It is one of life’s truisms that people hate change. It seems to me, in order for people to change from using what they have, someone has to prove that there is an alternative that is not only as good as what they use, but clearly better (otherwise, why spend the time learning a new way of doing things just to stay even). In my opinion, Linux has not made this case, yet.
As a GNU/Linux (hereinafter “Linux”) desktop user for several years now (Caldera, Red Hat, SUSE, Gentoo, Kubuntu, Xandros, etc.), I have looked with amusement over the debate on whether Linux is ready for the desktop (as opposed to
being used to run servers, where it is in many ways superior to Windows).
It seemed, every so often, a Linux supporter would declare that this year would be the year that Linux became ready for most computer users (i.e., for the most part, those who use Windows and the desktop applications like Word, Excel, etc. that run on it).
But year after year, he or she would be wrong. Most people were not switching from Windows to Linux. If anything, they were switching to OS X or not switching at all.
Perhaps in frustration, some Linux supporters would come up with all kinds of explanations about how Microsoft was cheating/lying/using Fear Uncertainty and Doubt to keep the masses from seeing the obvious superiority of Linux (some of which may even have been true). But the great majority of Windows users just shrugged and ignored them.
Although I don’t consider myself to be a Linux expert, I can do most of what I need to do in Linux. But I’m not sure that the majority of Windows users can because Linux (and the applications running on it), even at its best, are still too fragmented, unstable, and user unfriendly. Going further, contrary to most Linux supporters, I don’t think things will change much, in the near future, to address these problems.
Along those lines, Fake Steve Jobs has a rant that makes some good points. But, I think, Asa Dotzler has a well reasoned post that is closer to hitting the mark on what needs to occur for Linux to move forward. Based on his experience with Firefox, where he is instrumental in its development,
he breaks it down into: migration, stability, simplicity, and comfort.
Obviously, some of these are higher level constructs but the point is, until these are addressed, the majority of Windows users are making the rational/logical decision to stay with what they know. Until more Linux users and especially developers accept these are problems and fix them, Linux will always be just one year away from being ready for the desktop.