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 …

  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 Silver badge

          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 Silver badge

              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 Silver badge

              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 Silver badge

                  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 Silver badge

        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 Bronze badge

        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 Silver badge

          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.

      1. jake Silver badge

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

        DrS, have you tried Slackware's take on KDE? Works for me. Or, rather, I don't even notice it's there most of the time, which is all I ask of a GUI.

  6. Steve Button

    Pixelbook costs $999, don't hold your breath

    That's a bit like saying, Google Pixel phone costs £700, don't hold your breath (on Android).

    Other Chromebooks are available, and they are the perfect computer for many of my friends and people like... my Dad. People who aren't very good with computers, and just do email and web browsing, etc.

    *** And people I wish would leave me alone and stop asking me to fix their bloody computer. ***

    I think they have a future, but not for people who read The Reg. For their friends though? But let's wait and see.

    1. rmason Silver badge

      Re: Pixelbook costs $999, don't hold your breath

      @Steve Button

      The most vocal of those who say chromeOS and/or chromebooks are terrible, probably haven't been near one.

      If the AD/domain integration works properly, and on the cheaper chromebooks, I could replace a great deal of low end laptops for half the cost.

      Chrome OS and chromebooks in general will adequately perform everything that a very large proportion of people use windows desktops or laptops to do, both in the home and at work.

      I don't mean "reg readers". I mean a large chunk of "everyone else". I could probably replace 50% of laptops here with a chrome book with no loss of functionality to users, if it would talk to the windows domain a little more than it does currently.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Pixelbook costs $999, don't hold your breath

        I run a Chromebook because it is thin, light, HD display, has a 10 hour battery and does 95% of what I need , runs Debian with XFCE - and most importantly it cost peanuts

        If it was going to cost a grand I would just choose the MacBook which will do 100% of what I need.

        If ChromeOS becomes full blown Android then I will choose the MacBook anyway because I harbour an irrational hatred for Android.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pixelbook costs $999, don't hold your breath

          It's not irrational.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I couldn't understand what niche ChromeOS filled until I bought an Asus Chromebook as a travel-laptop. However, I've since fallen in live with it; I spend all my day in ssh sessions, web browsers and email. A Chromebook does all 3 in a sexy form factor, with a gorgeous display and incredible battery life. I haven't even felt the need to install Ubuntu - the standard ChromeOS apps do everything I need!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, if you need a dumb terminal the ChromeBook is an excellent dumb terminal. I routinely use local applications that tax the CPU, memory, graphic card and disk a lot - and have specific input needs.

    2. rmason Silver badge

      Since buying a chromebook the only reason the wife boots a windows machine at all is to run her vinyl cutter thing she has that requires software that will only run on either windows or a mac.

      It has replaced her reliance on windows completely bar this one use. Hence my comment about people giving them a go. they swiftly realise they could easily do the majority of things the "average" person uses a (windows) laptop or desktop for.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        And what's the advantage of that Chromebook over a similarly low spec Windows laptop? Giving a bunch of data to Google? I guess now that Microsoft is doing the same slurping maybe it doesn't matter that much. But I won't recommend Chromebooks to anyone based on that reason alone.

  8. tiggity Silver badge

    Work on the move

    "It's difficult to pinpoint a single factor that's held back Chrome OS"

    How about the early tranche of ChromeOS machines being low spec, pitiful storage.

    The cloud concept is all well and good, and I know there is offline edit mode etc, but lots of people need decent amounts of local storage e.g. say I am working on a document and think "Oh, there's something relevant to this I wrote a while ago" - if that doc is on my machine then great, if due to crap storage limitations it is in cloud (and no viable connection as on public transport) then I cannot refer to that and use it to inform my current work until connectivity available.

    .. Yes I know USB ports were on Chrome Books so could add a memory stick with more of my files on, but that's a pain as need to remember to carry sticks (guarantee that when you need it its not there as forgotten as in a hurry e.g. as its plugged into another device), instead I get something with decent storage to begin with.

    When its worse storage than a phone or tablet (as at least with those you can (mostly) add SD card to bulk up storage and its not poking out the side like a stick on ChromeBook!) then zero selling point.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Work on the move

      When its worse storage than a phone or tablet (as at least with those you can (mostly) add SD card to bulk up storage and its not poking out the side like a stick on ChromeBook!) then zero selling point.

      My Toshiba chromebook has a 128GB SD card fully inside and not poking out at all.

      Storage not a problem.

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Work on the move

      How about the early tranche of ChromeOS machines being low spec, pitiful storage.

      I'll second that. Early machines had screens that were too small to offer much alternative to a full fat desktop or laptop, and many had very poor quality panels chosen for cheapness above all else. When makers got round to releasing decent sized screens and good quality ones, a Chromebook could be an excellent device. A couple of years back I retired an ageing business grade Compaq used as the household's general purpose laptop, in favour of a Toshiba Chromebook 2 (the version with the decent IPS HD panel), and everybody has been and remain delighted. The OS happily updates itself without fuss or intervention, it requires zero "sysadmin support" from me (unlike the Windows machines in the house), it comes on instantly, is easy to use, has great battery life, and a much better quality screen than the (admittedly old) 24" Dell TFT I'm using.

      The only two things I'm less keen on are the low quality built in speakers (all the budget for sound was obviously used up in "Beats" branding, leaving a couple of pennies for the actual speakers), and the fact that some members of the family keep thinking the glossy, high res screen is (or should be) touch sensitive, and insist on poking and prodding the screen with their greasy fingers. As a photographer, I've a touch of OCD about keeping optical surfaces clean, and it makes me MAD. Madder than a f***ing mad thing. GET YOUR FINGERS OFF OF MY BLOODY SCREEN! Nurse! I'm having a turn! The medication, quickly! Mad! Mad I tell you!

    3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

      Re: Work on the move

      Just buy a low profile stick, they only protrude about 4mm so you can just leave it plugged in.

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-SanDisk-32GB-Cruzer-Fit-USB-Flash-Drive-Memory-Stick-Pen-Thumb-New-Sealed-/291619932656?hash=item43e5e709f0

  9. simmondp

    Chromebooks are great!

