Linux can never be ready for the desktop
I commented on Cedric’s blog entry , so I thought I would make my views more explicit. Linux, the kernel of an OS that includes a bunch of GNU software, can never be ready for the desktop. A particular distribution could be a desktop OS but they are going to have to really commit to something.
Often you will hear in the press that this will be the “Year of Linux “ or that “Linux is ready for the desktop !” or some such non-sense. There is no way that Linux itself will ever be any such thing. Thats like saying that “Darwin is ready for the desktop !” when it is clear that Darwin is a kernel, some device drivers, and a bunch of GNU / Apache software. Without the layer Apple calls “Mac OS X” It has no look-and-feel, it has no user interface design guidelines, it is the layer that executes applications, manages threads, talks to devices, but it rarely ever communicates directly with the user unless they open a shell.
Now that we all understand that Linux isn’t really an OS in modern terms we can start to look at what that community is doing to rectify the situation. The only Desktop OS that I have been pointed to that seems to have a prayer right now is Xandros. Unfortunately, Xandros has no identity. It is a straight Windows XP clone that even runs a bunch of Windows software out of the box. IF I WANTED WINDOWS I WOULD INSTALL WINDOWS. Maybe they are trying to make a play for the consumer that just wants to pay less. I don’t fall into that crowd, I want an OS that increases my productivity, is a joy to use, and is beautiful as well.
Maybe if the Open Source Community would focus on consistency instead of “theming” they wouldn’t be so far behind. I would compare it to the misguided idea that Sun had with the look and feel — as if anyone wanted a unique look for Java apps cross-platform when the obvious thing is that they should look like their native platform. So my advice to the OSS people that want to get a foot hold on the desktop: one UI, one set of guidelines, one set of GUI APIs. The “desktop” is not about choice, it is about productivity and transparency. While you’re at it, make sure that binaries compiled on one Linux install work on all of them.
P.S. Rumors of this pages demise have been greatly exaggerated.