Linux Doesn't Dominate the Desktop, and Doesn't Have To
Recently, PC World produced a widely discussed story titled "Why Linux Is a Desktop Flop." The story concedes that Linux-based Android "dominates the mobile market with 50.9% market share at the end of 2011 according to Gartner numbers released in February." But it stresses that on the desktop in particular, Linux's opportunity for great market share has come and gone. That's probably true on the desktop but the story nevertheless produced heated debate among the Linux faithful.
CIO has aggregated a number of the comments that have appeared in response to the story, including this, from Slashdot:
"The great opportunity for Linux on the desktop was a decade ago. Back when Windows 95 sucked, Windows XP was late, and Windows 2000 cost several hundred dollars. That's when it could have happened. It didn't,' Animats wrote."
Alas, even then, there wasn't the greatest opportunity for Linux on the desktop. At the time, many Linux distros offered poor compatibility with industry standard products and lack of support for file formats that enterprise users in particular were standardized on. And, if you fast-forward from that time to a few years later, big companies focused on Linux--including both Red Hat and Novell--maintained that they were not focused on the desktop with Linux.
The simple fact is that Linux has changed the world and been a tremendous success outside the desktop, and there is nothing wrong with that. Android is hardly the only Linux-based platform that has made a big mark. Linux is huge on servers, in embedded technology, and is a constant prompt for innovation on emerging platforms.
We've made the point before that the desktop isn't the holy grail for Linux, but it's still interesting to note that Linux is in fact growing on the desktop. I took note of this growth in this post.
According to a statement from Gartner from late last year: "In the server OS market, Linux (server) was the fastest-growing subsegment in 2010 as end users adopted more open-standard systems." So from servers to mobile platforms, Linux is making a huge difference, and its share is growing on the desktop, if not at an alarmingly high rate. That should be more than good enough for the Linux faithful.