100% Linux is Impractical

I was reading a post on the Ubuntu sub-reddit on how a user has converted 100% to Ubuntu. This might be possible but can be fairly impractical. Allow me to explain.

I use Linux almost every day at home and work. I also use Windows every day at work. At home I use Mac OS X on a MacBook. My immediate family is all iOS and extended family is mostly iOS with some Android and BlackBerry OS thrown in. I also have a Nexus 7 tablet. I own an Apple TV and a Roku.

Mine may be a typical American household these days (for a geeky household). No one device or OS is able to solve every use case. This not only the world we live in but the world of our near future. Consumers have lots of choice but they don’t really use that choice. Phones are mostly either iOS or Android. Computers are mostly either Mac OS X or Windows. Servers are mostly either Linux or Windows. Tablets are mostly either iOS or Android. So even with the widest choice available most consumers have picked a couple of winners for each device and the rest use the remaining choices.

I haven’t made up my mind whether this is a good thing or not. On one hand you have the ability for consumers to help each other because they use the same device and OS. On the other hand consumers are creating de facto monopolies with their wallets by rejecting other viable options. So you have these large corporations clambering for supremacy in one facet of technology and relinquishing control in others. Eventually we’ll be left with some devices ruled by sub-par manufacturers or without manufacturers altogether. But I digress.

To expect Linux to rule all devices is a bit naive. It already has a large market share in many device segments and this share increases every day. But it cannot be expected to replace the latest iPhone. The reason is simple: market forces pull technology and consumers in all directions all at once. In addition, consumers are not all alike. I enjoy using Linux, my wife is not a big fan of technology, and kids care about Netflix, Angry Birds, and Temple Run.

Let’s assume Linux could be king for me, my wife, and kids. Who will produce this Linux? Already in the server and desktop market we have major distributions pulling Linux in different directions. This causes headaches for application developers and hardware manufacturers: which distribution should they support? No two major distribution producers can agree on all the things at the same time, from package management to release/support life cycles. How can we expect a single direction for Linux?

Even if Apple, Microsoft, Google, BlackBerry, and others decided to drop everything they are doing now and back Linux, they all have different visions of products and how they want to create them. There’s no uniting factor compelling enough for the thousands of developers to disregard their goals. Each one of those developers has their own vision. It’s hard enough to get them on the same page in a corporation, let alone in the free software world.

Linux can be king of all; it’s possible. But it’s just not practical. Being optimistic is good and working to make Linux king of all domains is great. But we also need to realize that sometimes our ideals might get in the way of making the lives of people better with technology. That should be our goal while we try to get there in our own ways.

2 Responses to 1002 Linux is Impractical

  1. Vincent says:

    sorry, but you are just very wrong. It would be very practical to have Linux on everything. In fact, it is already at everything (pc,server,phone,tv, etc). Besides that your post is very much generalising, missing completely the fact that markets are moving. Microsoft has made it’s first loss and is reorganising. The desktop pc market is shrinking fast. People rather by a mac and are very happy with Ubuntu Linux. All major players are very much focussing on providing a platform on all major devices, which is exactly what you claim is not practical?
    You better read up on what is happening :).

  2. hs says:

    All major players are very much focussing on providing a platform on all major devices, which is exactly what you claim is not practical?

    You have answered your own question. Since all major players are doing their best to conquer all device segments, Linux will not succeed in every device segment. It’ll be successful in some (or most, even) but not all. There are too many players in the market providing choices to consumers who don’t always have the same requirements or taste. To expect Linux to serve the needs of all is not practical. It’ll fail to serve many consumers, who’ll be better served by something else.

    I’ll repeat another point. Even if Linux (the kernel) is on every device segment, Linux (the meta OS) will not be. Even today we have such diversity as Android, Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish, Firefox OS. All of them are running a Linux kernel but are not alike as Linux OSes. Even if Linux defeats iOS, BB, Windows, etc., *which* Linux OS will rule above all?

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