Is Desktop Linux Dead? | LAS | s19e04

Is Desktop Linux Dead? | LAS | s19e04

Big claims were made this week that “Linux on the desktop is dead”. Are mobile devices making Linux irrelevant? Is the year of Desktop Linux doomed to never arrive? Or is Linux JUST getting started? We discuss!

THEN – News from the Ubuntu Development Summit shines light on features for the next release, and why Fedora wants to reorganize the file system!


All this week on, The Linux Action Show!

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  • By: Nov 15, 2011

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Is Desktop Linux Dead?

3kirt writes:

  • I do think it’s going to take a lot longer than many Linux evangelists are willing to admit. 5, 10, maybe 20 years? As cloud computing becomes so dominant, perhaps the commercial vendors will over a long long time, start to pull out of the Market.
  • Linux on the desktop will be around as long as people care about it, and there’s plenty of people that do.
  • Relatively small amount of developer effort being put into the desktop stack as compared to more server oriented things like the kernel.

okinawalinuxfan writes:

  • There are enough Linux enthusiast and professionals to keep the community healthy for the foreseeable future.
  • Many rely on Linux where it counts – Automobiles, Medical Equipment, Air Traffic Control, Stock Markets, National Defense Satellites, GPS, Manufacturing, and countless other critical systems that make our lives better every day.

Chris’ thoughts:

  • Windows 8 will introduce the new Metro UI. Many end-users/companies may wish to keep there current hardware, and swap the OS to Linux.
  • Vendors may find solutions like Ubuntu + Unity are their best route to avoid vendor ecosystem lock-in.
  • New data shows slow steady growth, this seems consistent with an organically marketed OS: Windows market share slides in October as Mac, Linux gain
  • Linux’s 60% share on servers (I think that is low too) continues to drive it to become a stable secure platform. This work is directly beneficial to making a safe and reliable desktop.

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38 Responses to “Is Desktop Linux Dead? | LAS | s19e04”

  1. Adriano de Moura Leite Says:

    Youtube link is broken!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Fixed, thanks!

  3. Foolz Says:

    Yes, I think Linux Desktop is dead, In fact, I want it to be “Dead”. It should be dead, and Please DIE~

    Just So “Linux Work-Station” can be Born. I mean… Clearly, What most people wanted from “personal computer” is things like Tablet, Smartphone we have today. Jobs didn’t “invented” the Table, or the iphone, We ALL have these idea in our head when we imagine what “personal computer” should be acting like in the early days. and Here we are, getting close… 

    For those, who really takes computer as their instrument, like some digital artist, video editor, Programmer, Hacker, and etc… What we really want, however, is a true instrument for us to make our imagination come true. It is about how to get TASK DONE, Many TASK at once. We need an OS that can fully integrate with the Physical Hardware, such as multi- Monitor, Multi- Mouse, or even Multi-Keyboard. And all other “invented/ custom” Hardware, that we use to interacted with the digital environment. 

    Yes, I do see, “personal computer” have been known as the “Desktop” for years, because it is the only “terminal” to the Digital environment, where all digital activity can be take place, for most people.  But today, there are many more other “terminal” such as smartphone, tablet, and such which have a much better interface for their user for whatever they are doing, both software interface, and hardware interface. Which is so what very difference than what power use is doing with their PC. 

    “Desktop” designer did not see that, at least not clearly, Over the pass years, they see the success and grow of these Platform, and try to make “Desktop” to adopt these “great” ideas, GNOME 3.x is the greatest example. It fault~. It is annoying to use, drive all the super user nuts. (myself included). This is not about we cannot change, or get usual to another way of working…. We developed a Great way of how to work out our task, but these “Desktop” designer see power user, the one who really work with their “Desktop” like nothing.  So here is what we have, GNOME3.x. Take me a longer to get over the fact that I Hate GNOME3.x because the love I have with GNOME. I mean there are reason why, Ubuntu is going down and Mint is going up. I mean Ask yourself, What make GNOME2.x So bad? beside it’s design so OLD…  Well, it can’t be older than the design of your umbrella….. Yet it is still one of the best way to cover you from rain… It did what it should be doing, and did it very well. 

    Back in the day, there is only one kind of “Personal Computer”, AKA “Desktop”. But today, There are many type “Personal Computer”. and “Desktop” is no longer this “do every thing” device. It has to re-position itself. Which in my Own Personal Self-Centric Opinion. Becoming a Work-Station, is more suitable for future of “Desktop”. It is better for marketing. It give better Design goal for DE Designer. Not saying you shouldn’t play game or listen to music on it. One aspect of working, is to have fun. and Having this “fun” is work to some people. like Game designer, or Music editing people. So…  

  4. Kenneth M Says:

    I don’t think the Linux desktop is dead because unlike other OSes are not powered by the community like Linux. I’d say most Linux users are at least slightly active community members, which contributes to the widespread adoption of Linux. As more apps and the OS become more developed adoption will become more widespread, especially with the many choices to come like Pantheon, Gnome 3, Unity, KDE, XFCE, etc., all good systems!

