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Cars and engines: Linux on the desktop

[ t e c h n o \ c u l t u r e ]

Most of the problems Karlin Lillington seems to have had with Linux is in installing it; that's fair enough, but the real question remains; is it usable?

It seems to be, if you're using Redhat or SuSe versions 8. And for what most people use computers for (email, browsing, office, messaging), the difference between OpenOffice+Mozilla+gaim and Explorer+MSOffice+AOLIM is about a year away from becoming irrelevant.

Here's the thing; my non-technical partner can use a Linux machine, but I wouldn't ask her to install it or even configure a desktop. These are two different aspects altogether - like cars and engines.

The single biggest problem with Linux isn't Linux at all - it's with web sites that won't work with Mozilla or Netscape, because the designers and engineers involved are only partially competent, or the business has decided to optimize the site for Explorer (and very probably Explorer 5+). This is fine in a work environment where you can dictate what runs on a desktop, it's somewhat shortsighted for a public site.

In the long run, it's just a matter of a Linux distributor getting deadly serious about going after Windows market share. It's bound to happen, after all there's only so many servers out there, and at some point in the next decade, Linux will saturate that market. Linux on the desktop will start inside firewalls and work its way out - some big companies and nations are already asking whether Linux on clients are a better economic option. You'd have to think that the only way Windows can stop being commoditized, in the way Linux/OS has commoditized the server market, is to optimize the servers for Windows clients to provide superior user experiences. Which is where .NET fits in.

And of course, the desktop is becoming a marginalized client - the future of high-volume low-cost software economics is in cheap laptops/wiretops and smaller mobile devices like phones. Microsoft still hasn't figured out a strategy for mobile devices, although it is now officially deadly serious about mobility - which means it's deadly serious about figuring out how not to have the Windows franchise lose out on the mobile market.

April 5, 2003 12:09 PM


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