Desktop Linux Challenges

Linux is open source. It is distinct from proprietary software, hence an identity. Computing has gone from server to desktop…to smartphones, tablets and internet-connected TVs, and so is Linux (RHEL, Android, webOS). So why the fuss about desktop? The answer is because we can’t resist to compare Linux against Windows and Mac OS. To understand why Linux is different, you have to understand software freedom. The proliferation of Linux distros out there is due to software freedom. Linux on the desktop is fragmented not because it competes with Windows and Mac OS. Linux looks fragmented because it aims a niche market, a specific utility.

PCWorld outlines content as a major challenge for a Linux distro builder. If DRM is anathema to open source, the argument goes,

commercial content providers have no incentive to embrace Linux. Even if the open-source community were willing to go along, the DRM arena is dominated by “deep, deep patent pools,” making a free, open-source alternative unlikely anyway.

Second major challenge is the “alpha-quality” drivers for audio and video hardware. True, this is indeed an issue unless commercial vendors like ATI and Nvidia put their binary drivers on equal footing with Windows and Mac OS. This is one thing that FOSS purists would never accept but otherwise, there is a compromise. If we can push these graphics vendors to release quality drivers, the better.

On the other hand, in a world dominated by cloud computing and online experience, commercial vendors easily eclipse Linux on the desktop. If Ubuntu is going to compete with the big boys, it has to compete with the back-end (app stores, platforms) and front-end (hardware device as well as software like the user interface). The operating system is simply an interface to a device (like Android) or an interface to an integrated online experience (like iOS).

The desktop is only a part of overall computing. Linux on the desktop each fulfills a certain niche of its market, a customized solution to its problem. That is the essence of Linux. You can tailor fit a Linux distro to your liking, or build one for yourself.

Linux may not become Windows or Mac OS. It doesn’t have to. Linux fulfills its purpose when it serves as a window to public awareness that there is free alternative to proprietary software. Free as in freedom and costs nothing.

That is what desktop Linux is all about.


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