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.
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.