Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What makes Linux Desktop so Unpopular?

Ever questioned yourself why Linux Desktop is not as widely used as other operating systems such as Windows and Mac? Linux is the one of the most powerful Operating Systems in the world, being open source, and much more. Here's a few points why Linux Desktop may have been left on the shelf.

Linux is Free and Open Source

That means, there's no big business behind it, and there are no companies pumping cash in order to promote it. Non - Technical people simply buy a computer which is eye- catching, probably running Microsoft Windows. They don't care what Operating System it is. I mean, for a non- technical person, why should he care if the computer's running Microsoft Windows or Linux? Microsoft, being a cash pump, advertises Windows so that our newly- bought PCs will be pre-installed with Windows. That way, non technical people may never realize that there are alternatives, and if they do, they would find them unfamiliar. Some people see their computer as a normal home appliance. They just care if it works or not.

Lack of Driver Support

Without being popular, it's understandable that Linux systems don't get much attention from hardware manufacturers. Some Hardware drivers are coded only for Windows or Mac, leaving Linux out of the list, particularly when it comes to gaming hardware. That makes any user, particularly a non technical one very upset, as they may not be able to maximize their PC's full capabilities.

With Windows Vista and above, it's too easy for Windows to install your new devices. Some of us have even lost the idea of acquiring drivers for our specific devices. Everything with Windows is "Plug and Play"

A Less User-Friendly Environment

Versions like Ubuntu have somewhat reached a User - Friendly environment, but still not enough to reach what Windows and MAC have achieved.

Less Software Opportunities

If one tries Linux over Windows, one might have to ask whether the software used on his Windows PC run on Linux, and that is a problem. You are able to find alternative applications for Linux, however not the original application. That way, you might have to adapt to tons of new software which you use everyday, and that is frustrating at first. Moreover, some file types may just not work with alternatives, so you maybe unable to access your work done on Windows.

When we talk about buying software for PC or Games for PC, our mind constantly thinks about Windows. No one considers that the term 'Software for PC' does not mean 'Software for all kinds of Operating Systems that might be Operating on your PC' but it's just for Windows and MAC. If you go to buy a video game, you don't expect it to run on a Linux System.

Linux Communities may be helpful, however not to everyone.

There are loads of Linux communities out there which are willing to help everyone, especially new users. However, they might not realize that new users are too "Non- Technical" people coming from Windows. People who adapted on Windows, find it difficult to use the terminal and the CLI interface. It is why they just then give up and keep using Operating Systems like Windows.

But is Linux Desktop that unpopular?

On a PC? Yes it is. Linux only holds about 2% of the desktop Operating Systems share.


Some of us use a Linux System without even noticing. On Mobile Devices, Android is practically a Linux OS, holding a market share of about 55%. So now we know that if efforts are doubled on Desktop PC Linux, just like the efforts made to bring up Android, Linux may be able to start competing with other Operating Systems.

What do you think?


  1. Are you stoned, you quote figures as if FACT the FACT is that know one knows what the precentage of desktops are in FACT running linux as linux is a kernel not an OS!

    1. Cannot understand your English. Sorry. I guess I'm not the only one stoned.

  2. I am going to guess that English is not your first language.

    1. "is that know one knows" What the hell is this?

  3. It's not that difficult to figure out what he ment: "no one knows" ... but after your first paragraph I have to agree with him. Ever had a closer look at the members page of the Linux Foundation? ... no big business ... aha ...

    Maybe you worded it wrong but this article is very counterproductive as it is spreading FUD.

    P.S: I'm not a native speaker as well to prevent some more language rant ...

    1. I'm not a native speaker either, just to clear things out:)

      I'm also available for criticism so you are welcome to comment when you like. I just did not understand what he meant.

      The Linux Foundation is different issue from what we are talking about. The Linux Foundation is a non-profit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux. It holds a different scope, as companies like Microsoft earn their living out of Windows.. whilst these companies are not investing in Linux just as Microsoft invest in Windows.

    2. One of the main points about the article is not to make anyone try Linux, but to let any Linux enthusiast, developer know what might be the problem (According to my opinion, anyways). I face the same excuses everyday for people not using Linux, all of which have problems going round these points.

      If all developers, enthusiasts etc, wake up and see what problems Linux Desktop might have, we might be able to solve the problem

    3. I hope you Understand what I mean.. thanks for your comment.. Much appreciated :)

    4. Wrong: Microsoft's Chash cow is actually Office that is run on Windows. And because they are feeling the pressure of the declining PC sales they are going massive towards the cloud. But most people don't even need Word - they would be well suited with the functionality of Abiword - the problem is they don't know.

