Linux is one of the great mysteries of the computing world. It’s an operating system that looks like a clear winner by most standards, from technical to functional. Linux supports more hardware than any other operating system and is virtually virus free. It offers many distributions which include many easy-to-install programs with complete application sets. It also comes to you at the very tantalizing price of completely free and its source code is open to examination and improvement. So why is Linux losing out to the likes of Windows, which not only incurs charges for the operating system but also for most common applications? The usability and design interface of any system can make or break it in the marketplace. We’re going to examine the exact reasons why Linux has never garnered more than 1% of the desktop computing market.
The reasons for a lack of interest in Linux are varied, ranging from the technical to a simple lack of interest. In the realm of operating systems discussion many opinions surface as to which operating system is the best or the forerunner. This of course is a vast and nebulous argument that divides groups into their respective camps and doesn’t really benefit anyone. For the people on the ground the first hindrance to using Linux is simply acquiring it.
Linux is the name of the kernel of many different distributions, each with its own name and purpose. This creates a barrier that need not necessarily be there, making things harder for new users to find and get accustomed to it. Where should people look to download or order one of the many versions of Linux? Distributors are forced to advertise their unique advantages over those of others rather than the benefits of using Linux. This kind of unintentional in-fighting between distributors makes it hard for desktop users to objectively understand their unique needs in the face of pressure from competition.
Installation is also an issue, with Windows or OS X users comparing the pre-installed ‘Enter your details here’ installation of their systems with the fresh installs Linux performs, which require more detail. In reality a brand new installation of each operating system shows Linux to be on a level playing field, and even significantly easier at times (depending on the distribution used). Of course what matters is that a user has to brave the idea that the new operating system could do damage to their system if improperly handled. Afterward, although Linux supports more hardware than any other operating system, compatibility issues can occur. Since Linux isn’t designed specifically for desktop systems more specialized hardware, like 20 button mice or even some graphics cards, may not be fully functional, preventing users from accessing their desktop.
The programs that function as what users know to be the Linux desktop are called window managers, and Linux has dozens of them. The Linux tendency towards individually catered choices shine through here too. But is this choice of radically different usage style the edge Linux needs to exploit in order to gain valuable market share?