Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Last Gasp for Linux on the Desktop?

I've been using Linux on the desktop for almost eleven years now. I enjoy it. I understand it. I'm not likely to ever leave it. I also know that I'm in a niche market. There were predictions that each year would be the "Year of Linux" and we all know where that led.

Then came the release of Vista, and the dogs started drooling. Here was the MS misstep that Free software needed to get into the game. There was some movement. We've probably seen a growth of the world user-base to about 3%.

Then came netbooks, and the future looked bright. MS didn't have anything to compete and had to extend its seven year old OS (XP) so that there was an MS offering to put on these smaller machines. Vista won't work. Not by a long shot. Victory was declared by Linuxites around the globe.

Unfortunately, Asus has announced that it's cancelling sub-10" netbooks and will offer Windows XP as the default option starting next year. (Is it just me, or does a $600, 10" netbook kind of defeat the purpose of the form factor?)

The final nail in the coffin may be Windows 7. It's lighter than Vista. Not only does it work in 512MB RAM, it's incredibly snappy. It's probably faster than XP SP3, given that Vista SP1 and XP SP3 benchmark about the same now (Since Diggers don't believe this one, see and 2). It's also pre-beta, meaning it hasn't even optimized yet. MS probably has a comeback happening in Windows 7.

Let's be serious. Netbooks are almost all shipping with 1GB RAM right now. By the time Windows 7 ships, 2GB will probably be standard. Windows 7 will probably be modular and light enough to run on phones available at that time, too.

As long as Windows 7 isn't over-priced, Any Linux-on-the-desktop movement is going to die by 2010. I'll probably still be using it, though. You can pry my freedom from my cold, dead fingers.

p.s. Halloween parties killed my weekend work, so I'll have to wait till next week to put up he TV server HowTo. Apologies.


Anonymous said...

Let's not be so dramatic.
Vista is as fast as XP, if you have a fast processor. Netbooks don't.
Also, we can never be sure about Windows 7, it could go either way.
Finally, Windows 7 will also be another learning step for those who don't want to, so we never know what will happen. Let's just wait and see instead of being so dramatic.


Just my prediction. I hope I'm mistaken.


I have a feeling that drivers will be a big problem for Windows7 as it is a complete redesign of the kernel.
So that will make it more like Mac. Leaving linux older hardware to keet up to date in functionality.

Anonymous said...

Oh but wait, you're forgetting one thing. Windows sucks. Period.

If it's not the bloat it's the business model of dumbing-down users.


Unless Windows magically stops crashing, getting viruses, needing third-party programs to keep it decently safe, "just work" and have fancier effects than Compiz, I don't see myself switching.


I don't see linux disappearing from the netbook scene but its still too much of a culture shock for many people who would LOVE to buy a "laptop" (as the masses refer to netbooks still) for under $500. Linux still has birthing pains even now and driver support is still iffy day to day.

Windows 7 could see a massive injection into that scene if it does run as well as the current pre-betas are showing. Hopefully the interface will scale well to the smaller size screens and if it does Microsoft will have a win.

dougfractal: Windows 7 isnt a new kernel, its an evolution of the Vista kernel. Microsoft's already stated that it won't require massive driver rewrites, in fact very few drivers should need changes at all. Vista now has pretty impressive driver support out of the box since developers have finally gotten on board. Have to see how it goes with further betas.


Yes $600 for a 10" laptop is a nonstarter in the market. I can get that from Dell/HP/Lenovo all day long. It also goes against the grain on what the purpose of the nettop is -- small and light.

There have been announcements of eePC's for $299 already. There is also sufficient competition in this space that the 7" screen models won't disappear anytime soon.

As to Windows7. Fact is we really don't know the final outcome. If MS continues with their Software+Service model in 7 it will be hobbled by concepts. If not they just threw away 4 years of market positioning.

But at a minimum Linux has a 4 year window still to make inroads. The major corps have gotten smart enough to wait for the SP1 release before they do major deploys. So its 2012 before major impacts are felt.



I'm just going on the announcements that Asus will be stopping sub-10" models and that they expect to be shipping Windows 7 versions by the end of 2009.

As I said, though, barring some strange, unforeseeable event, I'm not changing from my OS of choice.


dougfractal said...
"I have a feeling that drivers will be a big problem for Windows7 as it is a complete redesign of the kernel."

Actually that won't be the case as driver model will stay the same as is in Vista - with Vista MS provided base for 7, now 7 is building on top this framework.

If anyone is interested - interview with dude that's been involved in engineering 7 kernel -


Anonymous said...