    Brought a Chromebook four years ago as a £200 "throwaway" experiment - over those 4 years I've hardly ever needed a windows laptop when out and about.

    Now, just replaced it with a new HD Chromebook - and it supports Android Apps as well - so now Office 365 and Skype as well as Gmail and G-Calendar.

    Add to that the "use for a whole day" without need to lug a power supply, and the "instant start".

    I think I can finally retire the ageing backup windows laptop.

  10. SVV Silver badge

    It's a secret negative recruitment test by Google for IT managers

    "Users can employ their corporate credentials to authenticate across devices using Google Play"

    Manager : "Yes, I'll agree to give all our corporate authentication credentials to Google Play - what could be the harm in that?"

    Google personnel dept : "Here's another company full of suckers, add them to the c.v. filter so none of those idiots ever get a job with us".

  11. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Purchase price isn't everything…

    Google hopes those $200 Chromebooks serve as a gateway drug.

    I doubt this very much: it's standard market segmentation. Low-end Chromebooks are cheap for a reason: you can't do much with them. This is fine for a reasonable number of people who are used to Google Mail, Google Docs and anything else you can do in a browser. Mind you, saying such machines are running Linux might be technically correct, but the user's runtime is essentially the browser: they're experience wouldn't be that much different if they OS was Windows. But the low prices also mean low margins which usually means poor support and little incentive for improvements from the makers or upgrades by the customers. I expect this market to continue to lose share to purely mobile devices.

    The enterprise market is an entirely different beast where the costs for training, support and maintenance often outweigh the purchase price. The post-PC market is still deciding what it wants here but for many it will be Citrix or maybe a Chromebook. I've now idea whether these devices will be successful but they will be compared with like-for-like for mobility, screen, etc. The prospect of being able to run from a vast selection of Android apps could be very appealing to some sectors. Not for me personally, because I need more than just a browser. But you can see where the market's going.

  12. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    "It's difficult to pinpoint a single factor that's held back Chrome OS"

    I am not sure it can fairly be said that Chrome OS has been "held back". It always was going to have a limited market because of its intent but it fulfilled that intent admirably.

    Chrome OS is great when that's what people want, not so great when they want more, but it was not designed to do more. Its intent wasn't to take the entire desktop market but to fit a niche where what it offers beats a desktop. Limited capabilities but perfect for what it was intended for.

    It's a bit like saying thin clients were a failure for not displacing traditional desktops, and Chrome OS is, for me, the latest incarnation of the thin client; a browser and an OS which allows browser apps to look like desktop apps. Neat idea and it actually works.

    I don't understand why anyone would pay £999 or more for a Chromebook but that's perhaps just me. At the £149 mark and below they are perfectly good little beasts. If they could produce a £50 Chromebook they could have a killer on their hands.

    I also hope Google resist the push to have Chromebooks displacing traditional laptops. The misplaced embracing of that is what led to the regrettable demise of NetBooks.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Naselus Silver badge

      Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

      Meanwhile, in the real world, one might assume big manufacturers were refusing to make the product because there was no demand for it.

      Quite simply, there was no YLOTD because was never a huge public surge of demand for Linux - or for anything other than Windows, in fact. People bitched about Windows a lot, but even when they were offered alternatives for free they weren't interested. In a free market, not being able to give something away is more or less the most damning indictment a product can get.

      We can argue as to why that was (lack of application ecosystem outside of Microsoft; the fact that everyone knew how to use Windows and didn't know how anything else worked; the simple absurdity of how complicated the Linux world is to outsiders, where just the process of picking a distro has a 17-page guide available), but regardless of your favoured reason for the lack of demand, a lack of supply was not the problem.

      This is particularly obvious because Linux took off like a rocket in the server room, because the demand was there. IT professionals like Linux. Ordinary people like Windows. Hipsters like Macs. That's more or less the rules.

      1. Amateur Analyst

        Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

        It's hard to teach an old "Windows' dog new tricks!

    2. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

      I'd put more blame on Redmond, with their restrictive licencing practices if vendors install other OSs.

      It effectively killed off the netbook - vendors were forced into installing XP then 7 'starter', which on cutdown hardware didn't work well.

      1. Naselus Silver badge

        Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

        "I'd put more blame on Redmond, with their restrictive licencing practices if vendors install other OSs."

        Again, doesn't really stand up to scrutiny that well, given that you could buy Linux-based equipment fairly easily from fairly early on in the server room. The OEMs signed those agreements with Microsoft because there wasn't much demand for anything else, so they weren't losing much business by agreeing to it.

        The fact that no un-MS-chained desktop vendor sprang up and rose to dominate the market by selling Linux boxes pretty much clinches this one - if being locked into a license deal with Microsoft was such a big disadvantage in the marketplace, then it would have shown (and, again, did in the server room, with the likes of Netapp and VMWare arising selling Linux-based equipment and ignoring MS altogether). Instead, no-one really suffered for it, while people who did try to put together a Linux desktop or laptop found sales never rose high enough to achieve economies of scale.

        There was neither a demand for Linux in the desktop space, nor the need for it. For the vast majority of users, Windows was familiar (because they used it at work) and relatively straightforward (particularly in the early days, when installing Linux was a ten hour process of picking between a seemingly endless variety of things that did the same task - often ones that the average user did not understand or care about). Linux evangelists continuously ignored that, and assumed everyone delighted in picking between GNOME and KDE, or reading unless forum debates over the best bootstrapper. It's great for performance computer people - i.e., El Reg readers, supercomputer builders and IT nerds - but just annoying complexity for the average punter.

        1. WolfFan Silver badge

          Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

          "I'd put more blame on Redmond, with their restrictive licencing practices if vendors install other OSs."

          Again, doesn't really stand up to scrutiny that well, given that you could buy Linux-based equipment fairly easily from fairly early on in the server room. The OEMs signed those agreements with Microsoft because there wasn't much demand for anything else, so they weren't losing much business by agreeing to it.

