back to article So the 'Year of Linux' never happened. When is it Chrome OS's turn?

The year of Linux on the desktop was a running joke. The concept of Linux being ready for the mainstream with users confidently running it on their desktops, sadly, never happened. Some bravely pushed the idea: the latest being Canonical with a more macOS-like desktop, easier to configure and use than the standard Linux distro …

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  1. wolfetone Silver badge
    Linux

    "If Microsoft ever does applications for Linux it means I've won." - Linus Torvalds

    Linux won.

    1. Alan Bourke

      No ...

      it means Linus thinks he won.

      When Microsoft make Windows a Linux distro, then he'll have a point.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: No ...

        The most popular OS used on Microsoft's Azure platform is Linux. And Microsoft have not only released Visual Studio for Linux but also released Microsoft's SQL Server for Linux.

        Tell me again how Linus thinks he's won?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No ...

          Well those Linux users are paying MS..

          So a Win Win????

          1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Lost all faith

            It's possible very easily to buy a desktop/laptop without paying the windows tax.

            System76 is quite popular in the US, but there's many other options, including PCSpecialist in the UK.

        2. Lysenko

          Re: No ...

          Microsoft have not only released Visual Studio for Linux

          True, technically, but you can't compare VSCode with full fat Visual Studio. VSCode competes with Atom and Sublime. It's a programming text editor, not a full IDE.

          MS owns the desktop because of MS Office, not Windows. I've seen lots of cases where users had no problem with MATE or Cinnamon but couldn't cope with the incompatibilities and missing features of LibreOffice and Thunderbird or Evolution. I'm one of them. I require a Word Processor and a Spreadsheet to be precisely compatible with .docx and .xlsx formats (including revision tracking and multi-lingual capability) because that's what customers send to me. The same goes for (Adobe) Illustrator, PhotoShop and SolidWorks.

          This isn't new. For years Macs survived (almost) solely on the basis that Windows didn't have Quark Xpress. Applications own the desktop: Windows just tags along for the ride because LibreOffice, Thunderbird, InkScape, GIMP, Eclipse etc. are uniformly inferior to Windows equivalents and/or not fully interoperable with de facto industry (Windows) standards.

          PS: I'm a Linux and embedded software and hardware developer. I haven't targeted Windows in years, but I still use it because of the above and because Visual Studio (the real thing) is far better than Eclipse or IntelliJ.

          1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

            Re: No ...

            @Lysenko

            I use both MS Office and Libre Office -- the latter on numerous "other computers" that I own. I use MS Office only on my "main" machine.

            The problems arise, as Lysenko notes, when documents have to be exchanged between different "Offices" on a regular basis. A one-off exercise in dealing with minor niggles is bearable, but not time and again, every day.

            One other frustration is that OCR packages can pass their results directly into MS Word but not, as far as I know, into Libre Word.

            I do wonder how they manage in Germany, where some government entities use Linux while most remain with Microsoft. Perhaps a Reg reader could let us know.

            1. Naselus

              Re: No ...

              "I do wonder how they manage in Germany,"

              Mostly by painfully migrating back to Windows after 10 years and enormous sums of money being thrown down the drain.

              https://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/3019223/city-of-munich-poised-to-migrate-back-to-windows-throwing-out-both-linux-and-libre-office

              Basically, Munich found that using Linux not only caused all sorts of headaches, but also cost nearly twice as much money as just using Windows would have. Because a) support staff cost twice as much, b) you have to write a ton of custom software, c) even then you still end up with formatting issues in office etc, and d) you need to retrain your entire workforce on how to do basic tasks, and then train any new recruit from scratch. Finally, it was also impossible to be 100% Linux, because of the number of things which are simply not available, so they still had to maintain about 20% of their Windows PCs anyway.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: No ...

                "Basically, Munich found that using Linux not only caused all sorts of headaches"...for their new pro-Microsoft mayor.

            2. Lysenko

              Re: No ...

              I use both MS Office and Libre Office -- the latter on numerous "other computers" that I own. I use MS Office only on my "main" machine.

