Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Has Windows 10 Killed Linux On The Desktop?

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  23:46 26 comments

Windows 10 has been released and the majority of the reviews that I have read have been largely positive.

Quite a lot has been made about the concerns about privacy especially when it comes to using Cortana as it appears a lot of personal data is gathered in order to make it work and "to help Microsoft improve the service".

The truth is that big companies have been gathering data on us all for years and Microsoft probably aren't going to learn anything that Google doesn't already know.

In the past week I have listened to conflicting views on Windows 10 from the perspective of Linux users.

The Linux Action Show were, as you would expect, not particularly complimentary about the latest offering and highlighted some cosmetic flaws that would not be deemed acceptable if they were included as part of say GNOME or KDE. They also went to town on the data gathering and privacy problem.

On the flip side of the coin the Linux Luddites gave Windows 10 a very positive spin.

The Luddites podcast brought up the question about whether Linux had missed its chance to dominate on the desktop.

The consensus appeared to be that Linux missed its best chance when Windows Vista was released and subsequently continued to fail to make gains when Windows 8 flopped.

One of the hosts stated that they can't see a long term future for Canonical and interestingly even Firefox might not survive because it has become largely irrelevant now that there is Chrome. (A sentiment eched by the Ubuntu Podcast).

When it comes to web browsers I have flip flopped a few times over the past two to three years but at the moment I can't get beyond using Chrome. It is available on Windows, Linux and on my Chromebook, has all the features I need and has a nice clean interface. Firefox is good but it isn't as good as Chrome.

So what about Linux? Did it miss its chance? Will Windows 10 kill Linux on the desktop?

The Luddites suggested that Linux will always be used by enthusiasts but it is unlikely that it will ever be taken up by mainstream users (hence the comment about Canonical not being around much longer).

My view on it is this. Linux might not have taken off on the desktop in the way perhaps some people had hoped but what about Windows? Is traditional desktop computing dying?

Consider what you use a computer for (and I'm talking more about home use rather than office use, because Linux has never really been adopted mainstream in any office that I have worked in except for a short time at IBM).

I use my laptops mainly for writing Linux articles on this blog and at about.com. My entire home computing use is generally installing distributions, reviewing the features of the distributions and trying out the applications as well as writing tutorials and guides.

If I didn't write this blog would I even need a laptop? The only real purpose I would have for a laptop is writing the odd letter and doing my business accounts.

For everything else I can and do generally use other devices. I check and send emails using my phone and for longer emails I can use the GMail web interface using a Chromebook.

I can write letters using the Chromebook. I can listen to music using the Chromebook and I can watch videos using the Chromebook.

If you think about the average user they can write letters, emails and converse with people on Facebook, Twitter and any other social media platform using their phone, tablet or a device like a Chromebook.

Even when it comes to things like printing or connecting to my NAS drive my phone probably works better than my Linux laptops or Windows.

Who cares whether Windows has killed Linux on the desktop because to me it looks like the Chromebook killed the requirement for a desktop for home users anyway.

The only people who need computers at home have a specific requirement for using them.

What specific tasks are there for using home computers that can't be achieved easily with a Chromebook?

Image editing. Microsoft fans will say "well you can't beat us on that, we have Photoshop". Apple fans will say "yeah but Photoshoppers generally use a Mac". Linux users will point to GIMP but it has never really made Photoshoppers switch.

Video editing. Again not particularly a strong point within Linux. Openshot is good for the casual home user but if you want something really high end then again it is the Mac that probably has the market share.

Gaming. Linux has come a long way recently when it comes to gaming but really in all honesty most people use consoles for gaming nowadays. I think the XBOX is the best console ever made and believe me I have tried a lot of consoles over the years.

Web development, programming, engineering, electronics, etc. Now we are entering Linux territory. These are all key areas where Linux is actually better than Windows.

So what is my point?

My point is that Windows can have the desktop for the casual users (what is left of them). The casual users are all using tablets and phones anyway. The Chromebook and MacBook Airs are taking a nice percentage of the rest of the market.

The real computer users who have something specific and niche to do are more than likely going to end up using Linux at some point anyway. Linux isn't going to be harmed by the release of a new Microsoft operating system because ultimately the target users are and probably always have been different people.

This blog is called "Everyday Linux User" and it is aimed for the average computer user whether they have a technical background or not. I suspect however that most of the readers of this blog have a better than average grasp on technology and computers in general.

