Has the Desktop Linux Bubble Burst?
December 22, 2006 Leave a comment
That's the question posed by this article. To be honest, I don't think there ever was a “Desktop Linux Bubble” to burst. The Linux “Desktop” continues to be an interesting thing to me. What I mean by that is, there's a dichotomy that I don't think is going away soon. On the one hand, I find the Linux desktop much easier to use and more stable than any version of Windows I have ever used. Even in XP you have to reboot to install something like a scanner (I'd not have believed that, except I just walked someone through it). While some people seem to maintain that the way things are done is XP is easier, I think they are confusing ease with familiarity. Things in Linux are typically much more logical (or maybe they just make more sense to me). On the other hand, the Linux desktop has a huge number of deficiencies. The lack of audio and video support out of the box (and as I have said before, if your answer is that all these items are in some off-shore repo, please put your hand down). There's also a general lack of what I'll call integration. Because we have such a large variety of frameworks and apps, too often they just don't work well together. This is something Apple does extremely well. This is also something the Portland Project is attempting to address, but realistically how long do you think it well be before real strides are made? Probably 2008-2009. That doesn't mean we're not making progress though. Not too long ago audio was a complicated mess in Linux. You had ESD, arts, jackd, ALSA, OSS-emulation – it was a nightmare. With the addition of the dmix plugin most of that complexity is now hidden. I haven't had an audio issue that I can think of in a while. That's real and demonstrable progress.
Now, some people seem to think the answer is for Gnome and KDE to join forces or merge. I'm not heavily into either community, but that seems really unlikely. They have fundamentally different visions and are built using completely different toolsets. A merge would basically mean throwing away everything and starting 100% from scratch. Something like Portland that allows any number of Desktop Environments to conform to a known API seems much more likely to succeed (and more more in the spirit of Linux in general). In the end, I guess I still don't understand why Linux on the Desktop is such a debated topic. Linux is an absolutely remarkable Operating System. Even more, it's an amazing testament to what can be accomplished. It's not all things to all people, and it never will be. The desktop may be a ways off realistically, but sometimes you just have to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. We have an OS here that scales from mobile phones to mainframes. We have an OS that despite its success still has a community that continues to make decisions based on technical merit and not marketing. That means the sky quite literally is the limit. We'll get there – be patient.