back to article IBM Linux chief: Chasing desktop Windows a 'dead-end'

IBM says that battling for desktop market share against Windows is a "dead-end" for Linux. Bob Sutor, IBM's vp of open source and Linux for IBM, opened the inaugural LinuxCon conference held in Portland, Oregon on Monday with predictions for the open source desktop, telling developers they won't thrive unless they specialize. …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    IBM gives the best predictions!

    Didn't they say once:

    "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

    - Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

  2. Brian Miller

    The OS is a means to an end

    "Most people say, 'I don't want to be bothered. It just works. I want to do the other parts of my job, and I want to go home,'" said Sutor.

    Yeah, that's right! The operating system is on a computer to run the applications and services. The user is not supposed to also be a system operator and/or a developer. Stuff is supposed to be installed by just loading it on the system from a package. The user does not want to compile source code, and then configure it with some arcane syntax. These are people who have problems with "copy" and "paste", and will never comprehend awk, sed, grep, and regular expressions. The Windows command prompt is a foreign element to them, let alone switching GUIs. (I even know some "developers" who are freaked by a command prompt.)

    What a lot of appologists forget is that Linux is a run-alike of Unix, which was developed for mainframe computers. Hello, good to see that someone remembers that! Specialization ("niche-craft" in whalesong) is a great thing. Embrace it and thrive!

  3. Kevin Bailey

    Ordinary users are fine with Ubuntu

    Most ordinary users don't care about what operating system is used - because they don't even know what an operating system is.

    They need their computer to work reliably - and be able to run the programs they need to use.

    For many, many small businesses the users just need Email, Web and Office - and the ability to print.

    Two points arise now -

    1. Ubuntu does what these users need. And does it simply and reliably.

    2. It's far easier to install Ubuntu than to install any version of Windows.

    We've converted a couple of small business PC's for the cost of an hour's installation and and hour's training.

    The most amazing thing is this - weeks later we've hardly heard from them. Both users are happily working away every day. Comments have been,

    'Can't believe how fast it is'

    'It's so easy to find where my files are.'

    And the thing is - those PC's will be working perfectly from now on. No viruses, no slowing up. There will be absolutely no reason to go back to Windows.

    Once more and more of this level of PC converts the offices which convert will be larger and larger.

    I'm going to stick my neck out here and make a prediction - the Linux (probably Ubuntu) desktop will effectively replace Windows within ten years.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    What do we expect, from the company that brought us


    DOS was invincible once.

    So was Windows.

    Then there was Vista, and the world changed. Just a little bit at first, but suddenly the IT directors started getting questions from the rest of the board about "return on investment", "business benefits", and that kind of stuff.

    Quote from IBM: "Most people say, 'I don't want to be bothered. It just works. I want to do the other parts of my job, and I want to go home,'"

    How many Windows users or admins find that Windows consistently delivers that kind of experience? I've only been using Windows since Windows for Playgroups 3.11, but I've never yet known any installation where Windows has really "just worked". I have known lots of installations where incompetent "professionals" and incompetent product design/implementation which are "industry standard" in the Windows world combine to reduce productivity in a way that wouldn't be accepted from any other "utility" class service (how often is the electricity off for hours or even days on end?)

  5. rhdunn

    Catch 22

    Windows has the majority share on the desktop. This means that hardware manufacturers focus on this platform (especially graphics card and made-for-Windows hardware), so hardware support is less than ideal. Software developers and game developers focus on Windows as it has majority share. As a result, Windows keeps its majority share.

    If people like Redhat and now IBM give up on the Linux desktop, hardware manufacturers will have less incentive to care and major applications slip (adobe give up on flash support, mozilla drop Linux as an officially supported platform, as does OpenOffice). This then results in more people abandoning Linux.

    The same goes, as mentioned in the article, if Linux focuses on being a niche platform -- why should OpenOffice be supported on a platform that has specialised on providing a web-only platform, for example? I don't want to see this happen -- if it did, though, I would revert back to a LinuxFromScratch system.

    Linux can -- and does -- make a good desktop platform. Is it perfect? No. (But neither is Windows.) One of its strengths (and weaknesses) is that it is very flexible: it can run on anything from mainframes, desktops, laptops, netbooks down to smartphones, portable media players and routers.

  6. E 2

    "You won't thrive unless you specialize"

    Linux has specialized considerably already, just look at all the kinds of devices it is used in now. Of course it could specialize and thrive even more.

    I have XP as second OS on my box because I like to play FPS games sometimes. That's the only thing I've used Windows for in years. If the games developers published for Linux as well as Windows I'd remove Windows altogether.

    Games aside, Linux is great on the desktop. People just don't like to change.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    Seriously? We're this many years into Linux and we still haven't figured out who and what to target Linux at? My God, would someone who is NOT a geek and has some clue about business and marketing please step up? Frankly, the geeks are screwing it up left and right. They've taken it as far as they can. It's time for someone who doesn't have the Star Wars trilogy memorized to give Linux some DIRECTION. Otherwise I'll be reading an article just like this one 10 years from now.