I also suspect that the readers of this blog came here because they could see Linux providing something that Windows isn't currently or is ever likely to be providing.

What we all know but the Windows users are yet to know is this.

Linux caters for everyone whether they are on older machines, newer machines, single board computers, massive mainframes and even mobile phones. Linux provides simple graphical user interfaces for people that prefer them and highly technical solutions and command line environments for people that want them.

Linux survives because it offers choice, diversity, community, security and in your face honesty.

It may not have Microsoft Office and it may not have Photoshop but it has some really brilliant applications that Windows doesn't and may never have and the people who don't use Linux may never know about them.

There are enough enthusiasts to allow Linux to survive for a long time to come.

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About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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26 comments:

  1. Great article as usual. Thanks.

    My concern isn't that Windows has or will kill off Linux but that Linux won't ever make it to mainstream. OK, GNOME and KDE scored a mention in Mr Robot but is that mainstream?

    Despite Canonical's dreams of mass market acceptance, Linux won't take off in the first world until:

    a) You can buy a Linux box in a department store

    b) Linux settles on a distinctive look and feel. Users can identify OS X and Windows from 50 paces but Linux has no identify. Furthermore, stock GNOME and Unity are ugly. The flagships really need to lift their game.

    c) The terminal emulation window, Synaptic Package Manager and it's ilk, are relegated to that dark and cobwebbed corner of the system no one has need to visit.

    Well, that's my tuppence worth anyhoo.

    Keep up the good work.

    Mike

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mike,

      While I agree with most of what you say, I have a question on Synaptic, however. I find that the Linux way of installing programs (having them ordered by category, all listed on you desktop instead of having to search the internet for something useful or buying it from a shop) is much more useful. Personally, I prefer aptitude, so I don't generally use Synaptic, but it is based on the same underlying system AFAIK. So why do you think the Windows way of installing things are better?

      I think the most important element is still a), especially if the Linux box can be a bit cheaper than the Windows alternative in addition.
      b) A single distinctive look and feel is very unlikely. I agree with stock versions of the DE's being ugly but that is actually a major thing that most distro wants to correct, but each in its own way, unfortunately. Ubuntu was probably the most likely to achieve this, but I think they have dropped the ball a number of times already.
      c) I do agree that the terminal should be better hidden (I use Yakuake for this) ;-) .

      Delete
  2. I agree with the article in that Windows (10) has no chance of killing the Linux desktop whatsoever. Windows 10 is not really better than any of the previous Windows releases, it is still playing catching up with moder Linux desktops (e.g. now they have workspaces, hurray).

    On the other hand, I strongly disagree with the notion that the Linux desktop has no chance of breaking into the mainstream. Although, I use Linux primarily for web development (at which it beats both Windows and OSX), I think that Linux on the desktop has still been improving constantly in the last couple of years. Just take a look at KDE Plasma 5 (beautiful) and Cinnamon (refined, highly familiar even for Windows users). It is not an overstatement, that the average home user is pretty well served with Linux desktops nowadays.

    I think that the Linux desktop will finally start taking up market share, especially if SteamOS becomes successful. Hardware companies are now increasingly focusing on providing a complete "user experience" with their products. Since Windows is not customizable, they have only Linux to turn to. Hence, the speculation about the Xiaomi Linux laptop.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting article. I use both Linux (I like Mint - it's easy and simple) and Windows 10 (long time Windows 3.1 through to 10 user - now just for gaming). I find I keep going back to Linux for most of what I do because I prefer the desktop customization and natural security of the system (plus I've centered all my backups and side uses to a Linux file system setup). Windows 10 is pretty, and works well - but I don't trust it like I can my Linux setup. As for examples like Office? Really? I can do ALL of my office needs on an open platform rather than fighting with the Microsoft bloated suite. I have friends that complain about that - but they don't even use the features that would matter...it just has to be Microsoft or it isn't real...
    To each their own I guess.

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  4. Actually I downgraded back to Window's 7 for legacy gaming and use Linux for most of my gaming where possible and my Web use.

    Window's 10 was crap and buggy for me and would not play even some of my quite new games, without BSOD. It was so bad I had no choice but to go back to Window's 7 and will not be upgrading.

    Rather than push me away from Linux, it's pushed me full time into its warm embrace.

    As for most gamers using console, well I sold my Consoles ages ago because the games sucks. PC is best gaming wise for me.

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  5. Virus, bloatware, and old to work fine in 2 years are what make some of my family and friends switch to Gnu/Linux, and yes, Chromebooks too, but with Crouton for some rare tasks.

