5 Reasons Why the World Still Uses Windows – Can Linux Ever Catch Up?

The world still uses Windows.  Where did Linux go wrong?  Can it be corrected?

Let’s throw out the Linux evangelical hat for the moment.  The fact is, despite the growth in installed Linux OS on servers and some low end desktops,  most of the world still is still using Windows.  Where has the Linux failed so far?  If the Linux argument is so strong then why has the majority of the world stayed with Microsoft Windows?

Reasons why Windows still wins

1. Pain vs. Simplicity. The perceived value of Linux as a general desktop solution isn’t there yet.  The average computer user is still very non-computer literate.  They want to go with what they know.  A computer for most users is a means to an end.  A place to check email, browse the web, maybe work on some spreadsheets, and use whatever software their work installed and trained them to use.  Linux is perceived still as the painful solution.  The OS that requires guys with pocket protectors to stand next to you while you install and make sure everything turns out ok.

2. Linux has too many flavors, too many options. For most desktop users, there’s one Windows choice.  XP begat Vista, which will beget Windows 7.  That’s it.  Meanwhile, there are many dozens of Linux distro choices each with several desktop environment options, and a seemingly never-ending list of possible apps to install.  True, Ubuntu and Suse have done alot to dispel the Linux is a geek’s game only notion.  Top-shelf open source products like Open Office, Firefox, Gimp, and Thunderbird, to name a few, have made open source mainstream.  Still, there’s a lot of work to be done in bringing all the myriad of options to a more standardized package to select.

3. There’s no CTO of Linux. Linux has many chiefs, but no executive chiefs.  There’s no single person, or even body, that’s taking the responsiblity of charting the strategic course of Linux as an OS.  Yes, there are major organizations like KDE that do have standards, and of course many will argue that’s the whole point of Linux, no corporate body to man-handle the direction.  But maybe that’s what Linux needs.  We are all off in so many neat directions, but there’s not a cohesive mainstream.  Even within Ubuntu, the challenger for ‘head distro’, there is Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu, etc…  Each of these sub-distros act like separate bodies.  They even have their own websites.

4. Quality vetting of programs on Windows vs. Linux  – I’m not kidding.  Yes, Microsoft is the major abuser of releasing beta code as a finished product.  But so does the Linux crowd.  Let’s face it, there are many programs in Linux that simply don’t work with all the appliances or hardware that you have installed.  Windows, with it’s closed-source  SDK gives developers one framework with which to develop on.  The level of quality from one app on a distro to another can vary greatly.  Whereas on Windows, they all more or less are at the same level of quality.

5. OEM Software – Why does the iPhone kick every other smartphone on the market?  Because they have 50,000 (and counting) software apps developed to work on it.   When you buy a scanner, camera, printer, or any other peripheral, what are the chances that included with the device will be a Linux version of their proprietary software?  When a consumer buys a Nikon Camera, or a Canon Scanner, they want to use Nikon’s or Canon’s software that came with the box.  It’s part of the cognitive dissonance of afirming that the right product was purchased.  You and I know that Linux can most-likely handle everything that these OEM apps do, and sometimes better (Kooka rocks),  still 90% of the computer users out there don’t want to hassle.

What can be done?  In my next instalment, I’ll offer some suggestions.  Please share your thoughts and comments as well.

13 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why the World Still Uses Windows – Can Linux Ever Catch Up?”

  1. Single most important factor i see is that nearly more than 90 % new Laptops or desktops comes with Windows as pre installled.
    This itself puts Linux on backfoot which means lot of catching up.

  2. I don’t think your top reasons are the fundamental reason. That one can be found looking at History of the PC:

    Once upon a time there were two graphical OS: Geoworks and Windows. But something was lacking in Geoworks: A spreadsheet application. People don’t remember this anymore especially Geeks.

    They can’t also remember that People in Enterprise at the very beginning of the PC, were ordering a PC it just because of Visicalc the first spreadsheet ever conceived.

    Linux still don’t have a decent Office Suite for Business Power Users (I mean with a scripting language understandable by mere mortals, not like OpenOffice which require Java skill). I am part time trader and I still can’t use Major Trading Softwares on Linux. I don’t care about Windows or Linux, I do only care about what Real World Applications they can offer.

    Why Geeks seem never catch this simple equation ?

  3. Your point number one is tongue in cheek right? I mean the latest Ubuntu I installed was easier than the windows I had to reinstall. Still chances for problems. OEM Windows disks are full of crapware, but they do support the system that they were built for. That’s an advantage for reinstalling. The gap is closing plain and simple.

    A trading application would be useful. I suppose the nerds working on the software out there need to be given a mission. Also the traders out there inclined to pursue Linux realy should latch on and get behind any existing solutions that might be hidden out there or help design a fresh one. Trading is an interesting business from what I gather. A couple big data companies basically milking as much money as they can for live and delayed data. So they can choose who they want to work with and who to lock out.