  8. Goat Jam
    Gates Horns

    I don't care about chasing any market

    I just want to be able to buy a laptop without paying "The Windows Tax" for something I won't be using.

    I couldn't care less if most everyone else went a bought Windows anyway.

    Computer OS's should not be like Religion except in the sense that you should be free to choose your own. Currently we have a situation where everyone is forced to financially support a particular "religion" despite practicing another or private.

    It has to stop

  9. Glenn Thigpen

    Linux does not need to "chase"

    Linux does not need to chase or emulate Microsoft or Apple. All it needs to do is "be there" and continue to improve the user experience and applications that the users want. Linux does not need to experience rapid growth in any sector to sustain or mollify investors.

    Microsoft will have to trim down the prices of its operating systems and reduce the burgeoning hardware requirements necessary for a new release to operate adequately or it will begin losing market share.

    The only way to stop Linux from claiming more turf incrementally is for Microsoft to litigate it or legislate it out of existence. Of course, Linux could implode all on its own due to infighting and scratching. I hope that neither of those scenarios are realized.

    I do not hate Microsoft or its products, but I also do not want to have to go back using them.

    Glenn Thigpen

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Having a billion and one versions all chasing after the same goal is bad for market share? wow! And suggesting that some pretty big changes are required too? And, what's that Mr IT guy? The version you want to install on my company's desktops is free (from both price and supplier support)? That sounds dodgy.

    Get AutoCAD and MS Office 2003 / 2007 working on Linux- perfectly and seamlessly. THEN you'll be almost ready to claim you're ready for the bulk of office environments. Don't give me the "there are plenty of free alternatives" line, just make AutoCAD and Office work. Alternatives aren't what people know.

    The key to Desktop dominance is through the Office. Take over someone's office environment and make them comfortable with it.

    Then you make it easy for them to install it at home.

    Then you stand a chance of getting to an Apple-level marketshare.

  11. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    @Brian Miller

    @Brian Miller, you're making an excellent argument for Linux and against Windows!

    """Most people say, 'I don't want to be bothered. It just works. I want to do the other parts of my job, and I want to go home,'" said Sutor."

    This Sutor quote, well, people just seem to have Ubuntu work and stay out of the way more than I've ever seen Windows do. Smooth-running windows desktops EXIST, but (other than in office settings where they are externally managed) are not the norm! Almost every Windows sytem I see in the hands of ordinary users is all f'ed up!

    "Yeah, that's right! The operating system is on a computer to run the applications and services. The user is not supposed to also be a system operator and/or a developer."

    Umm, and this argues for Windows how? You've got a virus scanner and adware software to install and keep up to date, you've got Windows Update, but oh.. that only updates *Windows*, so then you are supposed to either check if every other package is up to date, or they check for you and independently hassle you to update! Also, if you change hardware, you have to reinstall windows, no way around it. That is a serious pain! Ubuntu and most Linux distros? They actually USE packages, so a "Windows Update"-like updater actually updates EVERYTHING. If I have a system acting up, I can just move my hard disk over, simple as that, Ubuntu (and a lot of distros) deal with going into a totally different system no sweat.. it does make hardware upgrades less exciting when I've got the exact same software, but saves MASSIVE time compared to having to install a copy of windows, virus scanner, adware, tweak what I want, updates, updates, and more updates, etc.

    "Stuff is supposed to be installed by just loading it on the system from a package."

    This makes the best argument for Linux -- this is how installs on most distros work. Windows doesn't usually USE packages, it uses .exes that install software. (.MSI packages are only used by sys admins as far as I know.). And since it has no package manager, the packages do not stay up to date, unlike under Linux where the package manager keeps your apps up to date all in one place. On my Ubuntu box, it says "You have 25 updates available", you click on that baloon, click "Install Updates", and you are done. This can be set to be automatic. In Windows, Windows Update is more or less similar but ONLY handles Windows (and maybe office), everything else has it's OWN update methods, or doesn't update at all.


    Anyway.. I don't agree with the IBMers pessimism about Linux on the desktop. The general inertia of Windows is spot-on, but I disagree that there's much catch-up for Linux to do -- I've found it superior to Windows personally. I do wonder if Windows will pull a "CP/M"... back in the day, CP/M looked unstoppable, until a shift from Z80s to 8088s kicked in and the CP/M market share collapsed (there WAS a CP/M for 8088 but it didn't catch on.) I question if Microsoft could get a Windows port in a timely matter to, say, ARM, even if they wanted too. I do agree that using Linux to fill specific markets and niches is smart though -- both the kernel and packages are very flexible in terms of what can be put in and left out making the whole system highly flexible to a particular market's needs.

