An open poll for opinions on Linux Voice.com asks whether the tired and still popular question “is 20XX going to be the year of the Linux Dsktop” is still relevant.
My take on it is as below – but in brief (TL;DR) it is no longer relevant technologically, it is relevant and in progress from an industrial point of view, and is is most definitely still relevant when it comes to users at home, with no technical skills. The question beyond that is, do we even want non-techies using Linux?
What do we actually mean by “year of the Linux Desktop” (YOTLD) anyway?
1) If by YOTLD we mean “year in which 70% of new(-ish) computers from major manufacturers can run Linux with no driver issues or crashes on a vanilla install” we might have already seen that thanks to Ubuntu – love or hate Canonical, that’s what they have been aiming at. Blobs, Unity, Mir, binary licensing and the convergence roadmap aside, YOTLD from this perspective may have been reached.
2) If by YOTLD we mean “year in which at least two or three major manufacturers of general purpose desktop/laptop computers (non-appliance) make firm roadmap commitment to offer a Linux option instead of Windows” then we might be nearing it, but not for 2014.
With Steam pushing a Debian fork natively on their new hardware venture, the credibility from the manufacturer’s point of view is definitely going to be piqued, and we may see them studying this approach this year, with more mature ideas and plans next year. After that, if they do commit, are they going to roll their own distros, and will they make a hash of it, or innovate completely, or sign up with the likes of Ubuntu/SuSE/Mandriva as third-party providers?
Also, do we count Android as Linux (some dual-boot-as-standard for Windows/Android is on the way I seem to recall), and do we count Chrome OS as Linux too/either (in which case the rise of Chromebooks and the ability to install Chrome OS on ageing machines would be relevant)?
3) If by YOTLD we mean “year when even non-technical users can feel comfortable knowing their box is not Mac OS X or Windows or Chrome OS” then… that solely depends on us: not simply as a global internet community, but also closer to home with meat-space support for our family, friends and neighbours. And, why not, in some tech shops as well.
As long as we simply point new users at forums by only way of support, general acceptance outside of tech enthusiasts will never properly take off.