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.