    And as it seems taht Steam OS will be the Android for consoles, and I think there will not be nextgen Xbox and PS4, perhaps dual boot Steam Machines made from Sony, MS or independent vendors, or some kind of emulation.

    Linux has won the server (no more Unix, Solaris etc), the mobile (al most no more MS and a bit of OSX good OS only since it is POSIX) now with ChromeOS plus Crouton is getting the laptop market (40% of desktop computing) and perhaps next the desktop computer, because you can make near 100 USD chromeboxes or 20 USDs all in one desktop computers, far from the prices what does work as well with MS WOS.

    ReplyDelete
  6. well said, linux will be around for decades to come, I use Linux every time, at work I use windows 7 which is unbearable, the latest machines are sluggish in win7 when I boot with a live distro everything flies, every skill is acquired through investment in learning and time, the terminal is not rocket science, everyone who has ever used an iPhone or android can I believe use synaptic and the like, windows itself has lost direction win 8 failed, windows phone is dead ( android emulation anyone?) and windows 10 is trying to find relevance in a world where mobile is dominant, the world has moved on, Linux on the desktop? what desktop? I have used Linux for over 10 years on the desktop, and I believe Linux took over the desktop years ago, I have no driver issues, no virus issues and I can run my desktop on a 15 year old machine, being a technician dealing with industrial plc's Linux has saved me countless times due to legacy software ( dos) issues in winxp/7, I use dosemu and wine for the occasional windows program, I would like to thank the Linux community and distros for being there and keeping up the faith, we all have a choice and I made my years ago, viva Linux wish u the best and long live

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nope. I tried windows 10 twice, and it was repeatedly bsoding with even relatively new games. It was hit and miss what would work. And yes all my drivers were the latest. I use iobit driver booster to update all drivers to the very latest. I was repeatedly having to hard restart my PC by hitting the power switch on my PSU. I upgraded back down to Window's 7 and everything works again for my non Linux gaming.

    I really tried to give Windows 10 a chance, but between the sheer unusability of the OS version and the NSA style approach to my privacy, I had no choice but to switch back to Linux as my main PC OS. I know use Linux far more now than before.

    Window's 10 has been a huge disappointment and I won't be upgrading again. The Windows 10 hype is just that, hype. My old Windows 7 is more stable and just works better. But I'm switching to Linux full time as it just works better than both the others.

    ReplyDelete
  8. There are more old computers and laptops from the past......in the world....I.mean India, China, South America, Europe, Africa.....still having a Pentium 3 or a Core Duo.....than new ones running Windows 10. Linux keeps thèse computers up to date with modern softwares. Windows 10, OSX Yosemite, will never reach the peoples using thèse old computers. The future of the linux desktop is largely on thèse old often second hand computers which by the saké of accumulation will certainly outnumber the arrival of new powerful machines....usually never used at their computing potential

    ReplyDelete
  9. In some ways Microsoft have/are killed/killing Linux on the Desktop because they more or less control the Tech' media. Windows 10 is even more of a retrograde step than previous versions of Windows, with it's all pervading surveillance. But it doesn't make any difference. Most people don't care.
    Add to that - Gnome is just horrible (I've spent the last few weeks trying to use it - tried various distros, every time the same issues - Gnome crawls, it crashes, sane features have been stripped out, themes are not consistent, etc). KDE is OK, but both require a beefy box or they crawl horribly. The other desktops are all circa Win98 style and look awful. Too many desktops with not enough development. Too much fragmentation. Windows will always be able to run circles round Linux because of this. I've been using Linux for 13 or so years and recently I've come close to wiping it and going back to Windows because most distros have lost their way entirely. No longer a moral alternative to proprietary-ware, in trying to be like Windows they have lost their reason to exist. What's the point in going open source if you have to stuff the box with proprietary-ware to get it to work not quite as well as it would with Windows? Yes I could go 100% pure open source (have spent periods this way before) and it's satisfying, until a friend sends you a link to a video on some site and you have to say "I don't do flash" or everyone's talking about a PC game which I can't play 'cus I use Linux'. And so on. There will be no moral awakening in humanity's use of technology because most of humanity doesn't care one iota for morality. They want convenience today and tomorrow can burn.
    Is there any difference between Windows 10 and Android in terms of what it watches and reports back on? Or is it just that Microsoft have been more honest with Windows 10 (in that it admits to what it's doing) than anyone else?
    And all of this is more or less meaningless anyway, because the backdoors are now built into the hardware and are OS agnostic. They won and the truth lost - it's the oldest story in the world.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have Chromebook, but it's not running Chrome OS. It's running Linux. I would dual boot or use Crouton, but really, everything you can do in Chrome OS you can do in Chrome on Linux, so I didn't really see a point.