  12. David Harrington 1
    Thumb Up

    Reality hits hard

    Linux has been trying for many years to become the dominent player in the desktop market and has resolutely failed, a fact which Linux fans should wake up and accept. Microsoft may have dropped the ball with Vista, but this has mainly been to the advantage of Apple - which is just another Microsoft in sheep's clothing. Now Windows 7 looms and frankly, Apple are scared because Microsoft have a product which compares well for usability and is cheaper (at least with the introductory offers), and Linux devotees are scared because it performs well too. With these advantages gone, what is there left for Windows' competitors?

  13. Mark 65

    @Ordinary users are fine with Ubuntu

    Linux isn't always the best with printers, especially multi-function ones. Driver disks from manufacturers are Windows and maybe OSX but no Linux. That's not Linux's fault but then again the end user with their shiny new paper-weight isn't likely to give a toss either.

    Canon do Linux drivers on download from their site but that's not good enough for your average point click user who'd just about manage an install disk so the issue remains. Multi-functions are a pretty prevalent category these days.

    For the record, Windows 7 installs like Ubuntu. Very little fuss and no 20 questions staged interactive install.

    These "simple" users are probably still better off with OSX in my opinion as it is still more friendly to the pleb.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC Posted Monday 21st September 2009 21:46 GMT

    "...still haven't figured out who and what to target Linux at?"

  15. yossarianuk

    The majority of people have no issues using linux

    'Most people' are not technical in anyway, and barely know windows .

    I have installed ubuntu (and mandriva) for 8 people (some in couples so partner also uses it) for people who had a malwared/virus's / beyond bother with fixing mess of windows installs (XP and Vista - vista is so bad..) - the reason they 'adapted' is because they did not really know windows.

    Once you told them to click an icon to access a web browser, word processor, etc they knew no difference - they don't really care about games,

    It's not like they knew how to do anything in the windows control panel...

    Every single one of them has never had any major issues ( i used to get various calls from about some issue they were having when running windows) , and all of them think Linux is faster than windows, most of the machines haven't been state of the art and they are not slowed down by various programs (some they didn't even install...)

    In fact one persons girlfriend 'accidentally' upgraded ubuntu versions (i.e hardy to jaunty) without really knowing what she was doing (she though she was just doing a 'normal update' - the upgrade was a 100% success ... can you imagine the same thing happening from Vista -> windows 7 ?

  16. Robert Pogson

    GNU/Linux Can Specialize on Everything

    Really. We have 200000 FLOSS projects. We are much bigger than M$. They have more salesmen than coders.

    The world of IT is worth much more than M$. They bought out netbooks and it cost them $2 billion. Let them buy out ARM netbooks. That will cost them another $2 billion. As many billions as they have, they cannot afford to buy us all. M$ cannot provide free IT to the world and still be a ripoff monopoly. By the time "7" sorts itself out, M$ will be a normal corporation scrambling to survive.

    2009 is the year of GNU/Linux on the desktop. By the end of 2010, M$ will be struggling for share on the desktop. Virtualized desktops can access web applications and do everything without all of M$'s baggage. Red Hat and IBM see that and will sell lots of GNU/Linux desktops to business. OEMs will sell many GNU/Linux desktops to emerging markets like th BRIC countries.

    Ask yourself why M$ is bothering to slander GNU/Linux with major retailers. They are trying desperately to hold onto their last stronghold. Everyone who has seen a GNU/Linux netbook will know a lie when they hear it. The jig is up.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 21:13 GMT

    You say that there has never been an instance of Windows that just works, well you might be in for a surprise if you try Win 7. I installed the Win 7 Ultimate RC on an Acer A1 netbook (completely standard N270 Atom, 1 gig of RAM, 160 gig HDD, 9.3in display) about a month ago. After a completely uneventful install, it automatically checked for and installed updated drivers for the grapics and wireless network card from the Microsoft website and has been working fast and reliably ever since, even running the Aero desktop with all eye candy enabled.

    (FYI I am not a Windows fanboy, Until recently I was running Open SUSE 11 after trying most flavours of Linux).

    Yes, this is only one install but since it is on a piece of kit that isn't even officially supported yet it bodes well for other more mainstream machines.

    I think the IBM guy has a point, If I run a server or other enterprise hardware I use a Unix derivative, for a normal consumer desktop Win 7 might give Linux a commercially unattainable target to reach.

  18. kenholmz

    To David Harrington

    @David Harrington

    "Linux has been trying for many years to become the dominent (sic) player in the desktop market and has resolutely failed, a fact which Linux fans should wake up and accept."


  19. Brian Tabone

    Linux on the consumer desktop is a waste of time

    It makes as much sense as OpenVMS or AS/400 on the desktop. You can't be all things to all people, Linux should focus on the heavy industrial iron where it excels. Grandma doesn't want to think about kernel revisions, /dev, or whether she's running KDE or Gnome.

    Like all species in the ecosystem, find your niche and thrive in it. Servers are where Linux belongs.

  20. dhcolesj

    Chasing Desktop a 'Dead End'

    This from the same group of LOSERS who wound up having to finally kill off OS/2 because they dumped the home user. IBM may know business, but that are dumber than a box of rocks when it comes to computing as a whole.