          It's worse than that, actually... Apple still lives, showing that it is possible to build desktop systems which do not ship with Windows and that ordinary people will buy. (No, it's not 'hipsters' or such, it's people who don't want Windows and do want something which actually works and which has hardware and software support.) And, more importantly, there were those who wanted to build Mac-like systems without paying the 'Apple tax'. See further Psystar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psystar_Corporation) and Mac clones (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macintosh_clone) and hackintoshes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OSx86). People will go to a lot of trouble to get something which behaves like a Mac... when they could get a Linux box with much less hassle, especially if they're building hackintoshes. And then there are all those 'hobbyists' who hand build systems. Many, including myself, build systems from scratch... and then put Windows on them. Not because we love Microsoft, most, including myself, don't. Rather, we put Windows on the hand-built machines 'cause we need to actually do stuff. Linux acceptance has been hamstrung by its problems with software and hardware compatibility. Some of us actually need to exchange files with people who use MS Office; LibreOffice is NOT capable of doing 100% accurate round trips. It's not acceptable to have to tweak the files to remove, ahem, artifacts. (Tables. Every single time I've built a complex table using LibreOffice I've had to spend time rebuilding it in Word. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. This means that I've stopped even trying. There are other problems, but tables are the deal-breaker, I spend far too much time building them, I'm not doing it twice. Simple tables work, but complex ones...) Some of us want to play the occasional game. Some of us want to print things, some want to scan things... Go ahead, find a colour laser multifunction device which has Linux drivers for both printing and scanning. (Don't even think about faxing, apparently such ancient tech isn't allowed near penguins.) There are very few of them, and mostly they have 'Brother' in their names. You can, should you wish, replace 'laser' with 'inkjet' and try again. Good luck. Look up just plain printers, or just plain scanners. There just aren't many which work with Linux.

          The fact that no un-MS-chained desktop vendor sprang up and rose to dominate the market by selling Linux boxes pretty much clinches this one - if being locked into a license deal with Microsoft was such a big disadvantage in the marketplace, then it would have shown (and, again, did in the server room, with the likes of Netapp and VMWare arising selling Linux-based equipment and ignoring MS altogether). Instead, no-one really suffered for it, while people who did try to put together a Linux desktop or laptop found sales never rose high enough to achieve economies of scale.

          Again... the fact that there were Mac clones and that people still build hackintoshes underlines this point. Mac clones made money for their vendors in the days when Apple's marketshare was a lot lower than it is now. Vendors (except for Psystar, who suffered for it) paid Apple fees to use Apple's OS, and still made money. The users don't want Linux, or at least don't want it badly enough to exert themselves to get it... unless it's hidden from sight. Android is Linux. Users love Android. But they don't know, and don't care, that they're getting Linux systems, they think that they're getting smart phones and tablets which have software and hardware support because Google has decreed that this be so. If desktop Linux had the software and hardware support that Android does, there would be a lot more users. It doesn't, so there isn't. And won't be.

          There was neither a demand for Linux in the desktop space, nor the need for it. For the vast majority of users, Windows was familiar (because they used it at work) and relatively straightforward (particularly in the early days, when installing Linux was a ten hour process of picking between a seemingly endless variety of things that did the same task - often ones that the average user did not understand or care about). Linux evangelists continuously ignored that, and assumed everyone delighted in picking between GNOME and KDE, or reading unless forum debates over the best bootstrapper. It's great for performance computer people - i.e., El Reg readers, supercomputer builders and IT nerds - but just annoying complexity for the average punter.

          When I'm at home I want stuff to Just Work. I wrestle with computers enough at work. That is why I have Macs, and some Windows systems which I have tamed. I don't need to spend lots of time configuring my systems. I don't need to care about Unity or whatever. I don't need to be concerned about systemd. And, as Linux systems won't run MS Office, or Photoshop, or iTunes (even if iTunes for Windows is the single most evil application ever created) then not only would I have to wrestle with them to get them set up, I'd have to wrestle some more to get the things I want to do done... and then I wouldn't be able to play a game to relax.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

            "Some of us actually need to exchange files with people who use MS Office; LibreOffice is NOT capable of doing 100% accurate round trips."

            Don't you mean MS Office is NOT capable of doing 100% accurate round trips? Office users don't actually notice that the problem might lie with their software. They've been habituated to the need to keep updating Office because their old version wouldn't read, let alone round trip, a file written by a newer version.

            1. James O'Shea Silver badge

              Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

              "Don't you mean MS Office is NOT capable of doing 100% accurate round trips? Office users don't actually notice that the problem might lie with their software. They've been habituated to the need to keep updating Office because their old version wouldn't read, let alone round trip, a file written by a newer version."

              Unfortunately, while there can be problems round-tripping files between Word and Pages, there are _different_ problems than the ones between Word and LibreOffice, and, worse for your position, Apple noted the problems and has. addressed some of them, the paragraph border issue being a glaring example. Worse would be the fact that round-tripping between Pages and LibreOffice shows many of the same problems as between Word and LibreOffice; in both, God help you if you have a large, complex, table. Now that Apple has fixed the paragraph border problem, round-tripping files with large, complex, tables between Pages and Word is much less problematical.

              Not everyone is going to notice the problems; notoriously 80% of MS Office users use 20% of MS Office's features (just not the same 20%). However, some users are going to notice. And those users will be the ones who use Office the most, who use it for business/professional reasons, who depend on having those features and having them work. And those users will not be impressed by the way that LibreOffice screws up their work.

              It might be that MS Office should take some of the blame for the problems, though not much given the way that LibreOffice has problems talking to Apple's iWork. However, given the simple fact that there are a whole lot more MS Office users than LibreOffice users, it's LibreOffice which would have to change to fit in with MS Office, the way that Apple had to change iWork to fit in with MS Office. You don't have to like it, you just have to live with it. As long as LibreOffice does not make the required changes, round-tripping will continue to be an exercise is frustration.

            2. WolfFan Silver badge

              Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

              "Some of us actually need to exchange files with people who use MS Office; LibreOffice is NOT capable of doing 100% accurate round trips."

              Don't you mean MS Office is NOT capable of doing 100% accurate round trips? Office users don't actually notice that the problem might lie with their software. They've been habituated to the need to keep updating Office because their old version wouldn't read, let alone round trip, a file written by a newer version.