    As to the difference between Firefox and Chrome. As far as I know, Chrome still doesn't support color management, so I still use Firefox predominantly and Chromium or Chrome for some special purpose occasionally (like a newer Flash version than is available for Firefox or DRM support for Netflix). I visit a number of photography and art sites where color management is important. Also, I find Chrome to be flakier than Firefox in general, that is, more likely to not display a page correctly or for something not to work.

    I actually use Linux to edit photographs with Darktable (a very good program) and GIMP, edit movies with Kdenlive, and work with sound files with Audacity and other programs. Other than photography, my needs in these areas are not really demanding, and these programs work well enough. Also, I can do it all with no real software expense either for the operating system or for the programs.

    I think people who were expecting a sudden flood of Linux users just had the wrong expectations. Linux use on the desktop has continued to grow for many years now. It's more a 'slowly, but surely' type of thing than a paradigm change. I expect that to continue at least for a while. Certainly many more people that I know are now using Linux than were several years ago. It is getting particularly popular for reinvigorating old hardware among the people that I know.

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  11. You can't buy a Linux box in a department store. That to me is a 'killer'. The masses like their OS already to go. Convenience.

    I personally think the many desktop mangers 'make' Linux more palatable. Don't like Gnome? Try KDE. Don't like KDE, then try Cinnamon, or XFCE, or my favorite LXDE. Choices! Not all of us think or work the same so not one fits all. Not forced into OSX or WIN10 styles... Again choices!

    All but one of my computers run Linux. Win7 is on one desktop only and it doesn't touch the Internet.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I can only speak for myself.
    I have been dual booting for a long time, but after I upgraded to Win 10 I found myself using Linux Mint 95% of the time. I find Win10 very inconsistent in usability. When the Metro focus failed with Win8, MS decided to keep both in Win10, and I find two ways of "dealing" with the OS annoying because I never wanted Metro in the first place.
    With Linux I at least have the flexibility to choose for myself what I want and don't want.
    So when the biggest news is "bringing the start menu back" Linux users will head shake.

    Nothing wrong with change, and Microsoft should have credit for being bold enough to do huge changes, however what if they fail with a 1.5 billion user-base? how many will look for alternatives ?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nope. Obviously biased author here too ("Xbox is the best console ever" etc).

    With the MASSIVE privacy issues that Windows 10 has, and now with some of those spying features being backported even to Windows 7 and 8 machines, I see a whole new customer base for Linux!

    Linux is the ONLY major OS that isn't controlled by a massive (US based) corporation! It is the ONLY OS that you have access to the source code to ensure there are no nasty NSA/CIA backdoors installed! Multinational corporations and foreign governments should be avoiding Windows like the plague.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is the ONLY OS that you have access to the source code to ensure there are no nasty NSA/CIA backdoors installed!

      Really? Firefox is several millions of lines of code. Checked them all have you? And the kernel? And all those support libraries? An average desktop Linux distro must be hundreds upon hundreds of millions of lines of code. Does anyone have the skills to examine them all, yet alone the time? And by the time a few weeks have gone past, some of them have been updated.
      It's a nice argument, but it doesn't stand up to any kind of scrutiny.
      Red Hat - the biggest single contributor to Linux has the NSA as its biggest customer. And you think they can be trusted? There's no evidence to support the idea, quite the contrary.
      Besides, as I said above, the backdoors are now in the hardware, so you can run any OS and it doesn't really matter any more. Running Linux keeps some personal data out of Microsoft's hands, which reduces their income by not much at all really.

      Delete
  14. Desktop Linux wasn't really never alive and when it had a chance to live (Vista/Win 8) it committed suicide with the likes of Gnome Shell and Unity.

    Myself, I do use a Linux desktop at home and for work (actually since I work from home, those two are intertwined), I do a lot of photo editing with GIMP and darktable (I can elaborate where those two suck and where they shine), both professionally and for fun, I do some web development and a bit of illustration (Inkscape). Honestly, my Android tablet is not good enough even when quickly publishing on social networks a picture when away on vacancy.