    I use Linux as my Desktop PC and I'd be grateful if idiots like this would just keep their trap shut! They don't have a clue.

  21. Displacement Activity

    Dead end? bet.

    I do all my code development on Centos 4, which is a pretty recent Red Hat clone. I occasionally do some web browsing on Firefox. Problem: Firefox 3 is not supported on Centos 4, so I'm stuck with the obsolete Firefox 2.

    Back in Windoze world. I ran W2K until a couple of months ago, and have only recently switched to XP. Installing Firefox 3(.5) on W2K was absolutely trivial, and it ran perfectly.

    Here's the reality check: W2K is 9 years old; it's older than Red Hat 7, which I used to run in 2001. RH has gone through versions 8, 9, and RHEL 1 through 5 since then. Each version was, I think, supposed to have a 5 year support lifetime, but even RHEL 4 is now obsolete and no longer supported.

    I've been waiting 20 years for a usable desktop Unix distro, and it's never happened. There's not even a usable replacement for Windows Explorer; if you can't get that right, what on earth *can* you get right? The reasons are obvious, but you can't point them out without getting a kicking from the freetards.

  22. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Its not closing the barn door after the horse has bolted...

    more like trying to make a better barn door.

    I find it hard to believe that we are arguing over the desktop - or a better way to keep in the horse, when we should be having driving lessons for our matter transporter!

    When people start using their computers as computers and not glorified typewriters with emulations of Victorian office features running in the background then perhaps we will be at the start of the computer revolution.

  23. Peter Kay

    To tread over well worn ground, again.

    Linux users don't want linux to be popular.

    There's already a popular user friendly Unix where you can buy programs off the shelf : it's called OS X. Yes, the hardware is expensive but the price of running a minority platform tends to be paying more, working harder to find things and using applications with a smaller set of well tuned functionality rather than applications with more, less optimised functions.

    If Linux wants to be popular on the desktop, it needs to have a standard desktop distribution. The fact people object to both OS X and Ubuntu indicates this may be some time coming.

    Not to mention that Ubuntu still doesn't have it where it counts. The last version I tried was 8.10, which had driver problems, confusing application repositories and the tendency to drop to a root command prompt with no help and no web browser (lynx or otherwise) when things went wrong. Not adequate for the average user.

    Windows? Installs without an issue. Vista's driver issues are a thing of the past now and it's years since I've had to resort to no more than a command prompt to fix things in Windows.

    I'd also highlight much popular open source software as being less than impressive than it appears on first glance, other than by the fact it exists at all. Open Office? Crashes repeatedly on Vista x64 performing trivial tasks - nothing else does. Firefox? 3.6a1 seems ok, but other releases are a bloated pig. Eschews native cryptography services on the platforms it runs on and has deeply shitty multilingual support. You have to search for 64 bit Windows versions.

    Yes, all the above software is free, but it also needs to compete with commercial software and often it's failing to do that. If Linux is made accessible enough to the average user, basically it'll be very similar to Windows.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Potential users

    Perhaps they should aim for sites that use a lot of computers running only a few applications. A call centre would be an obvious and extreme example. It would be a waste of money to pay for Windows licences just to run a buggy browser. There are probably also a lot of government offices, law firms, etc, where the employees are only permitted to run a few applications, all of which are available on Linux.

  25. Robert Forsyth

    The command line with a tiny bit of training is not scary

    Not that you have to use the command line for much.

    They should turn the Linux package system into a sort of App Store, OpenSuSE are sort of doing this.

    Linux will probably infect the desktop via mobile phones.

    Cheap DOS/Windows hardware made Linux possible.

    Non technical people want the excitement of a fight between Windows and something else, I don't think the Linux people care, they are saddened by people wasting money on Windows and its needed cruft.

    Take a laptop - £460 = £300 65% for the hardware £160 35% for Windows

  26. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Linux might just make it as a BIOS

    If they can shrink the bloat, dump a lot of old (and frankly obsolete) hardware drivers ans pare it down to just basic CPU, memory, USB, disk, networking, video, keyboard and mouse drivers. Then load it into a sufficiently large flashable BIOS they might have a chance.

    Yes, I know there are projects that claim to do this - but where are they when they're needed? (and more to the point, which M/board manufacturers are using it?). What you end up with is a sort of desktop PDA with a decent sized screen and boots in ... .two ... and it's there. Build in a smallish SSD and include a web browser that links to networked applications and that might, just be a hit.

    Forget configuration, updates, patches and all that malarkey. Turn the PC into a toaster that people just switch on and use.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Cost is a big factor and everyone following Windows is walking in blind. To quote one of The Register articles - - "So, Microsoft is discounting prices to dislodge Apple and build market share, with a long-term view of up-sell. And yet there's a fundamental contraction at the heart of this matrix."

    People seem to have lost sight of the fact that, like a supermarket subsidising to kill off the local corner shop ... one that corner shop is out of the market, the prices will shoot through the roof.

