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One More Time: Is It Really 'Game Over' for Linux?

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Nov 3, 2011 5:00 AM PT

Every so often here in the Linux blogosphere, a headline pops up in the news and you just know it's going to be a rough week.

One More Time: Is It Really 'Game Over' for Linux?

Case in point: "Mobile Proliferation Killed Linux Hopes for World Domination."

Yes, for those who missed it, that was a real headline in the news last week, courtesy of Forrester analyst Mike Gualtieri, and yes, it's made more than a few bloggers' blood pressure rise.

We've all seen this play before, of course, but who can resist another rousing round of the Linux Desktop Debate? Not many in the Linux blogosphere, that's for sure.

'What Do You Say?'

"Trollers Now Say 'Game Over' for Linux. What Do You Say?" invited blogger Anuradha Shukla over at Unixmen, for example.

"It's 'Game Over' for Linux. Apparently," was the dry observation over at OMG! Ubuntu!

"Forrester Analyst Prematurely Calls 'Game Over' on Linux" read another blogger's headline.

Adding extra zest to the reaction was Gualtieri's dismissal of Android's Linux underpinnings -- not to mention Canonical's ensuing announcement of its mobile Ubuntu plans.

Bottom line? Yet another wild ride on the Linux blogs.

'He Was Dead Wrong'

"Can you say trolling for page hits?" exclaimed consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack over a fresh round down at the Punchy Penguin Cafe.

"His first mistake is that he assumes that cellphones or tablets will replace the PC, and I see no evidence that is the case, since even tablets tend to be one extra gadget that works alongside the PC but doesn't replace it," Mack told LinuxInsider.

"His second mistake was his statement that Open Source doesn't innovate, and he was dead wrong about that," Mack opined. "Most of the things we rely on today as being 'the Internet' are dependent on Open Source, and at least as far as XP -- I haven't checked Vista or Windows 7 --, there were still utilities that bore the Berkeley copyright notice."

'People Love the Choice'

Blogger Robert Pogson took a similar view.

"Repeating the lie that GNU/Linux is dead on the desktop does not make it true," Pogson asserted.

"M$'s share of PCs is down severely from its high point of about 90 percent," Pogson noted. "Just look at the '7' licenses -- M$ is selling 50 million per quarter and the world is selling 90 million PCs a quarter. That's 56 percent.

"I have introduced thousands to GNU/Linux and they were glad to have a desktop that worked and keeps on working faster than that other OS," Pogson added.

"This lie seems to be made in USA," he suggested. "Brazil, Russia, India, China, Malaysia, etc. don't believe it."

A State of Confusion?

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, was inclined to give Gualtieri the benefit of the doubt.

"Perhaps the author is confusing the Linux kernel with Linux distributions, and confusing [Linus Torvalds'] concept of Linux with [Richard] Stallman's concept of GNU/Linux," Travers offered.

"I'd suggest that in the important ways that matter, Linus's vision of world domination is accomplished as effectively with Android as with Ubuntu or Debian," Travers added. "Linus of course was talking about the kernel, and embedded space counts towards that even if it isn't running anything like a 'Linux distribution.'"

'It's Already Game Over'

Barbara Hudson, however, could see Gualtieri's point.

"Linux certainly failed to dominate (or even make an impression) in the consumer desktop space," said Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site. "After two decades, Linux distributions still compete mainly with each other, not Microsoft or Apple."

The latest Ubuntu, for example, "doesn't offer anything compelling that decade-old XP doesn't also offer -- please don't point to Ubuntu Cloud, it's really Amazon EC2 -- and lacks the ability to run many of the programs people actually use," Hudson added.

Ubuntu's recent mobile announcement, in fact, is "an excellent example of why it's already 'game over,'" she suggested.

"The Ubuntu release, scheduled for April 2014, is far too little, far too late," Hudson explained. "With people already downloading a billion apps a month, and developers having received several billions in revenue, there's just no way that Ubuntu can compete, not even if they offer developers an app store with zero processing fees."

'Gualtieri Hit the Nail on the Head'

Indeed, "I think Gualtieri hit the nail right on the head, at least as far as Linux on the desktop is concerned," agreed Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.

"I think maybe it relied too much on being an open and free alternative," Lim explained. "It is a free alternative to Microsoft's Windows for those willing to live with less software and hardware compatibility. Desktop Linux's biggest value has been keeping the price of paid versions at bay."

However, Linux "never evolved into a operating system that clearly provided some tangible benefit other than being open and free," Lim added. "No easier, more intuitive-to-use desktop environment was developed by the Linux community."

As for the mobile space, "I do not see any point in Linux trying to compete," he opined. "Linux will be used in the mobile space, but in the same way Google used it for Android.

"The broader Linux community cannot -- software is too closely tied with hardware and proprietary app markets for this," he concluded. "Like the server space, maybe Linux needs to just concentrate on a niche market in the desktop space, as workstations for offices and institutions, and give up the idea of ever being a consumer operating system."

Two Gifts for FOSS

Finally, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet also agreed with Gualtieri, but for different reasons.

"MSFT is about to give Linux the two greatest gifts it could ask for -- it will be the equivalent of giving FOSS a 40 meter head start on a 100 meter dash," hairyfeet explained.

"First is Windows 8, which is HATED for its GUI by the over 120 normal folks I've shown it to, with more every day," he told LinuxInsider. "The second wonderful gift being given to the community is the fact that WinXP, which sold an incredible amount of frankly MORE than powerful enough machines for the Web, will be EOLed in 2014, giving retailers like me literally pallet loads of machines more than powerful enough to do what the average person does, which is webmail, 'Farmville' and Facebook."

Then, too, there's "the fact that NEVER before in computing history has the public had so much of their computing based on Web technology, and that with everyone worried about the economy, saving money is a priority," hairyfeet added.

"So here you have the competition giving you 40 meters on the 100 meter dash, the circumstances of the times giving you ANOTHER 40 meters on the dash so that you are just 20 meters away, but will FOSS sprint to an easy win?" hairyfeet concluded. "NO, they will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by going 'I'm leet!' and promptly shooting themselves in the face."

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