    I do have an use for Windows, and this is playing games, but I very rarely have the time for games now. No, consoles won't cut it, console games are crap in my opinion. As for Linux games, I can name a single title which I really wanted to play this year and has a native Linux version: Pillars of Eternity.

    Anyway, with Linux desktops turning shit, I can see myself going back to a Windows desktop and FOSS apps: GIMP, Inkscape, Firefox, all have Winows versions, all what I would miss is darktable, which can be replaced with RawTherapee.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I used windows for many years but I got tired of the viruses hitting my machine every now and then despite using antivirus. i also got tired of the fact that windows becomes slower with time needing you to reformat and reinstall every 3-5 years if not earlier. So I switched to Linux and I use it to do office work most of the time. I often use applications such as LibreOffice, Dia and a number of PDF tools. I also use Gimp occasionally, Openshot, etc. I've never felt the need to go back to windows. Somehow I managed to solve all compatibility problems without recourse to anything else except Linux.

    ReplyDelete
  16. With desktop sales in the crapper ... is this much of a loss ?

    ReplyDelete
  17. There will always be a desktop (or laptop) market. As mentioned in the post, programming is the single most important reason... Video, sound and image editing are the other reasons I can think of. In addition, desktop GIS and various scientific applications.

    What I do want to add, though, is to not throw away MS Visual Studio as a development tool (IDE). It is really polished IMHO and for desktop programming at least, still easier to use than many Linux alternatives. In the past, games would have been the major reason for Windows preference (and it is still the major reason I have Win 10 installed: modified to have a proper start button, though). But with Steam support I don't think Linux will lag for long.... unfortunately it will take a bit of time as there is a catch 22: Game developers will only develop more and better games for Linux when the market share makes it worth their while. Better dev tools and game engines like Unity3D will only help, though. Personally, for all my day-to-day work (science stuff mostly, some programming, writing, web surfing), I use Linux.

    Something I would still like, is a Linux distro with all the available IDE's, Editors, compilers and interpreters pre-installed. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Teal wallpaper. Windows 95 is calling. lol

    ReplyDelete
  19. A Chromebook is Linux, isn't it? It isn't even that much of a proprietary layer over Linux, almost the entire thing is a Linux distribution (definitely kernel at the heart, then Chromium OS is basically a distribution similarly to what Ubuntu is, although they differ greatly in the exact detail).

    ReplyDelete
  20. A Chromebook uses Linux doesn't it? Chromium OS is essentially a Linux distribution just the way Ubuntu is a distro, though as two distros they obviously differ greatly in the detail. It most certainly uses a Linux kernel as far as I know. So you're saying you don't need a laptop to perform most tasks because you do most on a Chromebook, but that just means you don't need a laptop. You're still running your business and performing almost every daily task using *a* Linux device.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I have been flirting with Linux mainly in its Ubuntu version for some time. I think I am a definition of everyday user. I am using my computer for writing (LibreOffice), using educational software (Bible study, Dictionaries), editing website, doing some graphic work using Gimp for Windows. I really hated Win8 so I wanted to dual install Ubuntu or some other Linux, but putting an instalation cd with Ubuntu into a cd-rom upon starting the computer was never enough. Win8 somehow protected itself from a competition installation. I was succesful to have both installations under Win XP, but not in Win8. Therefore I gave up and suffered Win8. Now I am getting accustomed myself with Win10. However, I was succesful to install Lubuntu 14.04.3 LTS on my old machine as the only system and I am really impressed by how it managed to make it alive again!

    ReplyDelete
  22. There's really only ONE reason use windows instead of linux, it comes preinstalled on most computers, if buyers were given a choice at the time of purchase and told a linux machine would be £100 cheaper and most of the software is free what do people thunk most would choice wot wot....

    ReplyDelete
  23. Well Linux does have MS office as you can just pay a licence fee and get office 365 via your web browser under linux no problems. Also outlook.com offers basic versions of the whole office suite for free as long as you have an email address just like google docs. Great article no in my opinion Windows 10 gives more choice but the privacy concerns have made me less willing to make the upgrade on my dual boot rig.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I know I'm late to the party on this article, but in my opinion, it seems to me that Windows 10 has actually awakened more interest in Linux than ever before. IBM is going completely Linux on their desktops for example (I work there part time currently), and the small business customers (10-1200 users) I take care of are asking me about Linux as well and are considering moving to Linux in the future before Windows 7 support ends in 2020. Again, just my perspective, but I think Windows 10 has done a LOT to spur interest in Linux more than ever.

    ReplyDelete

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