Why the Linux Desktop isn't the most popular(yet), and how you can help

As an avid Linux user and promoter, I am frequently faced with the pessimistic viewpoint of the minuscule market share that the Linux Desktop occupies.

And although Linux on the Desktop will continue to move in positive direction of a mainstream Desktop Operating System, I'd like to share my view as to why this process has not been the Mushroom Cloud of expansion that us Linux lovers would like to see it be.

The problem is very simple actually.

The Linux market share is currently limited by the lack of support for it from computer hardware makers.

That's it. Plain and simple.

Since hardware makers do not help make drivers for GNU/Linux, the GNU/Linux community has to use a lot more time to "catch up" in the development of drivers. And if playing "catch up" isn't bad enough, In some instances, the hardware makers make it even harder for Linux, by using some wonky tactics to store pictures on a flash chip for instance (enter the world of Professor Theodore Kilgore and trying to decode the storage patterns of the Jeinlin 'Kidz-Cam'). This lack of fluidity in the availability of some drivers for Linux makes the game makers and many other software makers(it's a trickle down effect) choose Windows because they know that with Windows, a driver will be developed for the hardware, and fast.

So there it is. If you support Linux, you need to let all makers of computer hardware know that they should support Linux as well. And unfortunately this means you MUST BE VERY VOCAL about it! Emails, word of mouth, t-shirts, billboards, airplane banners(hmm, I gotta try that), etc. LET THEM KNOW THAT YOU'RE USING LINUX! DEMAND SUPPORT!

Here's a very simple example of how you can help. Go to your favorite electronics store(i.e., Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's, etc.) and ask them, "Do you have hardware that supports Linux? And if so, is it printed on the box?". This simple action will start something. And although you may not notice it right there, you have triggered an avalanche. Your words will meet the computer hardware makers, eventually.

Go GNU/Linux! Go Freedom!

Disagree? Bring it(by leaving a comment)!

Shannon VanWagner
HTTP_USER_AGENT: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.9) Gecko/2008061015 Firefox/3.0

(note: the use of the term "Linux" in this article actually means "GNU/Linux" and all respect is meant for both terms and their origins)

Posted Jul 16th, 2008


  1. On the plus side, hardware support for Linux has definitely been improving lately. Intel tends to be pretty good about it, and AMD/ATI is working to open source their graphics drivers.

    Yah! Go open source!

  2. Here is another big issue with the linux desktop(why people who have tried it and got the best of it returned to windows)
    The problem with the open source in the desktop is that people are complaining about the quality of the final product(desktop linux) vs their expectations(windows, mac), if the product doesnt deliver then it sucks, is not useful for this world, if you believe the model in wich it originated is beautiful or the code is itsel lovely, then make art and don't try production software.
    Linux in the desktop fails, but open source in the server is awesome, but thats because of the industry, those who use it can contribute to it in the server.
    In the desktop this is not true most of the time, then the model is broken for the desktop and it doesnt work until somebody with money invest in it(ie. ubuntu).

    Thats why is the most popular distribution and the best shot of linux(as of now) to reach the desktop mass market.
    But it wont happen until canonical founds a way to make money.
    The companies using linux server, already make money they just cut costs and improve customizability and standars and the like.
    Name one company totally open source tha has succeded in the desktop? time will tell, right now there is no visible solution to the problem.
    When the money problem for linux desktop is solved then linux will take over.
    Why? because money = developers = the features users need will be heard. Right now (unpayed)open source devs do whatever the hell they want(try the KDE4 debate).
    We need the interest of the users to drive the software(with money in it will happen) right now is not working that way.
    Thus the quality sux.

  3. computer hardware makers would support linux if there is a lot of users, linux is lack of this, and linux lack of this because there's lack of hardware support

    computer hardware makers would love to support linux, only if Lusers (linux users) and its developers having some respect to company secret, not forcing them to release everything in open sourced form.

    computer hardware makers have big difficulty to support linux, because there are a lot of version and linux distros, this is fallacy of choices...

    conclusion : Linux will never got desktop market shares more than 5% if the thing always like this... its totally crap.

  4. I completely agree with you. I have done that many times and I hope it helped Linux community to get more attention from public mainstreams.

  5. Linux has pretty darn good support for hardware with the exception of video cards (nVidia and ATI), some printers (Canon, Lexmark, Kodak) and some wireless cards. Everything else is pretty darn well supported. Why? Linux runs on 50-70% of the World's servers, so to gain that market share, it has to be able to work in almost every configuration possible. We're talking NIC cards, hard drives, processors, etc. You can't tell me that Windows or Macs don't have driver problems too, can you? Windows XP can't even install a SATA hard drive unless you readily have a OEM driver disk FOR THAT DEVICE sitting around.

    The problem with the Linux Desktop is that there is no commercial entity pushing it to OEMs. When I pick up a Dell advertisement, it pretty much reads as a Windows Vista/Server 2003 advertisement because Microsoft puts *some* sort of advertisement for Windows ON EVERY PAGE. They force OEMs (Dell, HP, etc.) to write "______ recommends Windows Vista Business" and re-branded their old MSN/Hotmail services to say "Windows" (as in Windows Live) just so you can never forget that name; Windows. It's a game of marketing, and until Linux gets really viral through word of mouth, we'll have to either dream of Canonical, Novell or Red Hat to advertise the shit out of it, or just sit here and wait.

  6. I am surprised no one has mentioned the real root cause of the lack of user base. I am a hardcore Linux enthusiast/evangelist. I run Linux on my main power desktop at home about 75% of the time. The ONLY reason I have XP installed on it with a dual-boot setup is that when I wanna play "Command and Conquer 3" or another Windows-only game, then I have no choice. When gaming companies write more native linux ports (which is very easy to do, you can keep all the same map data etc.) then you will see more users willing to switch. I have tried to switch family members, and it goes incredibly smoothly - UNTIL - they say "hey what about my SIMS game?". At this point it leaves a bad taste in their mouth, which is why I am reluctant to switch any more friends and family over unless I know they don't care about their Windows-only games.

    This is not something that will change with a simple OEM exec writing an email directing their systems engineering group to start supporting Linux. This is a very slow process that may take several generations of computer users before it gets resolved. The bad news is that it is a slow process. The good news is that it is a RESPONSIBLE process. "Screw release dates, we're going to get these damn SDL bugs fixed upstream!". That's when it will start really happening.

  7. I'vr been hearing the same news since 2000. Seems to me that Linux is just not made for the desktop at all. Best for server needs. After reading The Truth @ PromotingLinux.com, I concur even more.

  8. I love your site, and I'm bookmarking it!!

    I think one of the main reasons for Linux's lack of headway into the desktop market is that it's seen as threatening the economy (or MS has convinced the PC industry of it) and therefore even Microsoft competitors would rather see their products being killed by MS than to support Linux. That's how much money rules..

    I also personally suspect A LOT of the "linux community" as we know might be in fact infiltrated by paid MS trojan horses whose job is to influence views about Linux being not for everyone, or simply sabotage any attempts to launch it into the mainstream. Hardly anything is ever as it seems.


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