  5. Anon Says:

  6. David Fitzpatrick Says:

    I think there is a confusion between hardware and software definition of desktop.
    Desktop PCs are seeing a decline in favour of laptops.
    This may be fuelling the desktop is dead therefore the desktop OS is dead argument.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I really really don’t give two craps about Linux on everyone’s desktop. I only care about it on _my_ desktop. If i can run it on my desktop without restriction- i’d regard Linux as a success. 

    I have long stopped caring about Linux world domination, my goals for software have become much more humble.  I have come to accept that Linux will never pass the ~2% mark on what we would regard as the Desktop. We are the Tech elite – we are the only ones who give a toss about software. Everyone else is happy with windows – a well configured windows machine can make a decent Desktop. 

    The true measure of success for Linux, is its versatility. This is what MS doesn’t have. This is what will kill MS. This is what ensures that Linux will have a long life in one form or another. Linux is a natural choice for phones and tablets. It will be a natural choice for a lot more future technology. 
    The GPL will always be around. Hundreds of years from now, there will be GPL code on machines we can’t even dream about. It may even be the norm. MS (like all corporations) will be a distant memory. With the GPL, we may not be guaranteed *nix but we will definitely be guaranteed “the unix way”. 

    It’s a mistake to try read Linux’s tea-leaves in years, we should be looking at it in multiple decades. 

    In regards to Mint’s new UI, if it works out well – it could become the new GNOME 2.

  8. Chris Says:

    “In FreeBSD…in BSD, anyway…the FreeBSD directory hierarchy…the biggest difference with BSD…”

    Please either bring in somebody who has more Linux experience or change the name of the show to “The FreeBSD Action Show”. I am rapidly losing interest in what used to be my favourite Linux-oriented podcast.

    (Allan’s work on TechSNAP is great, and I hope he continues his work on that show.)

  9. Kahn Says:

    I think the one thing that most holds back the Linux desktop is the monopoly that Apple and Microsoft have on the market, and slow business adoption. I agree that if businesses embraced more Open Source technology, we would see a major shift in the trend. Perhaps with the current state of the economy people will start looking at Linux and Open Source options instead of spending the money on Microsoft or Apple. 

    I also agree that the gaming industry helps drive Microsoft sales as well. I’m one of those folks who has a Windows 7 box just to play games on. Sure the games move onto consoles, but the one thing you have to take in account is graphics, and system performance are huge for some games. Oblivion / Skyrim is a prime example. I only play this on PC because it looks and runs so much better. I also got Oblivion for the PS3 and it all still looks nice, but not what I get on the PC by far. So if the gaming industry started to embrace Linux as a option I could see it start to take off as well. Perhaps once the consoles start getting better they could pass up the PC for primary gaming, but until then…. 

    Otherwise I’ve got an older HP laptop I run Kubuntu and Ubuntu on to play around with and do my normal day to day stuff like e-mail and web browsing. 

  10. xpress razor Says:

    Some people don’t need a full-fledge Desktops as we do. Due to not availability of mobile form factors those people were forced to buy Desktops and Laptops. E.g If one in a family has a Desktop in a non-tech family they all can use that computer to do things that needs Desktops and do all other stuffs on mobiles (tablets, phones). Desktops were already alive before all these people were force to use Desktops. Since they really don’t need Desktops any more or even needed them at first place, they leaving Desktops in not by any means Desktop is dead. Desktop was long before made alive by people who needed Desktop as a requirement, not as a compulsions. So the argument of

    “Desktop is dead is made by trolls just for trolling”.

    Those news sites needed more buzz and raising such news is a formula  that always works for them (I never go to their sites directly, if they post such things it pops out in my linux feed).