              No, I mean that LibreOffice has a problem with .DOC and .DOCX files. If I send a DOC or DOCX file generated in Word to a user using LibreOffice and s/he sends it back, there will be problems unless the file is very simple. If I send a .DOC file generated in Pages (Pages can't export .DOCX, or at least couldn't the last time I checked) to the same user, and they send it back, the same problems show up. If I send a .DOC or .DOCX from Word to someone using Pages and they send it back, then the problems evident from a LibreOffice document aren't there. There might be other problems, mostly because .DOC doesn't support some features that .DOCX does, and Pages won't generate .DOCX, but not the ones that LibreOffice has. Pages can and does round-trip .DOC files without much trouble. This was not always the case, but people complained to Apple and they fixed the problems. (They still haven't bothered to fix things so that Pages will export .DOCX, at least not in versions of Pages in use around here, but you can't have everything.) It's not Word. It's LibreOffice. Unless, of course, you want to believe that Apple and Microsoft have generated the exact same problems in Pages and Word.

              And, of course, it is perfectly possible to use Word on a Mac, so that round-trip problems are minimized. There were still a few, of course; Word 2008 for Mac (the Mac version of Word 2007) notoriously had problems sending files to Word 2010, but that was fixed with Word 2011 for Mac, the Mac version of Word 2010. Microsoft didn't bother ship Mac versions of Office 2013, so there were some problems due to features that Office 2013 had that Office 2011 for Mac didn't. That has been resolved with Office 2016, shipping for both Mac and Windows. I haven't seen any round-trip problems between Office versions on Mac and Windows since.

              Somehow Pages and Word, and Keynote and PowerPoint, and even Numbers (ugh) and Excel can round-trip files which LibreOffice has problems with. Like it or not, it's not MS Office which has the problem.

              And, oh, yes... the latest versions of Office still read Office 97-2003 files, so they're compatible with twenty year old files. There's a (free!) extension on Microsoft's site which will allow Office 2003 to read Office 2007 files; it's not perfect, but it works. Most of the time. And the users of newer versions of Office can just save the files in Office 87-2003 formats, eliminating the problem at a stroke. I have people running Vista systems and Office 2003. And elderly Macs and Office 2004. They can still send and receive files to and from users running Office 2016.

        2. Walter Bishop Silver badge
          Terminator

          Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

          "The OEMs signed those agreements with Microsoft because there wasn't much demand for anything else, so they weren't losing much business by agreeing to it."

          The long-term contract were specifically designed to squeeze out the competition, specifically IBM. As well as OEMs having to pay Microsoft per-product for every unit sold, regardless as to whether it sold with Windows pre-installed. Not only that the OEMs had to pay a fixed royalty per 'minimum commitment payments', indexed linked against inflation. Minimum commitment payments are not refundable :)

        3. Joe Montana

          Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

          Most people don't understand computing, and don't know what they want or need... They will buy whatever is marketed to them. Noone is marketing "linux" to them so they don't even know it exists. Even those vendors who do offer preinstalled linux systems, typically require you to explicitly go looking through their site to find it. The original netbooks actually sold very well with linux, and the market died once MS got vendors to stop selling the dirt cheap linux based models.

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: 'But the public didn't bite '

          "but just annoying complexity for the average punter."

          In the meantime relatives with old XP boxes or W7 that got hit with ransomware seem quite happy with Zorin. I doubt anyone is ever going to sell a laptop with it installed but just burning a DVD of the latest version, sticking it in the drive, boot and install isn't exactly taxing and avoids the nightmare of having to keep supporting them on Windows.

  14. jacksmith21006

    Chromebooks grew 38% YoY while Windows PC are at 10 year lows. Chromebooks are Linux and what is missing is the GNU aspect. So you install a program called Crouton on a Chromebook and you have GNU/Linux.

    With the drivers and such all optimized for the hardware for you.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Linux

      You do, but you have a tiny working space for other software with most of the tiny storage on most chromebooks; 16GB flash /4GB ram is a practical minimum and even then you're probably better off patching the bios and installing linux as a single OS.

      But that is *not* a task for the casual user.

  15. andy 103
    FAIL

    People buy off people

    Whenever these stories are published, I always sigh when I read comments about whatever people seem to think is technically superior, or why their particular OS/device of choice isn't the most popular and should be.

    People buy off people. Whether you want to admit it or not, that's why Windows did so well. You see back in the day Microsoft had suited up sales reps, who went into businesses and "sold" the Microsoft dream to other suited up business types. They did this early on. Home users thought, well if it's good enough for massive companies, it's probably good enough for me - it has backing of people and a company. That's why it took off. It was never to do with how technically superior the OS/software was, or anything like that. It's all to do with the human connection and interaction when selling an "idea" (hardware, software, both, *whatever*) to potential users (aka customers, aka people who will help make it more successful by providing financial backing).

    If you contrast this to Linux... well, who do I speak to if I'm thinking of using Linux? Who's selling it to me? Where's the marketing? Is it cool - does everyone else use it or want to use it? It has a massive identity crisis.

    Google and Chrome OS is an interesting one. Google is obviously a massive - and incredibly well known - company with huge amounts of resource and not that bad at marketing. But, it's faceless. If I want to talk to someone about a Pixelbook, I don't want it to be some spaz in PC World.

    Why have Apple done so well? Aside from their marketing, they have countless stores with "geniuses" (a term used very loosley)... but nonetheless, if people need support they can just go and speak to *someone*, or talk and find out more about a device. The key word is "someone" - people interacting with other people - and subsequently gaining market share.

    I've never really been sure how Linux fits into this model - a model of how the world actually works, and what end-users want. I'm 50/50 on whether Chrome OS will do well, but on the face of it, no it won't. At all.

  16. msage

    Data Slurpage

    This whole Windows / Android data slurping being a reason to move to Linux isn't as clean cut as it used to be, the majority of people trying out Ubuntu, which is bad for data slurping too... :/

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Data Slurpage

      "Ubuntu, which is bad for data slurping too"

      ???

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: "Linux is unpolished, raw and difficult"

    I run Linux Mint (18, Cinnamon), Mac OS and Windows 10.

    There may be preferential differences amongst the three, but there are no quality differences at all - except that Windows remains more fragile than the others.

