2007, The Year That Linux Takes Over the Desktop -- since 2001

Posted: 2007-01-16 23:08:49

As far as I’m concerned, Linux has one single problem. This problem is a major one, and is almost unsolvable. It has kept the above statement from coming true every year that it has been made. Those that understand, keep quite. Those that don’t, work on the next great featureset to bring Linux to the desktop. What is that problem? Device driver support.

Windows is the path of least resistance for the end-user. It is the primary platform for hardware vendors. Everything is supported.

On the Linux side, things are a bit more difficult. Drivers have to be open-source, or distributed as binaries and installed by the user. That is, if they even exist in the first place. And if they do, they might not work too well.

Now this in of itself is not the problem, but rather what needs to happen to solve this issue and bring Linux to the desktop, without serious ideological compromises…

The majority of vendors will never release drivers under an open-source, GPL like, license. There are too many IP issues.

A driver is rarely written by, or contains the IP [Intellectual Property] of, only one company. Many parties are involved in the process, recursively. Contracts are signed.

A company simply cannot open-source a driver without getting sued. Even if all the contract and IP issues are resolved, a company knows that someone else might find that code, or method used, to be very similar to something proprietary… Paving the way for major lawsuits.

Microsoft knows this, and will do anything and everything to prevent the solution to the Linux driver issue. Not that they really need to, as we live in a capitalist society and patents and IP will not be going away anytime soon. And it’s too late for a unified, non-proprietary hardware initiative. It would never catch up with current offerings.

In my opinion, while Linux will gain ground every year, it will never [as in the next 7-10 years] catch up to the market share of Windows. Without a solid driver base, Linux is only good for specific tasks — none of which involve the average end-user. And if you look at what some of the top Linux people have said, you might see they realize the truth and are moving forward, while others are stuck in place.