Will Linux ever win on the Desktop?

Working with Linux systems is a core part of what we do here at Reconnix, and I’ve personally been working with Linux in some capacity or another for almost 20 years.  It has been fascinating to watch the kernel evolve over time and also to see the effect Linux has had on the growth of the Internet. This is also perhaps where the success of Linux is most evident. It is undoubtedly the leading system server side, and it is what the majority of the internet’s leading websites and services are built on.

But a recent article from Dan Kusnetzky on ZD Net asks the question, if Linux has been so successful in server and embedded implementations, why did it not succeed on the desktop?

It’s hard to argue with the reasons offered by Kusnetzky. Dependency on specific applications not available on Linux and the extreme fragmentation of the Linux ecosystem mean that it is next to impossible for a business to turn around and say: “we’re migrating to Linux.” This is simply because the answer is never that easy – it will always be precluded with “how are we going to run that application we use every day?” or even “what type of Linux? There are so many.”

Essentially, one of Linux’s perceived strengths – the freedom to innovate and develop – was essentially its downfall. In a race to constantly improve, a stable, well supported, uniform Linux system never really existed. The lack of a ‘killer app’ to rival Microsoft’s Office suite can also not be ignored.

But the future is not yet written for Linux on the desktop – and some trends in show that Linux may be finally able to shake off these old problems. Firstly, very recently, Red Hat and CentOS, two different Linux distributions, announced plans to bring both platforms under the same umbrella, signalling a departure from the fragmentation that we know.

We are also beginning to witness mass adoption of Linux by public sector organisations. The most high profile example of this is the City of Munich, abandoning Microsoft and moving 30,000 desktop users over to its custom Linux distro, LiMux.

Finally and arguably most importantly, perhaps, is the changing way in which applications are being delivered. Whether over the web or via a virtualised platform, the native OS is being rendered irrelevant, and soon it won’t matter what operating system you’re using if you want to run a particular app.

The success of Linux in the past still glows radiantly, but the future appears to be even brighter. Perhaps now is the time to finally make that move.

Steve Nice, CTO Reconnix