    There are app gaps, and that is what I believe has held desktop Linux back.

    It's certainly not the OS itself as modern Linux provides the looks *and* the efficiency.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RE: "Linux is unpolished, raw and difficult"

      "It's certainly not the OS itself as modern Linux provides the looks *and* the efficiency."

      Efficiency? Tell that to the people griping about graphic driver support...

      1. Palpy
        Pint

        Re: RE: Linux driver support.

        Yeah. Never experienced any problem with graphics drivers on Linux myself, but I've only tried two dozen distros on ... um ... 6 different machines. I do hear that some people have problems, though.

        Last time I did a clean install of Windows I had to boot up another machine to download a network card driver that Windows did not include. And this was on a run-of-the-mill Lenovo desktop, nothing exotic.

        But the "Linux is unpolished, raw and difficult" comment in the article seems to indicate that Michael Allison hasn't done back-to-back Windows and Mint installations for several years. Linux is so much easier. Sigh. Very 2001 of you, Mike.

        Frankly, I have nothing against Windows or Chrome OS other than the ubiquitous data capture thing. I'll probably get a used Win 10 box one of these days for strictly off-line use.

        Beer all around. Just because OS wars make us thirsty.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: RE: Linux driver support.

          "Yeah. Never experienced any problem with graphics drivers on Linux myself, but I've only tried two dozen distros on ... um ... 6 different machines. I do hear that some people have problems, though."

          That's you. Me? I've had nothing but. An old Dell notebook with an nVidia chipset. The FOSS version chugs and the blob driver refuses to work no matter how much tweaking I did, no matter what the distro. It's simply incompatible in spite of all claims to the contrary. It had to go back to Windows just to run properly.

          Radeon HD6850 a number of years ago. Tried to use it, honestly, but ran into too many panics and spontaneous reboots to be comfortable with it. And it wasn't exactly cutting edge, then. If it had problems then, I'd hate to think how the cutting edge fared.

          Now, I had better luck with Intel-based graphics like when I was using an Acer netbook, but it's been the exception to my firsthand rule.

          1. ecofeco Silver badge

            Re: RE: Linux driver support.

            With very, very few exceptions, ALL graphics card are LInux friendly now.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: RE: Linux driver support.

              Like I said, my firsthand experience seems to be running the other way around, and also like I said, the chipsets I was using weren't exactly boutique.

    2. Naselus Silver badge

      Re: RE: "Linux is unpolished, raw and difficult"

      "It's certainly not the OS itself as modern Linux provides the looks *and* the efficiency."

      Except Linux fans have been saying that since 1998.It's almost as bad a trope as 'this will be the YOLOTD'.

      I think the problem is that, while *some* Linux distros provide looks and efficiency, others don't, and most people have given up long before they even reach that point. When you decide to try Linux, you go on some forum, say 'hey, where can I get Linux from?', and immediately 800 people say 'actually, it's not that simple' and all suggest their own favourite niche distro - with the thread almost certainly breaking out into a fight over systemd, or KDE vs Gnome, or Debian vs Mint or whatever. It's incredibly off-putting (not helped by many Linux forums being notoriously hostile to newbies, with anyone asking for help being told 'FO and RTFM'; yes, it's not all of them, and yes, the community is much less arrogant-tossbag-centric than it was twenty years ago, but still).

      The level of fragmentation is ridiculous. People have written whole guides on how to choose a distro - and they all disagree with al the other guides on the features of each one. There's dead distros cluttering things up, distros which look like either distros but with 1 or 2 minor differences no-one notices, distros that are formed because of Linux's own endless internal Holy Wars over subsystems like systemd... And I think most Linux fans don't understand how immensely off-putting most 'normal' people find this. It's so complicated they don't even get to the install phase, so even if you have one of the user-friendly distros (Ubuntu, or Mint) it doesn't matter, since most users don't get that far.

  18. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Coat

    The year of Linux on the Desktop ?

    2001, for me ;-), so what ?

  19. John70

    Games

    What Linux desktop needs is game manufacturers to also write their games for Linux.

    But this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. People won't use Linux if there are no games for it and manufacturers wont create games for Linux until there is a mass market for it.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Games

      Valve's been trying that for years. There's even a version of Steam for Linux, so they've got the egg matter done, but mainstream developers simply won't bite, for various reasons (incomplete graphic driver support, lack of environmental uniformity, et al).

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Games

      "People won't use Linux if there are no games for it and manufacturers wont create games for Linux until there is a mass market for it."

      I don't give a damn whether there are games for it or not. I doubt I'm unique. You might not buy it if there are no games. For other's it's not a factor and for enterprise markets it could be a positive advantage.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Games

        Given how robust the PC gaming sphere is compared to consoles (remember, WoW is not on consoles, and Overwatch doesn't do cross-platform play, among other things), there are going to be PLENTY (probably more than those who don't) who DO give a damn. Being able to game PROPERLY on Linux with less overhead would be sweet for them...if it was possible. Trust me. I'm one of them.

  20. WolfFan Silver badge

    Linux on the desktop

    I have Linux (and Windows) servers. I have Windows (and Mac) clients. I do not have Linux clients. I've personally put Linux on machines at home, usually in a second partition; I find that I rarely boot into the second partition. Linux makes sense as a server OS. It makes less sense as a client OS. The reason why is simple: compatibility.

    The vast majority of the applications I must support at work have Windows (and usually Mac) versions, but no Linux versions. That would be why I don't, why I can't, have Linux desktops right there: they can't do the job required. A large segment of the hardware I must support at work have Windows-only drivers; they will work on Macs if I install Parallels or VMWare. They are a pain to make work on Linux. Once again, Linux simply can't do the job required. No, we are not getting rid of our (in many cases, very expensive) applications and replacing them with Linux-based applications, even if there were Linux-based applications which would do the job, which in many cases there are not; the training and associated costs alone would dwarf any savings from making the switch. No, we are not getting rid of our (in many cases, very expensive) hardware and replacing them with hardware with Linux drivers; in many cases there are no such hardware available, not at any price.