    As for Linux Desktop, it is not going to take off unless companies like canonical, novel or red-hat start investing more money on advertisements rather than experiment on things that was never required. Though Mark Shuttleworth thinks using Unity he can stand out among Linux Desktops, and generate some buzz in industry to think they are making vast improvements and changes. He might be right on first but to make a buzz in industry it is adds what he needs (on release date not on some sort of UDS). He should not be trying so hard to make think people Linux is getting better, when Linux has surpassed all the tests (name it, ibm watch to space including games, security, scalability, entertainment, networks and so on and on)

    Desktop Linux Dead? This argument is just about wanting a news site to get more popularity. When ultimately all our technologies are built on Linux (servers, research workstations, tablets, mobiles) people will actually want Linux on their Desktops too. Why? Its far too easier to open up a mobile operating system and call it a Desktop operating system (if hardwares are generally fixed) rather than to chop a Desktop operating system and call it a mobile operating system. If this canonical thing is going to stagnant, rote and change directions now and then they are again going down. When google modifies some rock-witch and releases it calling “its Desktop for all of you geeks (linux, windows) out there, do what ever you want”, canonical is again going to miss out their second chance after vista. May be Google never did a true Desktop thing, because they knew if they released Linux just like that it is not going to work. Rather if they feed users with Chrome Laptops and Android, one day it might just be just right to release a Desktop operating system too.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I disagree with this perspective. 

    I find it good background how Linux’s BSD cousin has solved some of the same problems, and why they choose what they did.

    I don’t think it takes anything away from Linux, and helps give a wider perspective on the issue at hand.

  12. Kahn Says:

    How about a review of FreeBSD or something to perhaps peak some interest? 

  13. Jay Pegg Says:

    Allan rocks, but we need Bryan back, at the very least, to do the Fedora 16 review next week!!

    Chris, you know it just won’t be the same….

  14. James Says:

    Any idea of a opinion on ca-fi?

  15. consultingforme Says:

    Remember the huge netbook trend? Everyone thought that was the end of desktop PC’s. These new phones and tablets are great, but the computer is so much more capable and comfortable to use. Desktops are not going anywhere and neither is Desktop Linux.

  16. jgm Says:

    Better yet, since Chris wants to cover BSD too, is to do a show featuring the perennial question, “Is BSD dead?”. 😉 But we need someone willing to argue the affirmative too….

  17. J.G Says:

    I know that many thinks Bryan was funny but I think it was all in expense of quality and credibility of LAS.
    LAS is nowadays more professional than ever and I hope it will be this way in future too.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with Chris on this one – I think hearing which angle BSD used on the same problems is a really nice addition to the show. I also think that Linux has a lot to learn from BSD (and the other way around) and this is a great way of hearing about it. In fact some of the things can be changed by just using your Linux system differently and you can achieve the benefits (or should I say properties) of doing it the BSD way.

    All in all, I think it’s great to get a different perspective on how to solve a problem, and in turn the benefits and drawbacks of doing so. I sincerely hope Allan keeps adding the BSD stuff when it makes sense to talk about it :)

    Oh and congrats on you going all-in on JB, Chris! I made sure to send a donation your way when I heard. Keep up the AWESOME work!

  19. Peter S Says:

    Linux on the desktop will never die…why?
    Economies may fall, stock markets may crash, corporate entities, no matter how large may go broke and products can take the wrong turn and alienate the user community.
    Linux is freedom. It is for and by everyone, controlled by no-one, and evolves organically changing to real life behavior and requirements.

  20. MaTachi Says:

     The desktop computer won’t die for a looong time. There are many who use the computer to productive stuff, and a stupid “smartphone” won’t do in that case, not even a pretty tablet. They can’t possibly believe that we will write code and develop software on a phone. 😀 I even have two monitors to my computer to be able to show more stuff at the same time.

  21. Lund Says:

    Linux needs developers like Lennart Poettering.
    His blog ‘I’ll Break Your Audio’ is worth to follow –

    New GNOME design mockups:

    … great stuff

  22. Emmanouil Says:

    I’ll have to agree. Did you also notice that the Linux app pick, now became “universal app pick” ? If you search “linux” at freebsd’s forums, most of the time it’s about something negative, like why BSD is the best thing since sliced bread, and Linux is a pile of crap. I think when you co-host a Linux podcast (you’re not simply a guest), you’ve got to like and use Linux because you enjoy doing so. That’s just my opinion.

  23. Jordan Herrin Says:

    weres bryan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. luketheduke Says:

    Great episode!!!!!!!!!!!!  Looking forward to your new full-time fruits!!!!!!  I think desktop linux is for sure not dead.  If anything, it is just beginning.  It seems just now we are starting to see out breaks of new ideas, both good and and bad, of what a desktop user experience should be.  Just give it some time to stretch out its legs and you will see amazing things to come!!! Great job Allen, always great to hear from a BSD user his angle of the news and perspective of reveiws and what not.  Keeps the show balanced>  Look forward to more.  Also the anticipation of new shows is killing me…HURRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. luketheduke Says:

    or…BSD action show! ! ! ! !