      Big Business: IBM announced they are investing 1 billion in Linux on their own system. It is the beauty of Linux that people free themselves from Microsoft's shackles. There is very Big Business with Linux - maybe very wrong worded in the article.

      less user friendly: Have you seen Windows 8? There are so many opportunities Desktop-wise that you can find something for everyone. That people don't like change explains perfectly why they hate Windows 8. Linux would mean change as well. Again: people don't know and have their doubts.

      Games: Seen Steam announcements lately?

      Drivers: agreed but even NVIDIA moves forward now. And there are products that are easier to use under Linux than Windows (3G sticks for example).

      Users don't like CLI: Don't use it. I'm not starting Firefox via CLI ... it is still in the heads of people that Linux = CLI and articles like that don't help because it is simply wrong. It's 2013 and not 1998.

      I think: More than 90% of the users are happy with Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, VLC, Shtowell/Digikam, GIMP, LibreOffice etc. - but they don't know and are scared. If we continue to tell them they are right to have their doubts nothing will ever change.

      I'm not saying that Linux on the Desktop is perfect and there is a lot of space for improvement. But the majority of Windows users are in case of a problem as helpless as they would use Linux.

      It is a problem that there are so many forks and so on. This diversity is a curse as well. But it doesn't affect somebody too much that wants to visit facebook, type a letter or send an email. Most people aren't interested what's going on behind the curtain.

    5. Some if not most of the points you mentioned, I put them under another post :)

      and most of other posts.. Maybe the wording in the title is a bit wrong.

      I agree with you that this year it seems that Linux is doing big improvements! Such as the ones you mentioned.. All in all we seem to agree in all aspects.

      As you might notice, I'm a Linux enthusiast myself, but as I said earlier, I wish to point out what problems I encounter everyday especially in my line of work, so that maybe other developers may think about it and improve it in all aspects.

      However, with reference to your points, please do read what I have written in the above link. It practically sums up what you said.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  4. Alex,

    All your conclusions are invalid (and that's putting it mildly).
    All the problems you think Linux has... are not problems per
    se, but perpetuated misconceptions by Windows users that
    would have loved to see Linux, as a "1-click does everything
    for you without the users worrying their little brains about anything and for free" kind of solution.

    I can analyse each of your points and prove to you that they
    are invalid but that would be a loooong reply.

    You also fail to state any possible solutions. Overall I find this article condemning Linux instead of helping it. And the
    internet is full of those mind you.

    Time for a different approach.

    1. Dear Anon,

      I would not consider these as 'problems' but facing reality. If Windows Users like "1- click does everything", then there should be an option to compete with Windows as it is.

      If you fail to see what is wrong, you never get anything right. If you never criticize and ask for an unbiased opinion you will never discover what your problem is. I have read tons of articles and all point out some if not all of the points below.

      There's a difference between to condemn and to criticize or to point out what is really happening and why people don't choose Linux. If people like you think that Linux is perfect, (Or any other things/issues) one might like, then they have a serious problem. It's with mistakes that we learn how to develop better solutions.

      That's my approach. Thanks for your comment

  5. What a tired rehash of all the classic tropes. There is only one reason why Linux hasn't conquered the desktop. OEM's and ISV's have tailored their business around Windows and they see no (additional) profit in switching to Linux (yet). So practically all the market gets on the shelf is PC's preloaded with Windows.

    MS spent the better part of two decades cementing their position as the "go to" platform, with legal and illegal means. The world has at some point accepted this and now a massive indrustry has Windows at its foundation. It will take a few decades to erode that mountain of Windows dependent hardware, software and (most importantly) Windows trained personnel.

    It's that personnel, that makes their bread and butter off of being Windows knowledgable, who will fight the transistion to Linux tooth and nail, as it undermines their postion in the spiderweb of Windows based business. This group will need to fade naturally, before new groups with a different agenda can start pushing Linux in to the mainstream. Consumers use what they are given and businesses use what is being pushed the most. For now that is Windows. Tomorrow? It might be Linux.

  6. this article is very flame-attractive

  7. Guys.. chill.. I am only pointing these out for Linux developers to work out on them, I am in favour of Linux, not against.