    Any IT manager worth their salt should recognise this situation and take account of it in their calculations. After all, running Linux isn't free ... it costs in better trained support staff rather than the monkey-see-monkey-click Microsoft junk. It's just a question of where you put your money.

    But then ... that is what our society, our managers, our money grabbing board members want ... screw tomorrow, I want profits now.

    ... and then tomorrow comes ... and then they take their golden parachutes and dive out of the plain that is crashing because it can't afford the fuel any more.

    Wasn't out fault, Gov. Yeh, right. I hooe your parachute turns in to a parashite on the way down.

  28. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    @ Brian Miller

    Did you mean to write 'These are people who have problems with "copy" and "paste", and will never comprehend regedit.exe' ?

    Yeah, Linux often requires editing text config files - but for most people, using a 'desktop' distro like Ubuntu, the user simply ticks boxes in a GUI like they do in Windows. The argument that no user can use a desktop system without learning advanced vi is like arguing that users can't use a desktop Windows system without learning advanced RegEdit and .bat files.

    Of course, when they want to do something more complicated, they can go and edit the config file itself, in Windows you have to dive in with RegEdit - that well known, highly intuitive, human readable config editor. Of course, if you make a mistake in RegEdit you will never ever render the system unbootable in a way that makes it impossible to fix ! And even using RegEdit, you'll find that Windows simply doesn't support all sorts of advanced things that Linux does out of the box.

    Of course, it's complicated configuring complicated things - which is why most desktop users don't do it (or need to do it). It's even more complicated configuring complicated things in Windows - or at least the complicated things it can actually do.

  29. Hugh_Pym

    Linux has already won

    Simply by providing an alternative it has forced Microsoft provide what the customer wants. If Microsoft did know this they wouldn't bother to pay for Linux vs Windows "Studies".

    Also Look at the difference between the way the ME and Vista failures have been spun.

    ME - "there is nothing wrong with Windows ME but you should upgrade to Windows 2000 just because it's new"

    Vista - "We have learned the lessons of Vista and you should upgrade to Win7 because it is faster and not so bloaty"

    Do you think that would have happened without a viable alternative?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Kevin Bailey

    "1. Ubuntu does what these users need. And does it simply and reliably."

    Unless you have an Intel graphics chipset (extremely common) and want to use multiple screens (very common) or any eye-candy. Or if you want to use many common printers (especially multi-function).

    Or listen to MP3s. Or watch videos. Or... I know these can be done (I have set them up), but hey are post install and not always straight-forward.

    Oh, and users WILL have to get used to the command line and, my friend, if a bit fail FAIL to the average user.

    "2. It's far easier to install Ubuntu than to install any version of Windows."

    It's about the same actually. In fact, in some ways Windows can be easier and you don't need all the post-install crap to get things going.

    Having said that, keeping a Linux bos (esp. Ubuntu) up to date is way easier than anything Windows can even dream of.

    I would love it if the Linux world would get a decent desktop distro. With XP going out of date I really want to convert - but it does not offer what I need, so I guess I am going to have to check Windows 7 compatibility and stick to Redmond. Just two things - multiscreen and printers. That's all I want, it's not too much to ask is it?

    (I know *some* drivers allow decent multi-screen; but it is simply too hard to find out which ones allow what and it is seemingly random. With Windows if you have two monitor jacks, you get multi-screen support; consistent, concise, different resolutions and it just works. C'mon Linux - hurry up and get with the 21st century!)

  31. RMartin

    Linux and desktop market share

    One word: Netbook

    You had your big chance Linux, and you BLEW IT! Now go and play in the corner with web servers while the rest of us get on with some work.

  32. copsewood

    @David Harrington

    "Linux has been trying for many years to become the dominent (sic) player in the desktop market and has resolutely failed, a fact which Linux fans should wake up and accept."

    It is also a fact that there are more flies than humans. So by your argument humans should all buzz off and eat excrement ?

  33. gerryg

    The desktop where Linux should succeed

    IBM, Microsoft, whomever, want to sell you stuff

    (I know, I know, that LBS Chair in Business Studies beckons)

    I think I read recently that 80% of PCs in the USA end up in land fill. Why? They could all run a fairly decent up to date Linux distro (using KDE, Gnome or if necessary LXDE)

    Unless you are a hardened games player, these refurbished PCs could chunter on for years with LOTD - as "blog of Helios" seeks to illustrate. (The parallel argument is that Microsoft's greatest competitor is Windows XP)

    None of this news is good for companies that sell either hardware or software. Of course they are not going to talk up LOTD, (nor ensure that Windows XP will carry on forever)

    The same old tired arguments get trotted out by these companies, their marketing departments and fan clubs.

    _If_ the consumer (anyone, actually) gets real about the environment then it's a no-brainer that they will turn to software that enables them to reuse or enhance what hardware they've already got (which could include sticking with Windows XP, but I think Microsoft will continue to work against that)

    HP already fully support all their printers and other gadgets on Linux. Others will follow.

