Linux struggles to make a dent in desktop

Everyone's favourite open source OS is still out in the cold


TuxI'd love to see viable alternatives to the current mainstream operating systems. The PC market stands ready to be revolutionised by something new. But is Linux the agent of change that can do all of that? Not yet, I'm afraid.

Every few years I take a fresh look at the question of whether Linux can make it on the mainstream desktop (or laptop). For a while last year, things were looking up for Linux. Many of the early netbook vendors were forgoing Windows licences and instead offering consumers machines that ran some form of Linux. That didn't last long, though. Return rates for Linux netbooks were much higher than for their Windows counterparts, and most netbooks today are sold with some version of Windows, not Linux.

What this means is that, though Linux is a great value for many server applications, it's still a non-starter on the desktop.

None of this is meant to suggest that Linux on a PC can't be done. It is possible, and more than a few people do it. Richard Stallman may not be typical, but you can read all about his setup here . It's not something that's going to win a lot of converts among the mass market of computer users, though.

As he explains it, he uses a Lemote Yeelong, a netbook with a Loongson chip and a 9-inch display. "I spend most of my time using Emacs. I run it on a text console, so that I don't have to worry about accidentally touching the mouse-pad and moving the pointer, which would be a nuisance. I read and send mail with Emacs (mail is what I do most of the time). I switch to the X console when I need to do something graphical, such as look at an image or a PDF file. Most of the time I do not have an Internet connection. Once or twice or maybe three times a day I connect and transfer mail in and out."

Since most of us would go back to using paper, pens, envelopes and stamps before using the open source text editor Emacs, it still seems likely that it's going to be a Windows and Mac OS world for the foreseeable future.

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