    The applications I run at home have Windows and Mac versions, but, as in the office, rarely if ever have Linux versions. (Go on. Find a Linux version of pretty much any major game. LibreOffice simply is not MS Office. The GIMP is not Photoshop.) I have several printers and scanners. Two of them have 'official' Linux drivers, in that I can search the vendor's site (HP) and get unsupported drivers. Others can be made to work by doing things like taking drivers intended for Apple's CUPS and playing with them. Others, including all of the scanners, just don't work. It's possible that I could find a scanner which works in Linux; it's certain that I'm not going to junk my working scanners, one of which I've had for more than a decade, to get one which works with Linux. Especially when the software I use to play with the scans I get from the scanner doesn't work with Linux, and, to repeat, the GIMP ain't Photoshop.

    Android on the desktop might be better; MS has a version of Office which works in Android. It'd be interesting to see if it worked on the Android desktop. Hardware would still be a problem. Some scanners have Android support; my ancient flatbed is not one of them. Chrome, as it is currently, is a non-starter. No application support, no hardware support.

    Sorry, but there it is.

    1. Bob Camp

      Re: Linux on the desktop

      Printing can be such a huge hassle on Linux, Android, and ChromeOS. And forget about scanning. It's like they don't realize that paper is still widely used.

      None of them can run the latest version of iTunes or Microsoft Office either, and that along with printing and scanning issues make them non-starters for most desktops.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Linux on the desktop

        "And forget about scanning."

        I'm glad you never told me that before. Because I never knew you couldn't use Linux with scanners I've been doing it for years. Am I going to have to stop?

      2. Palpy

        Re: Linux on the desktop, and printing

        It's odd. Forum comments seem to indicate HP printers work best with Linux, and Brother printers can be problematic. I just (two hours ago) put a new Brother printer on my home network, and my Linux distro found it and could print to it immediately. No driver installation, nothing to download, nothing to configure.

        Mind you, Brother offers Linux drivers in .deb and .rpm formats on their website. But... I didn't need the .deb. It just worked. WTF?

        I really, really do get that with heterogeneous hardware and proprietary drivers, installation of various drivers on various platforms can be fraught with difficulty. I was there, but not recently. And I can understand that a package like Microsoft Office is really built to run on Microsoft Windows. (MS would be bone stupid to do otherwise; Office is their bread-and-butter-and-beer.) (I imagine SatNad on a corner with a cardboard placard: "Ruined by FOSS! Anything helps!")

        But my very personal, very particular experience is that I have no more trouble with Linux than I had when I was running Windows. And if you count the anti-virus, hijack, ransomware thing -- then it's much, much less trouble.

        I hunted down an Ubuntu-out-of-the-box mini-laptop several years ago. ASUS. Bloody little beast. The partitioning was insane -- a FAT32 partition on Linux? Really? And if they had decided in cold blood to sabotage the experience, ASUS could not have done it worse. Bad touchpad, bad keyboard layout, underpowered CPU, and soldered-in memory. At the same time, they were of course selling pretty damned good laptops with Windows pre-loaded.

        And that, my friends, is why we can't have nice Linux things. Unless we wipe-and-install ourselves, which most users won't do. Of course, if they had to wipe-and-install to run Windows, they'd go frothing mad.

        Aye, life's a mug's game for sure. The universe is black as Satan's dreams, and there ain't no justice nowhere.

        1. Ropewash

          Re: Linux on the desktop, and printing

          >>Mind you, Brother offers Linux drivers in .deb and .rpm formats on their website. But... I didn't need the .deb. It just worked. WTF?<<

          I'm glad that worked out well for you, but it also raises another point against Linux in the eyes of the many.

          On Apple you drop a .dmg on your desktop and a program installs. (At least that was it when I last used OSX years back.) On Windows you only have to click an .exe to encrypt your entire filesystem and let the ransom-ware folks know you're alive and well.

          But on Linux...

          .deb .rpm .pkg .tar.bz .etc ...It requires faith and hope to try to install anything that's not in your repo. (Faith, hope and a very detailed reading of the dependency list.) Even then the names of some of those things you need are going to change from distro to distro and versions will almost certainly be different.

          This does not go over well with people who just want to do some new task in a hurry.

          Yum, emerge, pacman, apt-get, etc doesn't bloody help either. Fragmentation is great for people who want to experiment and learn, but it's ass for everyone else.

    2. Joe Montana

      Re: Linux on the desktop

      I've generally found the "official" drivers for printers and scanners to be horribly bloated, and often poorly supported...

      Linux distros generally support a lot of printers and scanners out of the box, no need to go hunting the drivers, and the built in drivers are often better than what the manufacturer provides for other platforms.

      I have a couple of old HP scanners here, they have official windows (32bit only) and mac (powerpc only) drivers which are useless today, but they work out of the box on linux. To repeat your phrase, "it's certain that I'm not going to junk my working scanners, one of which I've had for more than a decade"...

      On the other hand, there are standards for printers (Postscript, PCL etc), you're doing yourself a disservice if you buy a proprietary printer instead of one that supports one of these standards. I use an old laserjet which supports both postscript and pcl, and i can print to it from virtually anything, and anything i acquire in the future is still going to support postscript even if all the other crufty proprietary printer drivers are deprecated.

      As for apps, most things are moving towards being delivered via a browser, either cloud hosted or hosted on a local server, and already those who actually require local applications are a niche, those who require specific local applications being an even smaller niche. Gimp may not be photoshop, but how many people run a pirated photoshop to do extremely simple operations that could have been achieved just as easily with mspaint? I know quite a few such people. Plenty of people never use msoffice for anything more than a simple letter either, libreoffice is more than adequate for the vast majority of use cases, as is google docs and the office365 webapp.

      Windows didn't get where it is today by being the best or most capable tool for the job, it got there by being widely available, cheaper and more heavily marketed than the alternatives, and barely adequate for the job, the same thing will happen with chromeos if google pushes it hard enough and in many cases its better for average users (safer etc).

      1. Amateur Analyst

        Re: Linux on the desktop

        Can I vote twice for your comment?

      2. WolfFan Silver badge

        Re: Linux on the desktop

        On the other hand, there are standards for printers (Postscript, PCL etc), you're doing yourself a disservice if you buy a proprietary printer instead of one that supports one of these standards.