    I have no reason to think it's different for any other distro, but this "is on the DVD" for openSUSE. Yes, perhaps it will be your techie friend that will convert your hardware. It used to be your techie friend you asked about cars, hi-fi, cameras, whatever. It's how it works.

    Friends I have converted remain happy, (all rational average users, no hardened games players). If anything need to be sorted out (usually the network, printer jam, occasionally how to use something) so what? It would be no different whatever they were using. Of course I'd get invited around more often (dinner, alcohol, mmmm) if they were running Windows

    The only tricky hardware I've ever encountered is 3G dongles, and they are solvable.

    How did we manage to be convinced that we need quad core and 4GB RAM for desktop work? How many people are actually doing home weather forecasting and/or real time cartoon animation?

    Me: Athlon 3200, 1GB, 80GB, nvidia 6200, (all over five years old) happily using KDE 4.3.1 with bling

  34. Charles 9 Silver badge

    @Kevin Bailey

    But what about Joe Ordinary who buys his software at Walmart? Last I checked, there's no Linux software there. So he's running his Ubuntu software and it's tax time and he runs off and get TurboTax or TaxCut or whatever (because it's what everyone else uses, it's what he's used to, and it has something FOSS will probably never have--guarantees). Thing is, even if WINE is installed, what are the odds that he's going to have a hard time getting the program installed?

    So you can run Ubuntu and so on with off-the-shelf hardware. But what about off-the-shelf SOFTWARE?

  35. Paul 4

    Critical apps

    The big problem for Linux is there are to many business critial apps that run on Windows. Companys don't want an OS, they want a computor that will run everything they use, and if you think that Office, outlook and IE are the only things that people want then you have never worked for a big company, or have never looked at how people are using there PCs.

    AutoCAD is a case in point. It will not run on Linux. Companys won't change to something "like AutoCAD". They want AutoCAD. Its what everyone uses and it is a very complex program, so companys are NOT going to change.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The question isn't Linux, it's corporates.

    I like Linux partially because of what it is, but mostly because I hate the way that the corporates treat my computer as if it is their play ground - the links I used in the session are at the bottom, and they are mostly el-reg articles ...

    The microphone didn't pick up the audiences shocked breaths when they learned just what the corporates are doing, how they are behaving and what they are letting their staff get away with. I think it might have got loud enough to slighly pick up the shock that the non-IT audience felt when it came to the point of the laptop engineer trying to log in to someones bank account.

    If more people knew what was really happening, they would walk away like the audience did that day ... giving serious thought to the software and services that they use.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    @ Charles 9

    Clue: Ubuntu (and other disros) come with -- a SPREADSHEET -- GASP!

    So come tax-time, that's how I do my tax. Its called double-entry book-keeping. The very real-world paradigm/thing which spreadsheets are dead good at and were largely designed to do.

    Other clue. Linux is free. There's no *need* to pop down to Walmart. Just download it or order the disc (free also) by snail-mail. It installs in 10 - 15 mins and usually works just fine, esp 9.04 I find.

    Finally, I've set up numerous PC Windows games for people I've convinced to try Ubuntu and they all seem to run just fine -- via wine of course -- but on a PC with a dual core and a couple of gig of cheap off-the-shelf memory you can't tell,

    Don't be silly.

  38. John70

    Linux Desktop

    One of the reasons that Linux hasn't made it to the desktop is commercial games.

    If games companies don't start creating games for Linux then Linux will be stuck as a server OS.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Greg Fleming

    @Greg Fleming - have you tried Gnucash .. i think that's what the ap is called. I've been doing my home accounts on it for years. i know it has got more complicated stuff in it but I don't know if it will do for you and your tax needs.

    @John70 - Unreal Tournament 2004 came with a Linux install on the same commercial DVD as the Windows install came on. It is a lot smoother on Linux, but I can't find any of the Linux patches for it :-( Also, Neverwinter Nights came in a Linux verison as well and one of the Quake engines was ported over, which is what AlienArena (in Synaptic) uses.

    I think the real killer are the mobile phone, camera, sat nav, etc., etc., manufacturers who don't supply Linux software. Fortunately, that's what Wine is for :-D

    I did talk with Toshiba about why Linux didn't come on the NB200 like it did on the NB100 series. They said that too many people returned the Linux versions because they didn't want to use a new OS, or ordered it in error ... and they didn't get enough feedback from the people who DID use Linux.

    I told them that as microshaft have the advertising bucks, if they really wanted the pay off then they needed to come up with some tutorial videos. Since then I've been trying to get the Open University, among others, to get another IT Educational program (like that one in the 80's) back on to our screen.

    Also, Tosh said that I couldn't get rid of the Windows tax on the NB200 because Microshaft had subsidised the entire damn range. If i wanted Windows off, the bare metal would cost me more. So ... thanks Microsoft, I got a cheaper netbook thanks to you!!! It is now running Linux, of course!