  8. Applications are the main reason the average person does not use a Linux based distro in lieu of Microsoft Windows or Apple's OSX. I've been in IT for 17 years and I've seen it time and time again. OS2, BeOs and now Linux. If a user is not willing to use an alternative application (LibreOffice vs MS Office, BricsCad vs AutoCad, FrontAccounting vs Quickbooks, etc.) then they will stay with what runs their 'beloved' apps. I switched off of MSDOS in the early 90's to OS2, when OS2 Warp failed, went back to Windows, tried BeOs but there weren't enough good alternative apps, and finally switched to a Linux based distro in late 2000. After struggling for months I finally was able to let go of MS Windows and have enjoyed superb stability for over a decade. Most people won't bother struggling to learn something new. They would rather stick to what they know, no matter how poor the product is.

    1. If users want to use their favorite applications they can use WINE or its frontend PlayOnLinux. For commercial support there also is Crossover Linux which is a commercial version of WINE. As far as I know there is no equivalent of Crossover for Windows that will run Linux desktop applications... (some of them do get ported to Windows anyway... surprise surprise).

      WINE et al don't always work the way it's supposed to but for the most part it does the trick and gets updated quite frequently.

      It's a good way to introduce users to alternatives and the idea of using alternatives for those sticking to their favorite applications.

    2. Wine is not a great alternative unless the app works perfectly. A virtual machine is better at running aplications, but clumsy. I've tried converting clients but most of the time a certain app causes a problem, Citrix 'Goto Meeting", QuickBooks Pro, Adobe CSx, AutoCad, etc. I've tried, meaning spending hundreds of hours in my career trying to give clients a Linux distro as an alternative. I've had a handful of successes and several failures. Users must be willing to let go of Windows or OSX apps.

    3. Wine does not work well with all applications especially .NET

  9. Linux doesn't have good marketing, which costs money. Most Linux distributions are marketed based on their Brand, but a brand is only as good as the marketing behind it, which costs money. Big Businesses use Linux all the time, on their Servers, on their Phones, in their gadgets; they trust Linux, but just don't commonly use the Linux Desktop by their office staff, because the staff hasn't been marketed too, which costs money. It's okay with the few personal in the know, because the staff's software costs are still a fraction of the employee costs, and to the Big Corporation, that is all manageable. To market the Linux Desktop, the Linux Brand needs to be promoted before distribution brands, which likely won't be enticing to potential new users, because that distributions brand hasn't been marketed, which costs money.

    Market Linux like this: Tout the strengths of Linux, how it differs, rather than how its the same as Windows or Mac but a cheapskates alternative. Consumers aren't cheapskates, they prefer to own things with costs associated with them, the higher the monetary costs reflects a higher value of the product they own, which reflects to their own psychological self worth, cheap or expensive, we prefer to wear a Rolex to a $3 watch, not because the product has better value, but the consumer perceives that they themselves have greater value when wearing the Rolex, simply because it costs more, and fewer will be able to also wear one.

    Tout that the menu of distributions is vast, and not just with a "Professional" or "Home" edition. Tout that you don't have to purchase a Professional Edition to avoid being spammed with popups from advertisers asking you to register for this and that, preparing to make another purchase for the laptop.

    Every distribution should help market the Linux Brand, via showcasing the Linux trademark icon, the Penguin, which always does one thing in common, access at least the shutdown menu that all distributions have, plus any other menu options they'd like to include. This gets the user to click the Penguin at least once every power cycle.

    Lastly, FOSS needs to be pushed in the public schools, and when it doesn't, vocally ask why there isn't legislation that requires public schools to teach FOSS aspects to students taking general computer courses, and then complain about the tax dollars being wasted paying tribute to corporations selling consumer products that consumers should choose, rather than public products that tax payers can actually own and rewrite within the public sphere. Tax payers don't like to waste money, because when waste money, they are not getting a psychological reward owning something with costs, that reflects their superiority as persons. In the public spear, at public schools, and in government offices, where the Tax Payers purchase products, then Linux can win, if we as Tax Payers are louder than Salespersons selling the consumer goods to Staffs that purchases consumer software for everyone else, making them feel superior, which costs money.

    1. COMPLETLEY AGREE. At least someone knowing that the post is about Linux Desktop not Linux per se.

      Someone finally knows what I mean about big businesses not pumping money.

    2. Regarding schools, I think the Raspberry Pi has a good chance of making a splash there. Let's face it, this generation is pretty much toast as far as significant and conscious acceptance of FOSS goes. Might as well focus on the next round of users before they turn into media consuming drones.