              Same here. I've got 9 PCs around the house and only three of them have Windows (and therefore MS Office) installed. The others are all Linux and if I'm writing anything on them (usually code documentation) then LibreOffice is fine. It writes basic .doc files perfectly well, however, once you switch on revision control and start passing the document through five different offices in three different countries/languages, all of whom are using MS Office, it is completely unworkable.

              It's even worse if you're doing 3D design.Slightly dodgy formatting glitches in a Word document aren't usually fatal (though they could be if it's a contract), but if your 3D model is slightly glitchy vs. industry standards (which means SolidWorks) you can easily burn lots of time/money on useless 3D printing.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: No ...

                " LibreOffice is fine. It writes basic .doc files perfectly well, however, once you switch on revision control and start passing the document through five different offices in three different countries/languages, all of whom are using MS Office, it is completely unworkable."

                So, your point is that MS Office is crap because it messes up documents in good, solid ISO-standard format from LibreOffice? Non-portability was always an MS feature. It locked users into the old continuous upgrade path.

                1. Tim Bates

                  Re: No ...

                  I was hoping someone would finally point out that even MS Office can't correctly open MS Office documents without screwing the formatting.

                  Only since 2010, when they correctly implemented their own ISO standard, has it been fixed. And since Open/Libre Office have also implemented that standard (ironically before MS), things have been pretty sane between platforms.

                  The last time I had formatting go horribly wrong in Open Office was about 2004. Some minor issues crop up from time to time, but usually dealing with old .doc/.xls files.

                2. Lysenko

                  Re: No ...

                  So, your point is that MS Office is crap because it messes up documents in good, solid ISO-standard format from LibreOffice?

                  No, my point is that de jure standards (ISO) don't interest people, they care about de facto standards (MS Office). Whether MS Office is "crap" or not is as irrelevant as whether Esperanto has a better verb structure than English. My customers don't speak Esperanto, they won't learn Esperanto and it doesn't matter if it has an ISO standard, UN recognition and an endorsement from the Vatican, it is not the standard they recognize and no amount ISO fiat or philosophical open source posturing is going to change that.

                  The LibreOffice proposition is equivalent to learning tourist phrasebook French and then demanding that the rest of La Francophonie constrain their vocabulary and grammar accordingly or learn Esperanto. Not going to happen.

      2. Lysenko

        Re: No ...

        You aware of this I assume? Windows is essentially doing WINE in reverse, starting with an Ubuntu bash shell.

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: No ...

          I'd be very surprised if Microsoft didn't have a WINE-like project going on somewhere, even if it's only for UWP apps. It would be extremely remiss if they weren't hedging their bets.

      3. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: No ...

        "When Microsoft make Windows a Linux distro, then he'll have a point."

        Unless they sell it in which case Linus will have lost as MS will be profiting from his work ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No ...

          > Unless they sell it in which case Linus will have lost as MS will be profiting from his work ?

          Many people have profited from using (and selling) Linux. And under GPL you're welcome to - as long as you give away the source code as well to whatever you've built.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No ...

        Microsoft Linux Distribution:

        https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/blog/microsoft-showcases-the-azure-cloud-switch-acs/

    2. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Facepalm

      That's like Jeremy Corbyn saying he's won the election...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So the 'Year of Linux' never happened. When is it Chrome OS's turn?

      Given that Chromebooks are destroying pretty much everything around, particularly in Education sector, and the fact they run Linux, I would say it's been the Year Of Linux pretty much every year for the last 5 years. More so when you add in the 2bn Linux powered Android devices....

      1. Selden

        @Anonymous Coward : You have a reasonable take on the situation. Despite Michael Allison's contention that Android "is the more successful of the two – running on more than two billion mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets" sheer numbers are only one measure. Android is still a piece of crap. Chromebooks can run Android apps now, but I have little incentive to do so; if there is a Chrome OS alternative to an Android app, I will almost always go with the Chrome OS version. It's difficult to express how much I loathe Android.

  2. Alan Bourke

    Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

    The software that homes and businesses want just isn't there. Don't say LibreOffice. It looks like a 1998 shareware application.