  40. Chris Miller

    @Greg Fleming

    Or, better yet, why not use an actual accounts ledger book, rather than a spreadsheet? It's because I don't want to waste my valuable time writing a tax spreadsheet (and running the risk of making an expensive mistake), when I can use off-the-shelf software that just works.

    And there, in a nutshell, lies the difference between Linux and Windows. My mate spends much of his spare time tinkering with his custom car. It looks really good and is probably slightly faster and better spec'ed than my bog-standard model. But mine gets me to work/the shops just as quickly and effectively and I can devote my leisure time to more interesting (to me) pursuits.

  41. MonkeyBot

    @ gerryg

    "How did we manage to be convinced that we need quad core and 4GB RAM for desktop work?"

    Well it was that or try and fit a nitrous system to my 14yr old Corsa. The computer's cheaper in the long run and less likely to explode and kill me.

  42. Peter Kay

    The command line *is* scary

    How to do multimonitor using two Nvidia cards in Ubuntu 8.10:

    Stick Ubuntu 8.10 on, try to get 3+ monitor multimonitor going on Nvidia. Note that the oh so wonderful open source driver can't do that and you need to used a closed binary driver. Tick box that says 'yes, fuck off and give me the driver that works - I don't care where it comes from'.

    Now watch as the system crashes due to including the wrong components (kernel driver support and Nvidia driver are the wrong versions, IIRC). Use recovery menu to recover X.

    It doesn't work.

    Drop to command line. No help. No anything. No way to find out what's wrong unless you have another system with a web browser on it.

    What you actually have to do is sudo to root, then apt-get lynx or similar, then navigate websites in text mode to find out what to download, then drive FTP or lynx, then run the app and remove all the old cruft, then reboot.

    Then it works. Oh so easy for a beginner.

    How to get multimonitor working in Windows :

    Go to display properties. Select 'extend desktop onto this display'. Click ok. No reboot required.

    Perhaps not quite an every day occurence, but not ridiculously rare, either.

    Oh, and just to be fair :

    How to get multimonitor working in OpenBSD

    X -configure and a mild tweak gets same card multimonitor working seamlessly. Try to add another card. Fail, despite xorg.conf fiddling.

    Ask on mailing list. Theo de Raadt tells you 'Xorg have fucked up multi card multimonitor. complain to them'.

    Give up.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    @ Chris Miller

    "Or, better yet, why not use an actual accounts ledger book, rather than a spreadsheet? It's because I don't want to waste my valuable time writing a tax spreadsheet (and running the risk of making an expensive mistake), when I can use off-the-shelf software that just works."

    I DO keep a ledger too -- and its quite invaluable. What's your point? You only have to set up a tax spreadsheet ONCE. I find it quite simple and unobtrusive. If you find it otherwise then maybe you don't like or understand the concept of Dr/Cr columns or spreadsheets generally. There are accounts apps for Linux that will work as simply as anything on Windows and even actually open files from these. This is the kind of juvenile nonsense that gets trotted out all the time. I write software for Windows myself, I just don't personally use it.

    @ Michelle Knight -- yes I know about GnuCash. Don't want to use it. Spreadsheets are actually quite good. And accountants like them. I find.

  44. Steven Walker

    @Brian Miller

    Have you actually seen a Linux desktop that is less than five years old? Your ignorance is breathtaking. Download Ubuntu, burn a CD, boot it up and take a tour. I promise you will not have to do any compiling or use sed, awk, grep etc.

    My 85 year old non techie mother can do that so I guess you can.

  45. Neil Cooper

    Linux just works

    >>> "Most people say, 'I don't want to be bothered. It just works.

    Yeah, Same for me. Thats why I switched to Linux as my desktop and have never looked back.

    One day I just got totally fed up with all the endless Microsoft annoyances that other people are so used to living with they dont even see them any more. Not that Linux doesnt have its own problems, but once you're set up, Ubuntu is a whole lot more usable, more powerful, and much friendler than Windows, especially Vista.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    OS2 Warp is going to be a winner !

    OOps, no it wasn't

  47. Tom Maddox Silver badge
    Gates Halo

    It's just . . .







    The fact is that Windows has better support for all of these things. Linux is slightly more stable (as long as you have the right drivers and kernel modules) and ideologically 99.44% pure (not as pure as GNU Hurd, of course, but close), but the Windows ecosystem is much broader, and that alone keeps people attached to Windows.

  48. Marco van Beek

    Lack of consistency...

    My biggest disappointment with Linux desktop applications is the lack of cohesion. Every PIM programmer and every email programmer creates their own address book system, instead of using LDAP. Virtually nobody supports CalDAV. Outlook with Exchange is a massive USP and until every single Linux desktop programmer understands that the reason that Linux has succeeded in the server market is that everybody has been following open standards, they will continue to think that having 20 different address books is acceptable.

