Monday, February 18, 2008

Why has not Linux taken over OS market?

Slashdot has posted a link to this blog post discussing why Linux has not taken over the operating system environment. It is free after all, so why aren't there more people using it? The blogger poses the fact that people do not like things that are free, and that is the reason why Linux is a distant third in the OS marketplace.

I have to disagree strongly to that hypothesis. People love free things. While most people still use Internet Explorer to browse the web, Firefox now commands a whooping 37.2% of the total market (and 46.75% of TechnoLlama readers), and it is more popular than either IE 6 or 7 taken individually. Why is that? Because it is a superior product, it has a large range of plug-ins and extensions, and it is in average more secure than IE. For those who think that IE is also free, remember that it is the pre-installed browser in Windows.

There is one important reason why Linux has not taken over the OS market: it is not easy to use (no, not even Ubuntu). Your average Linux distribution requires a lot of hard work in order to get it working properly. In my personal experience, Open SuSE 10.1 was the first distro where all of my hardware worked after the first installation (yes, including wifi). However, SuSE 10.2 had several problems, including the very inconvenient fact that either wifi or power saving features worked at the same time, leaving me with the dilemma of running out of power quickly if I wanted to connect to the Internet.

Until these problems are solved, people will continue using Windows, or migrating to OS X. Most of us know that Vista is a piece of DRM-laden junk, but even that is preferable in the minds of many consumers to having to give up an entire weekend browsing forums in order to get their laptop to work with Linux. This is why I gave up and bought a Mac. I'm sure I'm not alone in that respect.


Laurence said...

What did you 'give up' on Andrés? It's not as though XP SP2 is not a stable and well-supported (and supporting) system.

I'm all for Linux adoption (have done it myself) but there is no pressing need to be put in the Vista/OSX dilemma.

Ben Bildstein said...

Windows comes as standard with most computers, so people who are buying their first computer are problably becoming Windows users.

MacOS comes with Macs. If you buy a Mac, you get MacOS by default.

Many people use Windows because it's what they know, or use Macs because that is what they know.

Personally, I think that's enough to explain why Linux is not taking over the market. I agree that Linux is not as usable. I recently migrated from Windows XP to Ubuntu 7, and the difference in usability is more than just "what I'm used to". But like I said: personally, I think momentum is the biggest reason.

Andres Guadamuz said...

Hi Laurence,

I should have mentioned that I still use Windows at work and at home (gaming PC).

My comments are for laptops, I think that OS X is the best laptop OS at the moment.

John H said...

The main problem with GNU/Linux is that you normally have to install it yourself. Buying PCs with GNU/Linux pre-installed would make a big difference.

But some of the problems arise from the implications of software freedom - e.g. as regards proprietary drivers. Software freedom is a "feature" rather than a "bug", but casual users looking to use an Nvidia graphics card are often uninterested in the broader issues of software freedom.

So I'm not too upset about GNU/Linux's small market share. The "solutions" people usually come up with (Include non-free software and drivers! Consolidate onto a single desktop environment and a single desktop distro!) normally amount to killing off what makes free software special and important.

Anonymous said...

I generally agree with the views of Andrés. I consider myself very technically competent even thought I am not an IT professional. I have tried several flavours of Linux and as much as I like the concept and general look and feel, I have too many other things in my life that are way more important than spending whole weekends trying to figure out how to browse my home network or having to run a Windows emulation because I needed to run some particular software that didn't run anyway. I have now had about 4 serious attempts at moving over to Linux and just can justify the time anymore. I'd rather go for dinner with my wife or have a weekend camping.

Anonymous said...

Over the past few weeks I have tried a number of Linux Distros and have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they just don't work! By this I mean that Windows XP/Vista is a better product. I know it depends what you are looking for in an OS but if you look at it from the perspective of Joe public then I am afraid Linux is just too much hard work!