Monday, June 10, 2013

Linux Desktop: Little Innovation, Lots of Mediocrity

by Dietrich Schmitz

Okay, I've been crossing the tundra and vast expanse of the Linux ecosystem examining, pushing, poking around in all corners.  Some of what I have seen, I like.  Some of what I have encountered is quite ugly and unseemly and not giving me anything in the way of a good feeling about the future that holds for Linux.

You see, in spite of the fact that Linux is touted as being wildly successful, there are only two Linux Distros that have had any measure of commercial success.  They are Google's Android and ChromeOS (Chromebook).

Everything else is, well, one big blotto.  Zero.  Zed. No other commercial endeavors that I can think of use Linux outside of Red Hat in the Enterprise.  I won't count SUSE because they are joined at the hip to Microsoft who leech off of sales with their interop voucher system.

But, most people don't really think about Red Hat when talking in terms of the success of Linux.  It's almost as though Red Hat is invisible.  Yet, they reign in each year over $1B dollars U.S. in sales.  Funny isn't it?

I mean, look elsewhere and really all we have to show for is the Android smartphone/tablet ecosystem.  Sure it's big, but not like the success of Windows.

Not many people view that as a Linux success, yet in technical terms it is and consumers do benefit greatly by it.

Where else?  I close my eyes and see nothing.  Just wind and tundra, some scrub bush, dust and the occasional tumbleweed.  All of the collective Distros on are doing what exactly?  Someone help me?  What?  The numbers aren't even remotely scientific.

How many in numbers are really using any of them?  How is that even measurable in accurate meaningful terms?  It really isn't measurable because unlike Windows that can be measured in quarterly sales figures, nothing gets sold in the Linux ecosystem, with exception to the Google Chromebook.

So far, there have been unconfirmed reports of actual sales volumes for the Chromebook in total across all SKUs.  Yet, Google continue to expand into six new world markets with confidence, all done with nary a mention of Linux.

That leaves most everything you see in Distrowatch doing largely nothing.  Okay we have an unspecified number of 'hobbyists' using Linux.  The guesstimates keep coming in and are just whimsical guesses--all wishful thinking  that 'maybe' Linux will succeed.

In the meantime, we see yet more cookie cutter Distros being pumped out.

Fuduntu died,  then was reborn (Halleluiah praise Jesus!) as a fork of openSUSE called confusingly, FUSE.  Then they changed the name to Cloverleaf.  Then they changed their minds about not using Consort.  We see a fork of Debian to SolydX and SolydK with the former using Xfce and the latter KDE being heralded as some kind of technical achievement (yawn).

It's the same situation on a different day--more of the same boring cloning going on and most of the original hard work is being done by only a few programmers upstream, packaged and then distributed by the downstream cloneheads who think their clones are the best thing since sliced bread.  And if you don't think so, just ask them.

It really gets tiresome to watch the same unoriginal so-called work product appear--all not the least bit innovative.  I can count only Red Hat, Fedora, Ubuntu and Debian as doing the majority of work in moving the Linux Desktop forward.

Everything else is largely a rag tag assembly of competing fiefdoms, who act surly, disrespectful, arrogant and position themselves in opportunistic ways and who won't hesitate to crawl over your back if you bend slightly to gain an advantage.  There is little sense of community spirit really.  In the end they protect their own codebases if necessary--it is simply lip service.  Community is a myth.  Not just Ubuntu, even Fedora's process is being put into question.  I use the term 'chump' for anyone working in a community project which doesn't have 100% control over their own decision making.  There are many sincere community chumps.

As a result, the Linux talent pool is dwindling and it shows.  Why write for the Linux Desktop when you can make money writing for Android, Firefox OS, Tizen, Jolla, ChromeOS, Windows, iOS, OSX?  That's what is happening.

It isn't pretty, but there it is.

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