  4. In point 1 there is this sentence “The average computer user is still very non-computer literate”.

    I’d say the average computer user is ALWAYS going to be very non-computer literate. And this is the reason linux desktop adoption has been slow. The linux crowd enjoys the fact that the OS isn’t dumbed down. They feel smarter for using it and like it that way. But then they turn around and bash “dumb” Windows users. The irony is they’re too stupid to understand that the vast majority of people out there aren’t tech geeks and don’t have any interest in tech at all. They just simply need to use a computer be it for work, internet or email. They don’t want to study CS and learn how a ‘nix OS runs under the hood.

  5. When people will understand that games is the ONE thing linux dont even come close to.

    Office suite?Possible.
    OEM? Possible.
    Easy Installation? Possible.
    Games without directx? Very difficult.

  6. Oziel,

    DirectX is NOT the only way to write games. In fact OpenGL (especially 2.0) benchmarks better than DirectX, and is completely cross platform. Also several games run on Linux, AND if you know how to install and use WINE, most of the really popular games play without issue.

    Games will almost certainly be a problem for Linux, but if more people switch to Linux then game makers will be forced to code for it or risk losing customers.

    As for the rest of the article, there’s a lot of holes. For one thing, when it comes to standards there’s also the HIG standards that Gnome/KDE developers have been following for years. Also, the vetting of programs argument is flawed in that the Add/Remove Programs option in Ubuntu allows a user to pick the popular apps that DO work quite easily. And the issue of hardware support has seen major issue reductions in the last 5 years alone.

  7. How many people drive a car and have to take it to someone else to do something simple like an oil change? A Linux user is akin to those people that change their own oil, their not afraid of getting dirty, under the hood, with the possibility that they my screw something up… in fact (most) *enjoy* that.

    Most Windows users are akin to the people that can’t / don’t want to / won’t check their own oil… then complain because their engine knocks (but do nothing, “My pc used to be so fast, but it’s just slow now. I guess I used up all my memory.”), and then pay big when their system breaks down.

    We need to educate, children especially, that computers are not ‘fool-proof’ that they are not absolute, that they do make mistakes, break down and need maintaince. And just as it’s easy for any ‘normal’ person to check the oil in their car, it’s also easy for any ‘normal’ user to check for mal-ware and remove it. Mostly, above all, at least us American’s need to stop being so damn lazy and educate ourselves… you expect to eat food without knowing what’s in it (*and complain because you got sick), drive a car without knowing what makes it work or keeps it running (*and complain because your breakpads wore out and now you got in a fender bender), and use a computer without wanting or knowing anything about them (*and complain because you gave some dude all your personal information, and then he stole your identity)

    … just 2cents

  8. I’m sorry, but this list it’s still partying like its 1999.

    1. The normal people ‘not computer-litterate’ DON’T INSTALL OS’s. Even installing windows, they need that same geek on the phone giving them ‘tech support’. They want a system that runs out-of-the-box, and Linux has offered that for years. It’s even better at it now(netbooks?)

    2. The ‘many options’ thing is an argument already old and dusty. Today, most distros come from 3 or 4 main roots; so, if you use ubuntu, you use debian(they have different things, but the base is the same); it’s the same if you use fedora/redhat/centos/ and so on. If that can be ‘scary’ to customers, then just OEM the ones that have made it to the mainstream! Put systems with Fedora/Ubuntu to the end customers, and that’s it. There are distro teams that don’t care that much about OEMs, they want to be an ‘alternative’ choice for computer literate people(like Slackware), or just have another market in mind(servers, etc.). This argument has been debated and thrown away long time ago.

    3. I don’t think Red Hat needed a Linux CTO in order to be where it is right now; nor Ubuntu. The Linux Foundation, Open Source Development Labs,and also conferences like Linuxworld can show an insight of the CTOs involved in the Linux evolution.

    4. I think this one could be acceptable, given the fact that windows is one and only one environment to code on(mind Vista); Linux, because of its different main roots has different environments to consider. But again, Linux apps can be just binaries(as .EXE files) and get installed and used like that if making packages is too complicated(which I think it may not). This is the case of VMware for example, XLite, and others.

    5. The problem with OEM software, is that OEM manufacturers BUILD with Windows already. If the OEMs manufacturers just stopped treating Linux as ‘the weird option’ and start sending systems with it, OEM software houses should be forced to consider developing for them. It should be the same way Apple achieved MacOS drivers and support, with a really low percentage of world usage.

  9. @cesar santamaria If Linux is better now on netbooks, why has Windows XP gained almost 80% share of Netbook OS market at the cost of Linux market share? Why?

  10. I have installed Fuduntu Linux and really liked it.
    Only to discover, that it is not developed any more and all repositories of applications are closed.
    I have bought Samsung Note 2 smartphone and liked Android, based on Linux, because of effortless search and installation of applications.
    Combine beautiful and consistent interface, speed, simplicity and Android like search and installation of applications – and I will use Linux most of the time.

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