        Son, every single one of my printers supports Postscript 3 or PCL 5 or 6 or both PS and PCL. usually both. It ain't the basic drivers that's the problem, it's the extras. It's the stuff which was the reason why I bought the printer: playing with colours, playing with page settings, playing with special output. The things not supported by basic drivers. Sure, I can print a nice plain page of text from a Linux machine on my trusty Brother colour laser. I can even print basic colour documents. If I want to do something special, something which demands special handling, the Brother can't do it from Linux... but can from Windows or Mac. I could print to PostScript and screw with the PS file and then send that to the printer from Linux, but why would I do that when I can get exactly what I want, with no special messing about, from Mac or Windows?

        on a similar note, yes, I can do basic scanning, again to Brother devices, from Linux... but to do the fancy stuff, I need to go to Mac or Windows, using the exact same device, because those features are simply not available for the devices I use under Linux. They may well be available for other devices, but the ones I have work and I'm not going to junk them to move to Linux.

        YMMV.

  21. Naselus Silver badge

    The year of Linux desktop was a running joke

    What do you mean, "was"?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: The year of Linux desktop was a running joke

      "Was" as in it's no longer a joke. It's gone beyond that to a sad state of affairs.

  22. Kleykenb

    try it!

    ChromeOS is simply the Chrome browser but on steroids, with many Android apps now also available on may of the latest Chromebooks.

    The short of it : everybody should try it at least once, and it's possible to get really cheap but still very capable Chromebooks on the second hand market that should make it almost painless to get a taste.

  23. Stumpy Pepys

    I have a Chromebox and a Chromebook and they're my primary devices. They're certainly the fastest computers I own. My Windows desktop is relegated to a cubby hole; and I use it remotely using Chrome Remote Desktop.

    Chrome OS is certainly good enough for most normal folk (i.e. non Reg readers), unless they have specific hardware requirements. They're also really easy to use.

    My mother regularly asked for help with her Windows laptop; since she got a Chromebook, I haven't heard a peep from her.

    1. soulrideruk Bronze badge

      You might want to make sure she is still using it. :D

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux...unpolished?

    Daft as a Dotard™ y' be.

  25. David Roberts Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Chromium OS?

    Nobody has mentioned loading Chromium OS onto a Windows/Linux PC.

    If it is that good, why not?

    Or is it the hardware that sells ChromeOS, and if you have a PC you run Windows and/or Linux?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chromium OS?

      Apparently you can:

      "By installing the company's CloudReady software, you can turn your Windows laptop into a Chromebook, and it's also possible to set up a dual-boot system using both operating systems. ... This technically isn't Chrome OS (which is fully owned and operated by Google). Instead, this is the source base version Chromium OS"

      I might just give it a whirl later

  26. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Linux

    Linux not readily available from reliable manufacturers?

    "The concept of Linux being ready for the mainstream with users confidently running it on their desktops, sadly, never happened."

    For some time, Linux has been running here quite confidently, most mainstream users can't tell the difference. The main reason it hasn't made it to the mainstream desktops is people can't buy Linux in the high street. A PC pre-installed can only be had on some obscure link on a website. I wonder just why that is.

    "Unlike Linux, Chrome OS is readily available from reliable manufacturers like HP, Samsung, Acer and Lenovo, as well as sold in mainstream outlets like Currys PC World."

    New Precision 5720 All-in-One

    Lenovo certifies certain models for Linux, you just can't get it pre-installed.

    HP offers a NeoKylin with FreeDOS pre-installed, you then have to hunt up your own Linux distro :)

  27. Joe Montana

    Desktop is dying...

    Millions of people wanted to access the web, and for years the only way to do that was to buy a complex computer. A full blown computer running a traditional os, be it windows macos or linux is a tool for geeks. People claim linux isn't suitable for end users, but neither is windows, and if anything windows is actually worse these days.

    Users are typically not capable of installing linux, but the same users wouldn't be capable of installing windows either - the difference is that they aren't expected to as windows and macos typically come preinstalled.

    For a good example of why windows is not suitable for typical users, look at the epidemic of malware... Operating a complex OS requires a level of knowledge to mitigate against and avoid the kind of security errors which lead fo malware infections. Most people neither have nor want this knowledge. They only bought a desktop because it was the only thing available to do what they wanted, it was never designed for them and was never an appropriate tool for their needs.

    ChromeOS, Android, iOS and games consoles are much better for such users. Users can use such devices in their default configurations to perform the tasks they want to do, in a much safer environment than a general purpose OS. They don't have to worry about maintenance or malware etc...

    And when it comes to Android/iOS malware, what does exist typically only infects users who have strayed outside of the walled garden by jailbreaking or rooting their devices. Something you should really only be doing if you actually understand what you're doing.

    Geeks don't like the walled garden approach, but such an approach is actually the only answer for non geeks. Give it a few years and desktop computers will be back to the small niche of geeks and specialist tasks, with the vast majority of people using walled-garden devices for their day to day tasks. The only people who should be using complex general purpose computers, are those who actually know how to use them properly and safely on a shared network.

  28. ecofeco Silver badge

    On the desktop, you mean?

    No, not yet. In mobile? Game over.

    Oh wait, Apple uses Unix.

    And MS has ported some things to Linux.

    So, no, not yet. But the writing is on the wall.

  29. Timbo 1

    Isn't it becoming more the-year-of-OSX?

    Rarely see anything other than Macbooks on the train to work, and at work most of our 200+ developers now use Macs with VirtualBox/Parallels being used for Windows if required (usually for full Visual Studio).

    Whatever the reason, there seems to be an exponential increase in the number kicking around. Can't remember the last time I heard the "ooooo! you've got a macbook! very nice" comment from one person to another.

    (Though admittedly a lot of the choice will be down to being a pretty decent bit hardware)

  30. dmacleo

    Linux is unpolished, raw and difficult.

    bull. Irun win10 and mint 18.2 on various machines here. like mint a lot better. if anydvd ran on 'nix would dump all windows installs here.

  31. goldcd

    Pixel(book) was always a halo product.

    Chromebooks are a pretty good choice if you want to stick a web-client in front of a class of marauding children - as you can see with the take up.

