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Wait, IS desktop Linux a flop? Readers weigh in

While one could be forgiven for expecting a flame war in the comments on an article entitled "Why Linux is a desktop flop," the discussion that followed its publication was, in the main, thought-provoking and respectful.

MAIN ARTICLE: Why Linux is a desktop flop

An extensive debate on Slashdot was particularly enlightening. One user said the opportunity for widespread Linux adoption on the desktop had come and gone.

"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.

Several others cited Microsoft Office as a key factor in keeping Linux desktop adoption low. Given the near-total dominance of that suite of programs in the productivity sector, it's unlikely that any user with more than a casual need for Word or PowerPoint will opt for the open-source alternatives.

Nevertheless, others pointed out that Linux's profile could change radically overnight. Citing the case of guitar string maker Ernie Ball -- which was raided and audited by the Business Software Alliance in 2000 and subsequently switched to an all-open-source model in protest -- one user said that it's startlingly simple to transition a business to Linux.

SLIDESHOW: The oddest places to find Linux

"Microsoft persists because their customers don't have a compelling reason to switch. But given a reason, switching to Linux is no big deal. At any point in time, most of the world is 6 months from Linux, and Microsoft is 6 months from oblivion," wrote swm.

Two other refrains, however, were commonly heard. The first is that Microsoft's ability to offer a single, unified Windows desktop ecosystem gives it a huge advantage over Linux, given the fact that there are hundreds of different distros out there, all with various upsides and downsides. The second, related point is that the development communities for each of those distros make up a fractious, balkanized and often highly uncivil patchwork of a larger whole.

Still, it may simply be a lack of awareness holding Linux back.

"Most people do not know there is an alternative to windows or that it's as good as windows," wrote Citron, adding, "Android is a good example of what can happen when people are exposed to an alternative OS. It's now the number 1 smart phone OS and Windows phone is more or less a flop."

Email Jon Gold at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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