    But so what? The desktop is not the be all and end all like it once was.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

      Yet there is still one holdout: games, especially in the PC-exclusive scene like WoW. Why hasn't there been any real headway in mainstream Linux gaming in spite of pushes from the likes of Valve?

      1. conscience

        Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

        @ Charles 9

        Your comments read like you don't play that too many games. Gamers generally have vast collections and play many games, buying many new ones along the way. The absence of any particular game title is not the instant deal breaker for everybody that you seem to have assumed, and probably won't even be missed once they are no longer the latest hot current release. It's not like the whole world only ever plays Fallout 4, Overwatch and WoW (which, the last time I checked, worked fine on Linux using WINE).

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

          The ONLY reason that LInux isn't the #1 OS on desktops is the LACK of MARKETING.

          No, the only reason is that practically all commercial productivity software is written for windows, and this has never seriously been in dispute.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

          "It's not like the whole world only ever plays Fallout 4, Overwatch and WoW (which, the last time I checked, worked fine on Linux using WINE)."

          WoW, maybe, but not Overwatch (only reports on the compatibility list rate Garbage). PLUS there's still the standing warning from Blizzard about using Battle.net (used in BOTH games) through WINE (BAN if you do).

    2. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

      Don't say LibreOffice. It looks like a 1998 shareware application.

      You clearly haven't used it in the last decade or so. It looks almost exactly like an older version of MS Office. Which is a GOOD THING because it doesn't have the damned ribbon. (Yeah, a decade on and I still hate the ribbon.) It's a polished, reliable, and full featured product that absolutely fulfills the role of an office suite. In fact, at one point in time, I kept a LibreOffice install around just to recover files that MS Office had corrupted (this was in the Office2003 era, that problem is far less common these days). Why wouldn't it count? Just because MS owns that particular market?

      But, yeah, you're right. Linux lacks apps in a lot of other areas. Gaming is sparse despite the presence of Steam, and though Linux has at least one solid app in every category you could imagine it lacks most of the industry standard apps. KDen Live may be a spectacular video editing system, but it's not Premiere Pro. GIMP may be able to do everything Photoshop can, but it's still not Photoshop. That list could go on for a long time.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

        I said about a decade back that the year of the linux desktop will be the year after there is a viable *nix alternative to office 1997, and for word excel/writer/calc that's true apart from the lack of being able to interoperate with CMS's that generate documents programatically through the API's.

        As it can't do that, it can't exist in a workplace using a CMS. Which is virtually everywhere as even cheap accounts packages generate invoices via word.

        Ironically, the killer of windows on the desktop is probably actually going to be microsoft accidentially. Office 365 online is pretty much as good as the installed application, and it's entirely possible that if CMS's continue being web based that could eliminate both obstacles to *nix on the desktop.

      2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

        But, yeah, you're right. Linux lacks apps in a lot of other areas. Gaming is sparse despite the presence of Steam,

        Yes, it is because of World of Warcraft that my wife ended up going back to a MSWin system. Ironic in that she pretty much never plays WoW anymore. (which is probably a sign that I meed to convert her Inspiron N7110 to Linux, since the video, sound, etc are fubar under MSWin10)

    3. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge

      Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

      It's true that LibreOffice isn't very visually appealing, but so what? Neither was WordStar. LibreOffice *is* however very capable. I've written a 250 page technical publication with it and had no problems whatsoever.

      I now prefer it to Word, but it's only because I know how to make it do what I want, and I haven't invested the same amount of time into Word. Nothing wrong with Word, though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

        And yet it makes absolutely no headway against existing Word/Excel/Access users, particularly in regards to specific features (like scripts, formulae, et al) of the old guard. Since many of these are business-critical, you'll never get them to jump until you can assure them their custom jobs can go with them. There's also the matter of server (Back Office) infrastructure.

        1. sisk Silver badge

          Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

          And yet it makes absolutely no headway against existing Word/Excel/Access users, particularly in regards to specific features (like scripts, formulae, et al) of the old guard. Since many of these are business-critical, you'll never get them to jump until you can assure them their custom jobs can go with them. There's also the matter of server (Back Office) infrastructure.

