that didn’t happen had nothing to do with users being confused over the number of operating systems carrying the Linux brand or with the developer base being spread too thin by this plethora of FOSS projects for any really good development to happen.
It’s all hogwash and more hogwash. The later contention is downright insulting as it implies that somehow GNU/Linux isn’t good enough. The first assertion, the confused consumer not knowing which distro to pick, is just plain wrong.
When was the last time masses of consumer computer users decided to migrate to a new operating system by installing one on a machine they already owned? I think “never” would be a pretty close to exact answer. Consumer computer users don’t install new operating systems, even on machines that’ve become obsolete by Microsoft standards but which could have new life with a Linux install.
As a general rule, consumers don’t even upgrade by way of the Windows upgrade path on their existing hard drive, unless it’s a service pack installed automatically by Microsoft. Consumer computer users upgrade by trading their old computer for a new one with an operating system already loaded.
The phrase “operating system already loaded” is key here. Consumers don’t install operating systems at all; they get them already installed on new computers. When Vista was Redmond’s latest and greatest, many consumers just put off buying a new computer until Steve Ballmer got his head out from wherever he’d put it to save the day with Windows 7. Others, if they had the bucks and inclination, bought a new Mac. Hardly anybody switched to Linux and the reason had nothing to do with “OMG, how can I choose from all these distros.”
Indeed, for the average consumer there was no option to choose from a gazillion distros. In fact, desktop Linux didn’t exist at all as far as Jane or Joe Schmo was concerned. Neither Best Buy, Circuit City (I think they were still around then), Federated or any of the other electronic retailers were offering Linux boxes in any meaningful way, simply because they weren’t available to them from the OEMs.
Linux wasn’t on the table because the big manufacturers didn’t want to confuse a consumer market they’d carefully trained to rely on Windows and Windows only. Unless, of course, you think that HP wasn’t pushing Linux because they were confused by the massive number of distros and just couldn’t decide which one would work well on the Pavilion. Five years ago the desktop market was still in a growth stage. HP, Dell and the others figured it easier to continue selling computers with XP or with the ability to roll back to XP, especially since consumers seemed to think that was a fine and dandy approach. Remember, XP was as popular as Vista was not.
As for the argument that a gazillion distros means there’s not enough developers to go around… Let’s see, out of that gazillion, all but a handful are based on preexisting distros. Most of the little distros are being developed by just one person or a tiny group of developers, most of whom are doing it for love and wouldn’t work on a big project if you paid them. While it’s true that the folks at Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE don’t call me up on the phone every morning with a progress report, as far as I can tell, none of these giant-sized projects are experiencing a shortage of developer talent. From what I see, it’s just the opposite. Qualified folks are waiting in line for paying gigs with the commercial distros.
If you’ll notice, the OEMs are now starting to become serious about Linux as a marketable alternative to Windows 8, especially since it’s obvious that any changes Microsoft makes to their OS will not be enough to make it attractive or even palatable for desktop users. Redmond has their own agenda and that is to not lose the seemingly already lost mobile race.
The OEMs are falling all over themselves to come up with their own Chromebooks. Android just about owns the medium to low end tablet market and I have no doubt that soon you’re going to see players like HP and Dell work closely with developers at Canonical to create HP and Dell branded Ubuntu boxes.
All of this would seem to be obvious to me. Those who would claim that desktop Linux has failed to gain traction because of choice are only sowing FUD or trying to impress the gullible with their ability to go against mainstream thought–even if they’re dead wrong.