Linux on the desktop? 10 years on

Just under 10 years ago I was asked to comment in the press on the (then) recent news that Dell would make linux available for its Inspiron laptops. My conclusion at the time was that choice for desktop users was a good thing but that support fears would probably keep the masses away.

A decade later and what has changed?  Quite a lot as it turns out.  “Always on” Internet access has become a reality and the “home” environment is no longer the poor brother in the connectivity stakes.   The net-book is now a recognised term in the retail environment and the “entry level” models from several mainstream manufacturers are shipped with Linux not Windows.  We can talk about Splashtop another time but if I was describing a military action this might look like a pincer movement (Linux clearly exists in the corporate server environment, if the employee’s get comfortable with Linux on their home and mobile devices…..)

With our ubiquitous Internet access has come new ways of socialising, so community interaction and knowledge sharing is commonplace, when we need help for a software problem we are more likely to seek it on the web than by making a call to a conventional support line.  So in this context support for Linux is very available and in a format everyone is becoming comfortable with.

The final barrier in my mind 10 years ago was ease of use in the context of installation, maintenance and interoperability.  If only it were as simple as inserting a disk, with a graphical easy to follow wizard, if only there was a check for updates feature via the Internet, if only there was an office automation package that functioned well and could swap documents back and forth with proprietary market leaders…  Wait a minute I just got all that!  Which is what prompted me to write this blog –  Red Hat’s Fedora core 6 ticks all these boxes and is an excellent ambassador for the state of Linux as a mainstream solution today.  

I also note that the arrival of Windows 7 beta has fired up the who will crush who debate again, and I am here to tell you there is space for all.  Widespread (consumer) adoption of linux will be a good thing.  Choice and competition on the desktop – hurrah!


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