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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.