  10. I have been in the field since dos 1.0 and worked on various OS. I have a dual boot machine windows 7 and fedora. I cannot get rid of windows because of two major applications EXCEL 2010 and Sony Vegas. This BS about openoffice and libre is a complete joke. The kind of analytical work I do in excel with VBA is impossible to move to libreoffice or openoffice. Linux and the major applications have had more than 10 years to improve and beat Microsoft and they have not done that! It took Apple to be disruptive in the mobile arena to get the rest of the companys to wakeup.

    1. That's what I mean exactly when talking about Alternative applications. You may find an alternative to Excel / Vegas but not the actual software, thus it may not have the same features or work in a different manner!

  11. I can basically answer the initial question with one word: "inertia." Most people don't even know that Linux exists (although I've been surprised recently by how much that is starting to change). People continue to use what they are familiar with until they have a reason to change.

    Lately I have see quite a bit more Linux usage from people using it to refresh old computers that are still quite usable with a Linux distribution on them as opposed to the original Windows. To me the greater awareness of Linux I have been seeing recently can't help but be coupled with an increase in Linux usage.

    Incidentally, Linux is more of a "plug and play" operating system than Windows ever has been. It's only recently that I've seen Windows start to be any good at that at all. The plug and play capabilities of Windows still aren't as smooth as Linux.

    However, with new hardware you are more likely to run into devices that don't immediately work in Linux, while at least there will be a driver disc for Windows even if the device is too new to have its driver automatically located. On the other hand, an old peripheral is more likely not to work at all in a new version of Windows no matter what you do.

    Incidentally, I also disagree about Linux being less user friendly. The operating environment in Linux is so diverse that it almost can't help but be friendly. However, it being so diverse also makes it so you could argue that it can't help but not be friendly. That is, the diversity, flexibility, and power can be intimidating to people who are used to only one type of environment. Most of those people, however, could be accommodated with XFCE or KDE.

    1. I've had hardware which I've spent ages trying to find Linux drivers for. However they work like a charm on Windows Vista and later versions of Windows. You are right about older Hardware though. I might have missed mentioning that.

      With regards to "inertia." , I am soon thinking of publishing a post with this topic. Probably this week. Stay tuned if you're interested and thanks for your comment :)

  12. The reason is it competing against one of the most entrenched and well funded monopolys in the history of the planet earth ...

    You are uninformed about driver support, if you spent a few min researching you would find that the linux kernel supports more devices than any operating system on the planet. Look at the hundreds of companys contributing to the kernel the large majority of contributions are .... drivers.

    Likewise your user-friendliness observation is spurious by any objective measure something like unity is a user friendly as windows or osx. The issue is large installed bases not wanting to learn anything new, essentially you and many other equate familiarity with user friendliness. Try this with a child who has not been using windows for 10 years, they don't complain when they use linux.

    Regarding video games, in 2013 I actually do expect games to support Linux. Lucky Gabe Newel agrees with me.

    1. With regards to hardware compatibility I agree that I might have mislead people to the wrong conclusions with bad wording. I should have said that Linux is compatible, however you might need to spend time searching for drivers, whilst Windows installs them automatically.

      With regards to Gaming you should watch my SteamOS post :)

  13. Lack of driver support => Partly. Can be easily avoided by taking care just a little of compatibility or just order a linux compatible device (works with most major vendors).

    Less user friendly environment => Simply not true. And as you can have different environments, for differently thinking people also everyone can get something they like.

    Less software opportunities => Depends on the field of application. Really coming into effect only for branch specific software.

    Helpful communities => Quality of support is FAR BETTER (in the sense of quality of responses) on Linux forums than on Windows related forums.

    Linux Desktop unpopular => Yes, mostly because Windows still there because of historical reasons and unflexible vendors and unflexible users, but not because Linux is worse than Windows. But time will come. On the server side Linux already won.

  14. @Juergen I was going to reply, but you took the words out of my mouth and did a better job. =p

  15. Not an informed writer.

    1. Or maybe you just didn't notice the word 'desktop' in the title?

  16. Wine is not a great alternative unless the app works perfectly. A virtual machine is better at running aplications, but clumsy. I've tried converting clients but most of the time a certain app causes a problem, Citrix 'Goto Meeting", QuickBooks Pro, Adobe CSx, AutoCad, etc. I've tried, meaning spending hundreds of hours in my career trying to give clients a Linux distro as an alternative. I've had a handful of successes and several failures. Users must be willing to let go of Windows or OSX apps.