          Never mind that those features are used by a vanishingly small percentage of MS Office users, right? No, the real reason that LibreOffice gains no traction is the same reason any other non-industry standard fails to gain traction: A replacement for an industry standard solution is never considered by most companies, and individual users are a drop in the bucket by comparison.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

      "The desktop is not the be all and end all like it once was."

      not when it's running Win-10-nic, that's for sure. But a nice Linux or FreeBSD machine with Mate or Cinnamon or something REASONABLE would do 95% of what end-users want to do.

      The ONLY reason that LInux isn't the #1 OS on desktops (where it's #1 on phones, #1 in embedded, #1 in the cloud from what I understand though I could be wrong about that, yotta yotta yotta) is the LACK of MARKETING. When you have Micro-shaft's STRONG-ARMING of computer vendors with respect to shipping WINDOWS LICENSES with EVERY computer they sell, and using "secure boot" to LOCK OUT the ability to install a DIFFERENT OS [this has been worked around a few times where applicable[, you have a DEFINITE MONOPOLY here, and Micro-shaft has invested a LOT of time, money, and MARKETING EFFORT in _KEEPING_ it that way.

      It's the LACK of proper marketing that keeps Linux "in its place" (from Micro-shaft's perspective).

      If it were a valid platform according to MOST software developers, they'd GLADLY make a Linux port of their stuff. Some of it is apparently written in Java [I hear QuickBooks is written in Java] and so a Linux port might actually be TRIVIAL. But that's what it will take to get vendors on board: an actual USER BASE.

      meanwhile Micro-shaft is doing EVERYTHING! THEY! CAN! to anger their installed base with Win-10-nic. This is yet another example of snatching FAILURE from the jaws of victory. It's a squandered opoprtunity, just like so many OTHER things [it seems]. Sad.

    5. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

      Don't say LibreOffice. It looks like a 1998 shareware application.

      You say that like it's a bad thing!

      Microsoft used to publish some guidelines on application GUI development that encouraged the use of common GUI designs and metaphors in an attempt to achieve consistency across all applications on their platform in the interests of ease of use. Because of this the better shareware applications back in 1998 had very similar look and feel to Microsoft's own applications.

      Along with that came helpful features like, for example, the F1 key bringing up context-sensitive help from any part of any application. I miss that.

      I really don't hold with this strange notion that an application's GUI should look "modern". What's important is that it should work well and enable the user to be productive. The appearance is secondary. An awful lot of time is wasted in our industry changing UIs for cosmetic reasons that bring absolutely no benefit other than making this year's version of the software immediately distinguishable from last year's. If only that effort could be spent on making the applications more useful, less buggy, and more secure!

    6. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Widespread Linux on the desktop remains elusive.

      Don't say LibreOffice. It looks like a 1998 shareware application.

      As opposed to the swirling shitstorm that is MSOffice?

  3. Matt Ryan

    Fighting yesterdays battle

    As more apps become online/web/cloud or mobile based then Chrome OS (especially with Android App support in a container) starts to become much more of a useful tool.

    For some uses now (light, cheap access to the web) it's already the right answer.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Fighting yesterdays battle

      But some apps simply CANNOT be moved online because (1) they're too performance-intensive, (2) they involve local hardware, and/or (3) they involve confidential data that, for legal reasons, cannot leave the premises.

      For these kinds of applications, local computers will always remain the go-to option. And most of the applications for that end remain Windows-ONLY.

      1. peteracworth

        Re: Fighting yesterdays battle

        Point taken, but IMHO that set of apps that must be run locally is diminishing. For instance, already most people are fine with a cloud based photo editing app (many *think* they need photoshop and actually use only a tiny subset of its functionality). In most organizations there is a growing proportion of the employee base able to do everything in the cloud and who do not need anything local. Clearly there are exceptions, as you say.

    2. peteracworth

      Re: Fighting yesterdays battle

      I agree completely with this statement.

