With Microsoft getting so much flak over Vista’s issues, you’d think Linux would be getting some headway in the consumer desktop arena. Unfortunately, the only really benefiting from Vista’s bad PR is likely Apple.
Why hasn’t Linux made enough of a significant mark on desktops? It can be downloaded gratis, has far less security issues and has the zealous following of users willing to share code, discuss it and offer free tech advice on forums. Fact remains that Linux, at least on the desktop, is plagued by issues that make Apple the more popular choice.
1. Not working out of the box
Even Ubuntu can’t claim that for all machines. Linux might install and work on a few machines but there is no guarantee that it’ll work on every box without significant tweaks.
Even getting MP3s to play while using Linux can be problematic. As in, you’ll have to download and install the codec yourself wihile in Windows, MP3 playback is already available and good to go.
Perhaps it’s not the fault of Linux as much as it is the pervasiveness of Windows. Microsoft, after all, works with various hardware manufacturers to ensure their hardware works with Windows. And you still have driver problems crop up on occasion so what else can you expect with Linux.
The average consumer just wants to be able to pop a CD into his optical drive, wait 10-15mins and have a working operating system. Though desktop Linux can now nearly duplicate the Windows desktop experience, getting there is painful.
Of course, Apple took the easy way out and made the hardware to go with its OS. That way, it knows the software will work. And it does, beautifully , without a hitch.
2. Too many distributions
CNet’s Matt Asay has a point – do we really need so many Linux distributions? What is it with the collective egos of Linux coders that if one distribution doesn’t suit them that they have to go and make a new one, when they have input on improving an existing distro?
Instead of rallying behind a single distro and making it the OS to beat, Linux grokkers tweak and promote their own Linux ‘flavours’.
3. Archaic documentation
Technical documentation’s always been a sore point for most consumer items but Linux documentation takes the cake. Ubuntu does a pretty decent job making the documentation accessible to the layman, but everyone else? Well.
On the documentation front, Apple also shines. The shiny brochures and step-by-step routines make directions on using OS X palatable and simple. No knowledge of command-line keywords required
In essence, until Linux becomes dummy-proof, it’s not going to win over consumers. Make it easy, make it accessible – until Linux programmers get that, it’s more likely that Apple will perhaps double its user base in the years to come at the expense of both Windows and Linux. It’s not about the best OS winning – it’s about the OS with the best user experience and Linux still isn’t there yet.