I also generally agree with this. I think Microsoft Windows7 will be a good OS, but that's not why it will be popular. The reason is that companies (OEM's, manufactures of software and hardware, retail, business etc) will not move away from Microsoft products, and many are getting more entrenched in Microsoft. Microsoft is going to continue expanding it's dominance, and most people are going to be depend on one US corporation for a big part of their lives. This is foolsish. I would not recommend Microsoft, at least, to any government other than the US. The average consumer really has no choice, as when they go to computer retailer they will get a Microsoft PC, the choice is only in the brand hardware. It is up to companies to start to move towards alternatives, initially it will hard but the gains are greater. Microsoft will continue to bribe to expand their dominance, and will hold back computer development as they have done on the past. The more people give money to Microsoft, the more powerful they are going to get, it is in our best interest not to let this happen.


I guess I have not clear about my opinion because I completely agree with you. Win7 will not be "better" than Linux.

Right now, Linux is doing so well on these machines because XP is old and Vista is a pig. Win7 will be new and, by all appearances, sleek. It will fit on the devices. It will also fit with the consumers' perceptions.

Linux is making inroads now because it's the best choice, and that is fighting the natural inertia of MS users. Once Win7 is good enough, that inertia will kill Linux on the netbook.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope that Linux gets enough market share in the next year to keep it at 10%.

I've long said I'd be satisfied with a market split of 60/20/20 for MS/Mac/Linux.


There is some thing much bigger than Windows 7 or even Linux. Modular web services are the next way of computing. A computer in future needs to be able to run a web browser with a decent support set of libraries. Like Zoho, Google Documents, My Space, Google mail + integrated audio video chat and other umpteen web services will reduce the over head of a bulky operating system. Can you imagine Microsoft coming down all the way from being a giant operating system to the point of modularity. Pack everything (Mostly Junk) and collect a nice premium used to be the motto. People don't want to pay for something they don't use. They want subscription based services. I will pay for what i need when i need. Do you think MS can cater such services. Do you think they can survive selling just word and excel. They might or might not, but how fast can they make the transition. They have to redesign several aspects, and core philosophies. There are others who have already made leaps and bounds in these areas. "Recently GE got rid of MS office suites and got Zoho on subscription basis". The secret that a light weight OS like Linux is all that is needed for general day to day serious computing (Browsing, Blogging, Chatting, Office, Accounting and Audio+Video) came out with advent of net-books. This did set things in motion. People are willing to trade their PC's for net-books. MS needed to do something. So comes windows7. But still it is not easy to annihilate Linux. One of the AMD big wigs mentioned the fact that people are getting most of their work done with their cell phones these days who needs net-books (He of course over simplified). But the point is with open document and open web standards being embraced we are seeing the dawn of new era here. Computing is a right. Software is a right not a service. I don't think in your life time you will see the death of Linux. "Linux" as a name might disappear, but the spirit of open source has already mutated beyond reverse.


Let me clarify some things: I use Linux on the desktop exclusively and have since the late nineties. I don't have any issues with it. Most people, however, want to stick with Windows because it's what they know. I understand that.

I'm not talking for a second about the end of Linux. Linux will continue to be on the server. It will continue to appliancize, ending up on all sorts of smart devices.

I'm talking about Linux's big opportunity to take advantage of the largest misstep MS has made in a decade. I'm predicting it won't matter. Linux won't make the leap from niche to minority desktop choice.

Anonymous said...

"There were predictions that each year would be the "Year of Linux" and we all know where that led."

And just like there have been the yearly "year of linux" predictions, there have been the yearly "linux is gonna die" predictions.

Linux won't matter too the consumer unless its marketed at them. I could care less, I won't use anything else, I enjoy my liberty too much to switch to OSX or MS Windows.

While your in the predictions business, how about next weeks lottery numbers?


Since I've seen several tech writers discuss the same subject the last week, I don't think I'm off base.

In fact, the numbers for XP vs. Linux on the netbook are now 9 to 1. That's 10% instead of the 30% just a few months ago. MS has extended XP until Windows 7 is scheduled to come out. Since 7 runs fine in 512MB RAM, the numbers aren't going to change, and Linux will probably see a drop because Win7 will be modern with modern features.

That doesn't much matter, though. The desktop is dying a slow death. Linux is poised to own the smart phone market.

Oh, yeah, and I'll never give up my freedom, either. Eleven years has taught me that.

10 25 36 14 17 5


Rumors of the death of desktop Linux have been greatly exaggerated.

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