      I find articles like this a little short sighted. There has been a huge migration towards the cloud. As a business owner, we are now handing out chromebooks as an alternative to expensive macs as a way to enforce the company choice of gsuite replacing MS office and other 'terrestrial apps'. Thereby we enforce a culture of collaboration.

      The point of the chromebook, surely from Googles perspective is selling adoption of Chrome and its cloud services. With 58 percent of school kids being brought up on the chromebook, thats no small feat! Kids are learning the benefits of collaboration. To them, emailing a word attachment must seem ridiculous.

      IMHO for all intents and purposes, such terrestrial apps will become a thing of the past relatively soon. with a few exceptions such as video editing.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So perhaps 2018 will be the year of Linux on the desktop?

    1. HieronymusBloggs Silver badge

      "So perhaps 2018 will be the year of Linux on the desktop?"

      The year of Linux on the desktop for me was 1998. Have I missed something?

      1. Chemical Bob

        For me it was 2001.

        1. jake Silver badge

          For me ...

          ... 1993.

          I wouldn't ask MeDearOldMum or Great Aunt to run Slackware, though.

          Oh, wait ... Yes, I would. A cut-down version of Slack, made especially for them. And they've been quite happy with it for around 15 years now ... although they still insist on calling it "jake's version of Windows". I've stopped trying to correct them.

  5. Khaptain Silver badge

    The year of Linux desktop was a running joke.

    The year of Linux desktop IS a running joke. TFTFY.

    It must be at least 10 years old by now, the running joke that is...

    Anyway at a 1000 €uros, they have no chance... It actually makes Windows seem cheap...... I am not sure that providing all your details to Google is better than providing them to Microsoft.

    Linux seems to be the obvious solution to all these DataSlurping problems, it's just that <insert your own dislike of Linux here>. Personally I just don't like the interfaces and Deity know that I have tried hard to find one that I like, everything else is fine....... but that damned interface is what I look at and use all day and when it doesn't appeal then I simply wont use it... An interface is not just a desktop background and lovely icons, it is far more than that, it is also the same reason that I don't like MacOS... I don't care what anyone else thinks, I do believe that MS easily have the most mature, user friendly interface currently available, it my personal opinion based upon my personal needs...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The year of Linux desktop was a running joke.

      " am not sure that providing all your details to Google is better than providing them to Microsoft."

      It's worse.

      Google track everything possible; MS, doesn't have it's claws quite as deep on the online and more and more, the offline, worlds.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: Lost all faith

        For many it's a choice between Windows, which they understand, or everything else, which confuses them.

        Data collection isn't an issue to probably 75% of windows users, who either don't care or don't know it's being collected.

        1. Naselus

          Re: Lost all faith

          Probably more like 95% tbh. People are not interested in IT security. They like to say they care about it, but the moment they are required to learn even the simplest of new things or are slowed down by the smallest amount, they instantly hate it and turn it off. For example, see the recent hatred for the iPhone X's facial recognition; the number one complain I've seen is 'now I have to look at the screen to unlock it', as if that's a massive fail for something that reduces false positives by about 99.9% and is a device you usually have to look at to use anyway.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Lost all faith

          "For many it's a choice between Windows, which they understand, or everything else, which confuses them."

          Given that many now have experience with non-Windows devices and must have gone through multiple cycles of Windows and Office interface changes that shouldn't really be a problem. Frankly, it's Windows that I find confusing.

          1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

            Re: Lost all faith

            Yes, but they didn't take the changes lying down. There was quite an uproar, as i remember, when Windows 8 came out and turned the interface into something different.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The year of Linux desktop was a running joke.

      "Personally I just don't like the interfaces"

      Of what? I've kept a pretty consistent user interface on KDE for many years*. What's more it's also pretty consistent with what MS used to have back in the days of W95 to W2K apart from the obvious gain of multiple workspaces. This is a major difference from the UI havoc that MS have wrought on both the OS and their applications.

      * Plasma 5, however, is a bit of a problem. Every theme designer seems to have been swept up in the tide of flat, ugly, unfriendliness that's infected the rest of the desktop world. So far I've only been able to partly ameliorate it on SWMBO's new laptop.

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