  26. luketheduke Says:

    by the way,,,cool picture of tux

  27. WE NEED BRYAN Says:


  28. Jason simmons Says:

    Linux desktop is not dead  it`s doing very well for a niche market. It will never go away, but will never gain mainstream market share. the reason why is it continues to provide the needs of only the niche market. I`m part of that niche market so i`m happy..kinda. Here are the reasons why the linux desktop will stay niche:

    1)how easy is it to setup the mainstream linux desktops like ubuntu into a LDAP or AD environment as a client without hacking PAM.D and and creating funky LDIF imports and perl scripts to change passwords. In windows I can join a domain in about 3 mouse clicks.

    2)as a network admin can I deploy software and alter user rights and menu configurations without having to purchase likewise or resort to some funky solution using rsync an perl and .profiles.

    3)Does the linux desktop have messaging as stong as ms outlook and exchange. We have made some BIG progress here with Zimbra, Zarafa etc, but the answer is still no.

    4) can i walk into pc world and grab the first printer i see and KNOW it will work with linux. No i cant. i have to plan my hardware purchases.

    this causes pain. people like easy. Using a linux desktop forces you to consider how you use your computer. Thats what people don`t like linux desktops. They just use normal…which is windows. It cant be a wrong choice EVERYBODY use`s windows it cant be wrong.

    If they choose an alternative like linux and it does not work then it is their fault.
    If they choose windows and it does not work, then its Microsoft`s fault not theirs.

    The linux desktop will always be niche if it only services the need of a niche market.

  29. Guest Says:

    alan doesn’t rock – his low energy brings me down and has made me miss the last 5 shows

  30. Guest Says:


  31. Chris Says:

    I understand what you’re saying, but Allan isn’t just adding a FreeBSD perspective to the show. He’s speaking as an expert about some topics that I don’t think he understands as well as he understands FreeBSD.

    This was particularly evident in the Arch review last week when he made some statements that just aren’t right. If you’re going to compare the Arch Build System to FreeBSD’s ports it would help to get input from somebody who actually uses Arch regularly in addition to input from a FreeBSD expert. It sounded like there were many Arch users in the chat room who could have balanced the comparison out a little bit.

  32. Adam Says:

    Hello Chris and Allen, great show, thank you.  I dont say any of you is better or worse but the truth is that Bryan gives the show a lot of punch and I really miss him. Will he ever come back? Could you please mention why is he absent (maybe you have already did but I don’t watch your shows regularly)? If there is anything wrong with him or if he has some problems or so on I wish him all the best.

    Continue doing good work guys.


    DJ Black Tea

  33. yzp0594 awafw Says:

    Allan rocks, but we need Bryan back foolpig1122

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  36. Abic Says:

    I think the whole debate on is it dead or is it alive is moot. Like many other people are pointing out Linux isn’t 1 company. It doesn’t have VC that it’ll run out of or go bankrupt because it had a handful of bad quarters. The Linux base (everything below X) will continue to be strong cause companies are profiting from it in the server market, which encourages them to contribute. It’s up to the rest of the community to make X and up a viable solution for themselves.

    Here’s a question to pose. Does the Linux Desktop community want more end users? Does it benefit from having my parents run Ubuntu? Don’t take that question as a statement that end users can’t contribute, such as bug reports, documentation, translations, etc. Those are vitale roles the community needs. But the vast majority aren’t going to contribute, no more than the vast majority of M$ users contribute to improving Windows (other than the fact that they pay M$ money).

    Will a higher share of the desktop market bring Linux more of the desired development? Right now people mostly develop on the Linux Desktop for the fun, or the challenge, or out of frustration at the alternatives. I’m sure many do for pure profit as well. But will companies who try to profit from linux truely improve the desktop? Or will we just see more closed source applications?

    Ultimately does it matter if the Linux Desktop “wins”? I really don’t think it does. So don’t feed the trolls when some blogger decides to say it’s dead, cause they either don’t understand or don’t care.

    PS. I like the *BSD perspectives. There is a lot of idea stealing back and forth from the two camps. The comparisons of the BSD way and the Linux way is very helpful and insightful. It’s much like learning a new language. It helps you understand you own even better.

  37. UnityLover Says:

    I miss Bryan. He and Chris combine to give me information and unique entertainment at the same. I can get “dry” anywhere.

  38. Andrew Says:

    I’m late to this. It is not dead. But I do think it is irrelevant. I think Linux would be better served focussing on being a network-centric OS. And a micro-gadget/Mars rover OS. But not a desktop OS.

    And this 2nd “This is desktop Linux’s big moment” stuff is rubbish and just the mantra of a whole bunch of fanboys indulging in wishful thinking. The Vista thing was apparently it’s 1st big opportunity to conquer the desktop market. And look how that turned out. Keep dreaming boys.

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