Why Linux isn’t mainstream on the desktop.

There is not doubt that Linux has a pretty good market share in the server world, and Android, the Linux based mobile operating system, is doing pretty well also.  But why is Linux, that was written for the Desktop, doing so poorly on that platform?  I am going to try to answer that the best that I can.

Software quality is weak, and most proprietary software isn’t available.

Don’t get me wrong, the availability of software on Linux is phenomenal.  I can’t off the top of my head think of a single proprietary application that you can’t find an alternative, open source piece of software for.  The problem is 1.) the software that is available is often of lesser quality when compared to the proprietary counterpart and 2.) sometimes a job, school, or experience forces people to use the proprietary software.

This is also a bit of a catch 22 as well.  The big companies like Adobe don’t release their software for Linux because the market share is so small, but if they did the market share would likely increase considerably. 

Don't get me wrong, the availability of software on Linux is phenomenal. Click to Tweet

Linux has a bad, or complex, rap.

People are under the impression that Linux is difficult to use, and if you don’t have a Stallman-esque neckbeard, it’s probably too difficult for you.  Us as Linux users know this isn’t true, especially with modern distros focused on user friendliness like Ubuntu and Mint.  The public doesn’t see it this way.  Look at this answer on Quora full of shitty, incorrect, and vomit-inducing information.  This is the type of information that people rely on when researching this, and it can immediately turn somebody off to Linux altogether.

Installing Mint is as easy or easier than installing Windows, switching to MATE or Cinnamon is as easy as switching from Mac to Windows, and KDE is nearly as clean and usable as OS X.  This just simply isn’t true anymore.

switching to MATE or Cinnamon is as easy as switching from Mac to Windows Click to Tweet

Linux support sucks.  Like really fucking bad.

Enterprise and server support for Linux from companies like RedHat is fantastic, and guess what, RHEL does great in enterprise and server environments, but support for any given desktop distro comes down to cryptic man pages from the ’80s, or hostile and elitist internet forums where you might get your answer right away, or get flamed and ignored.  It’s anybody’s guess.

On top of all that, some people don’t want to be part of an online forum.  They just want to email support and get an answer for their problem, like they can with Windows and OS X.  With that vast array of different options in Linux this really isn’t feasible, so this arises a serious problem with Linux going mainstream.

Linux support sucks. Like really fucking bad. Click to Tweet

There are just too many options for new users.

Getting started using Linux doesn’t start or end at installing Linux like the other operating systems.  Linux first starts with confusing research, and you almost have to know Linux before you can learn Linux.  

Before installing Linux, you have to choose a distro.  Seems simple but for new people, that means learning what a distro is.  After you choose a distro, you have to choose which desktop environment you are most likely going to use.  Seems simple, but now you have to learn what a DE is, and what the differences are.  This can go on and on, and this too can turn off new users almost immediately. 

you almost have to know Linux before you can learn Linux Click to Tweet

Gaming, for gamers.

Yeah, I know.  Steam is available on Linux, and so are a lot of the games.  There are even a couple of big name studios that have released a couple of games that have a port for Linux.  But gamers don’t play a couple of available games that are available on Linux.  They play a plethora of games, from multiple studios, and they play them hardcore.  Couple the nonavailability of games, with the often times difficult to install graphics drivers, that may or may not have decent performance depending on your specific device and you shut down gaming altogether.  Although we are making progress here, we aren’t where we need to be to scoop up those gamers.

Although we are making progress here, we aren't where we need to be to scoop up those gamers. Click to Tweet

In conclusion

Overall, I think that there are several little things that I didn’t mention here, because they don’t warrant an entire paragraph.  Linux, in all it’s glory, just isn’t in a place where normal users can feel comfortable.  I do hope that someday Linux gets the attention it deserves, but I don’t think that the year of linux on the desktop is yet upon us.

Daniel is a freelance web developer and IT consultant with a passion for security and privacy. Although he isn't much of a writer, he enjoys writing blog posts that help out others in the community.

6 thoughts on “Why Linux isn’t mainstream on the desktop.

  1. I recently installed linux in my laptop
    Its just worked 1 day and now showing me an error about busybox “initfriams” in terminal
    I can’t login in my laptop,
    Can u help me with this?

  2. Fixing a problem is often less cryptic than on windows. You don’t have to belong to most forums to get an answer. Also, linux has incredible customizable in comparison with windows. In fact, if you do a customization on windows and then install an update that includes a kernel upgrade all your stuff can get trashed. However, I would like to see Wine become more user friendly and Systemback more available across distros. In short: Linux is better than Windows because the updates are transparent and don’t bog your desktop PC down over time. It simply does some things cleaner.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      The sheer number of options Linux has is definitely a plus for me and most Linux users but I truly feel that it is one of the main reasons that Linux isn’t mainstream.

      As far as the updates go, I agree that the way Linux does things is typically far better than Windows but it can cause things to break occasionally, and the only way to fix it is to research the problem. Us techies might be surprised to find that most people won’t Google an issue, they will just contact support and have it fixed. That being missing from any major Linux distro is really hurting the possibilities of Linux going mainstream.

  3. Hi there, new to the website but finding a lot of interesting posts.

    Linux is an operating system that requires knowledge for it to work well and requires the user to WANT to learn how to fix things and also how things work. I love Linux because a lot of the time it does work but when it doesn’t, I enjoy learning more about what has gone wrong and why it happened. I get more satisfaction from Linux than I do Windows – there are many reasons why I dislike Windows but there is only one thing I dislike about Linux, gaming. I can have more fun learning about Linux than I would playing any AAA game on Windows.

    It’s a super feeling learning new thing about the OS and wouldn’t ever go back to Windows.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I agree that learning about Linux, and really operating systems, in general, is really fucking fun. Linux just gives you the freedom to do whatever you want so it’s conducive to learning about computers and operating systems.

      I do disagree with you too though. I don’t feel like Linux/Windows/OSX/BSD/etc… have to be exclusive. I have a Macbook that I use a lot, mainly for graphics, and lately video. Obviously though, I have my Linux PC too, which is my main computer but nonetheless, I would have a hard time doing what I do without my Macbook.

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