    Problem is that Google doesn't want to the OS to be relegated to the "cheap educational toy" category - so we have the expensive Pixels hewn from from pure adamantium (or whatever it is).

    Price of the thing is part of the strategy. If there's no premium model, then Chromebooks will always be "cheap"

    I'm even being slightly won over by the pitch myself. Idea of an Ipad Pro replacing a laptop is ridiculous the moment you then have to buy a keyboard to bolt to the thing.

    As I find myself using my browser more and more.. well I can squint and see maybe that's the way it's all going.

  32. Captain DaFt

    Linux on the desk top?

    Works fine for thousands of users, but there's a major drawback hindering it for general use:

    User:"Fantastic! This software will form a mission critical part of our business! Does it run on Red Hat or Centos?"

    Salesman:"... Wut?? Oh it's fully capable with all the latest Microsoft offerings!"

    User: "Great game! Can I get it for SteamOS, or maybe Mint?"

    Salesman:"HAhahahahahaaaa... No! Windows 10, Xbox one for now, Playstation 4 version coming soon."

    Chicken and egg dilemma, Few use it because very few write mainstream software for it, and few write mainstream software for it because few use it.

    Android was a success because they made it super simple from day one for anyone to whip up a quick app for it. Developers grew up with the system.

    For that matter, the RaspPI jumped past entrenched competitors by doing the same thing.

    Come to think of it, MS did the same with DOS and Win 3.1, back in the dark ages.

    Linux is free, but for a beginner starting out programing? Just ask, and the Linux Priesthood will inform you to, "Go away,N00B, come back when you're a real programmer!" Spoiler: They all go away all right, to Windows or Android. Few return.

    (And I say this as a Linux user and advocate) :(

  33. Amateur Analyst

    Why would I run Linux, in order to unshackle myself from Microsoft dictatorship, only to start wearing Google's handcuffs? Mac, Google and M$ have $$ gleaming in their eyes while they try and trap you in their web. Linux is the key for those handcuffs. I'd never use chrome when I already have 7 or 8 Linux computers all set up and running perfectly.

  34. RIMOLC

    "proper PC"

    Two sentences in and it was clear as a PIxel that the author of this piece was still drugged and chained to Windows, Microsoft's way of making a laptop feel like driving a Jeep Wrangler in a Formula 1 race. Nearing the end of the piece the clincher, if one was really needed, arrived, "...when you can get a "proper PC" for cheaper." This referral to the $1000 Pixelbook as somehow insane has become nauseating. Anyone who has ever spent hours on a windows machine knows that far too many of those hours are spent reaching for headache pain relief.

    My freedom from Windows came when I started using Google's array of digital products that run beautifully on Chromebooks. That array of beautiful software deserves a beautiful piece of hardware.

    The author's feeble explanation of why Chromebooks and Linux never made it didn't come close to the truth. The masses just don't care how a computer gets the job done. Nearly everyone simply strolls into Staples permitting their eyes to be hammered by Windows machines, and giving their ears permission to have the usual lame reasons for buying one travel all the way to their uneducated mind.

    I remember the year I bought a used business class Windows laptop with some slick hardware, Intel's Core i7, a 128 GB SSD, running Windows 10. It was sheer elation and inner peace when I wiped out Windows 10 with Linux Mint 17. What a joy to have fun on a computer again.

  35. conscience
    Gimp

    Microsoft clearly greatly fears Google judging by this unleashing of the their PR FUD hounds.

    Fake claims that Linux looks like shareware, can't run games, can't watch movies, can't open documents, graphic driver support, printer drivers, requires faith and hope to try to install anything that's not in your repo, fragmentation, is just as bad for data slurping, Munich... it's almost the whole Microsoft PR FUD rule book! Windows must be really crap if you have to scare people into using it.

    Pity for those Microsofties that none of it is true! It must break their hearts that:

    Linux looks however I want it to look. I wouldn't have mentioned it considering how bad Windows 10 and the Metro parts look!

    Games run just fine. As well as 100s of Linux games titles available, most Windows games will work perfectly well too. I've yet to come across any movie or music disc that won't play/rip, and the Linux PC I use as a media player has over 500 movies, TV series, etc. on it.

    I don't even need drivers for most things as they're built in to Linux, with much wider support than offered by Windows that still requires individual drivers or nothing works. I've yet to find graphics card that doesn't just work, the latest AMD Vega graphics cards even launched with a choice of drivers from AMD plus open source ones.

    My printer works just fine, as do most printers, scanners and peripherals even ones that have been deliberately obsoleted by Microsoft on Windows. Even the old Logitech Ferrari steering wheel and pedals I picked up - with a 'Windows only' driver CD - 'just worked' when I plugged it in to my Linux PC.

    Installing non-repo software is as easy as on Windows, e.g. download the file and then open it. Additionally the repo provides most things from a safe and secure source, unlike the game of chance downloading all your Windows software from random websites.

    Fragmentation? Hardly. POSIX is pretty compatible y'know. You seem to be confusing fragmentation for choice,

    Zero data slurping on Linux, so it's the OS of choice for users who value privacy. Windows 10 on the other hand deliberately leaks personal data like a sieve because Microsoft want to be Google.

    Munich has been debunked years ago, showing that Microsoft intervened and paid for the PR situation there because it made them look so bad. Nobody actually believes Linux was a failure, and a bent report doesn't prove otherwise.

    Microsoft should come up with a new slogan: "Windows 10 is so terrible we pay people to tell lies about other software in the hope you'll use ours instead!"

  36. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    X-terminal

    I'd think a nice, cheap and lightweight Chromebook could be ideal for a lot of homes even if you have heavier-duty applications. You can use the web browser for web-ish things, certainly. Then add in the capability to load documents and media from your NAS or home media server. Finally, add in the capability to ssh into and remotely run apps from your heavy-duty system in your home office. You have the flexibility to move around the house without having to haul some equally powerful but heavy 17" dual-or-quad core laptop around.

    Of course the "remote apps" would not even be allowed on Linux if the Gnome/Wayland folks could have their way.Sorry, "network transparency" is verbotten in the Wayland Way.

  37. hotroof

    Dell isn't a reputable company?

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