2010: The Year the Desktop OS No Longer Matters?
Last Friday, Sam's Buffer Overflow run-down featured a piece by Walter Koenning discussing why campaigning hard for Linux on the desktop is selling open source -- and the operating system -- short.
I agree with Vincent Danen that wondering whether Linux is ready for the desktop is silly, even irrelevant -- wider usage tends to foster growth in related sectors (think cloud computing and virtualization). But Koenning's made a particularly strong (and strangely parallel) point that encouraging "non-technical" end users to use open source software is a great way to ease vendors into supporting non-proprietary platforms.
I've been using Linux for nearly ten years. My husband does not use it to speak of. When he's in a rush he'll use Splashtop on his computer, but outside the home, he doesn't have that option. He refuses, however, to use anything but Firefox on any computer -- anywhere. If Firefox isn't available, he'll use what ever isn't Internet Explorer. I think his preference is an even 50/50 mix of trusting the open source software and disliking IE's performance record.
Some people learn to ride bikes by getting on, wobbling, falling off, and getting back on until they are able to balance. Some people use training wheels. For many, rushing headlong into a Linux desktop pushes them so beyond their comfort zone, they don't pick up and dust themselves off and learn. But like training wheels on a bike, introducing open source applications on a familiar proprietary system has as much to do with learning as it does building confidence.
If cloud computing and the software as a service industry continue to expand, desktop applications will be powered by Linux's strength -- the server. Question is, how many users passingly acquainted with open source software will miss -- or realize they've lost -- their training wheels?