    I also believe that we, as users, have been dragged into a work ethic that is based on an idea that was developed decades ago, and has little relevance to real day-to-day work.

    What we think we want and what we actually need are so far apart it's scary. All systems are so low down the usability scale that any coordination at desktop application level will win users.

  49. Chris Miller


    There's no reasoning with a zealot, is there? I'd love to live in your fairytale world where tax rules never change. Good luck with your next audit, I've a feeling you're going to need it.

  50. Kevin Bailey

    Linux isn't always the best with printers

    'Linux isn't always the best with printers'

    When I plug in a compatible printer to Ubuntu I get it installed in about four clicks and it takes about two minutes. Far, far easier than Windows. No faffing about with CD's.

    The exception is for host based printers - but hopefully the manufacturers will see that they're missing out on decent percentage.

    For example, HP support Linux really well - so it's the only printers we buy.

  51. Kevin Bailey

    Boy - I think we do have MS drones worried.

    >>Unless you have an Intel graphics chipset (extremely common) and want to use multiple screens

    What - like what works perfectly on my Dell 1525 running Ubuntu.

    >>Or listen to MP3s. Or watch videos. Or... I know these can be done (I have set them up), but hey are post install and not always straight-forward.

    All fine here

    >>Oh, and users WILL have to get used to the command line and, my friend, if a bit fail FAIL to the average user.

    Ummmm. My seventy year old mum has not had to resort to the command line yet.

    >>t's about the same actually. In fact, in some ways Windows can be easier and you don't need all the post-install crap to get things going.

    Ummmm.... You got that the worng way around - heck after a simple Ubuntu install you even have a full office suite - with Windows you're just starting the process of AV progs, firewalls, anti-spyware, decent browser, etc etc etc.

    Please - try out Ubuntu the latest version of Ubuntu - sounds like you may hve had a bad experience with one of the early ones.


    The FUD machine is broken.

    > Linux has been trying for many years to become the dominent player in the desktop

    > market and has resolutely failed, a fact which Linux fans should wake up and accept.

    Linux was used as a blunt instrument by OEMs to force Microsoft to extend the lifetime of XP. Linux remains a stated threat to Microsoft in SEC filings and propaganda presented to retail sales clerks. Linux has by no means "resolutely failed" in terms of "domination".

    Things are only getting better. Interfaces improve. Applications are improved. New applications are created. Corporate support improves.

    In most of the things that people generally do with computers, Linux is a drop in replacement.

    There is no need for the current Linux user to think of themselves as something akin to a BeOS or Amiga user.


    Try some better lies next time.

    > Or listen to MP3s. Or watch videos. Or... I know these can be done

    > (I have set them up), but hey are post install and not always straight-forward.

    Not straightforward?

    All you do is open up the file and let the package manager sort things out.

    It's hardly rocket science and it is EASIER than what Windows will subject you to in identical conditions. This is simply absurd and a**inine as a FUD talking point. Update your FUD. Run something from this millenium and get better talking points.

  54. Farai

    The entire community should just

    get behind the Linspire initiative, or something very similar! Before Linspire was linspire, it was Lindows, a linux distro trying to mimick and deliver the experience that people are familiar with in windows. I understand Linspire is now under/alongside Xandros, so i don't know where it lost it's way, but the idea was perfect. Their pre-installed distro was even being sold in WalMart!

    Sounds stupid to some maybe, but with enough momentum and clout this should have been the movement that brought linux to the massive masses.

    Speaking as a non-geek, what linux needs is consistency and predictability. It's fine that it's so flexible and diverse and all things to all geeky men, but in a world where most people have a specific list of things that they expect to be able to do with/on a computer, the linux community should really be working to establish what that list is, develop child-proof solutions for each of those items on the list, bundle those things into a distro, back it with unprecedented hardware support and watch the thing fly.

    As people ask for more, reach to that massive linux shelf, and give them more. Make it child-proof, and it will sell itself....

  55. Torchwood

    Why should anyone bother to support linux?

    >>The exception is for host based printers - but hopefully the manufacturers will see that they're missing out on decent percentage.

    Sure, as soon as they start considering 1% as "decent" percentage.

    The same goes for other things. Why is there no AutoCAD for Linux - because it would cost more to develop and support it then money they could earn from it.

  56. Michael Schmidt

    Dead before arrival?

    Linux has made great strides in very few years. It is reliable, efficient, and quite usable. Gains continue to be made. I'm sad to see people declaring it dead just as it is starting to take off. I've used nothing but Ubuntu for my desktop for about three years now. I would never go back to Windows. Part of the problem is predatory business practices by Microsoft, wherein folks are pretty much forced to buy their OS. If consumers had the choice - this PC with Windows or the same with Linux for $100 less, desktop penetration would improve.

  57. E 2

    @Kevin Bailey

    Ubuntu is Linux' answer to MacOS, and it's adherents betray the same slavish devotion to the object of their fetish.

    What you should have said: "Ordinary users are fine with Linux and a dumbed Gnome deaktop."

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