Thoughts on Linux
I started writing an
essay during our honeymoon
in 2005. I was sitting in a park and something
important hit me: Linux will likely never have a large portion of the
desktop market. I know that this doesn't sound like great news but it
was followed with another thought: It doesn't matter.
in Paris at the time. From the park, I could see one of the few
McDonalds that I spotted throughout the entire two-week trip. It was
then that I realized that one of the spectacularly cool things about
Europe was that it was different everywhere. This contrasted heavily
with my experiences in North America. Think of it: There's a mall in
every city. In every mall, you'll find basically the same chain stores.
Walmart expands at a constant rate, as does Starbucks and the like.
so in Europe. Yes, there were occasional chain-store sightings but the
norm was small shops in every block of every city. In Europe, there was
far less market concentration, far less of a chain-presence, and
everyone seemed to want to keep it that way.
But what does this
have to do with Linux, you ask. In the park, I concluded that Windows
is the North American mall/Walmart where Linux is like the European
shops. Linux has almost as many different faces as it has users.
Windows is fundamentally the same everywhere. Yes, you can shoe-horn
Windows into embedded devices and non-standard configurations, but this
is akin to the occasional Starbucks or McDonalds that you see in Paris.
It is absolutely not the norm.
Linux, on the other hand, is
infinitely malleable. Yes, you don't see it much on mainstream desktop
machines, but like malls, this is only one target market. (Albeit a
visible one.) Linux, on the other hand, is everywhere. It runs your
servers, it runs Motorola phones, Linksys routers, SAN devices, network
switches, set-top-boxes. You name it, Linux can likely be made to work
it, and can do so very well. And why not? It's a well-understood,
well-supported and well-documented system that happens to be license
free. There are things that it can do that no other OS can touch. Yes,
it may not be suitable for every use, but it can likely be made to work
with almost anything.
As time marches on, this is becoming increasingly obvious. When I started thinking about this in 2005, Nokia hadn't yet released their unintentionally successful Internet Tablet
line, Asus hadn't released their sub-$400 Xandros-based laptop
, the OLPC project was just ramping up, Palm hadn't shifted development to Linux, and Motorola wasn't selling widely-used, very successful Linux-based cell phones. With hardware maturing, and Linux evolving on all fronts to meet these new challenges, the future has never looked brighter for this once-young upstart OS. In fact, with Ubuntu's entrance on the scene, even desktop Linux is looking up.