You know it’s a good week on the blogs when one of the top stories on Digg is a graph of Linux users’ T-shirt sizes.
Yes indeed, said graph — comparing the sizes of attendees at the Linux Symposium in 1999 with those of last year’s participants — drew some 800 Diggs and 100 comments on the site, not to mention providing fodder for endless entertainment. Why? Let’s just say “supersize me” seemed to be an apt description of the trend over the past decade.
“The big ones are eating the little ones …,” quipped turiya04.
“Luckily, this is the only kind of Linux bloat,” wrote kd420.
On the other hand: “It’s because of ‘World of Warcraft.’ I just know it,” asserted RBobby.
Much Ado About Gaming
Speaking of which, there just may be something to that. Gaming has been a hot topic on the Linux blogs over the past few weeks, with several different articles asserting that it will be key to winning mainstream Linux acceptance.
Then, just the other day, there was “Open Letter to Game Makers – Investigate the niche of GNU/Linux compatibility” on Humans-Enabled.com.
All three became top stories on Digg, and by Wednesday the first two had attracted significant attention on Slashdot as well. So we here at LinuxInsider knew we had a topic worth exploring.
And Then There Was One
“I think a lack of games for Linux really does hold it back,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider. “It’s good to see some game makers considering the market.”
On the other hand, “I’m not sure I buy this argument,” Monochrome Mentality blogger Kevin Dean said.
“I think at one point, the Linux lovers of the world had a laundry list of reasons why Linux isn’t ‘there’ yet, ranging from graphics cards to video cards to lack of Office to lack of games,” he told LinuxInsider. “The only one that’s really survived to this point would be games.”
‘Meet a Need, Users Will Follow’
People “need to be honest with themselves,” Dean continued. “Linux isn’t attracting users because Linux isn’t Windows.”
That’s not to say that Windows is “the epitome of operating system greatness,” Dean added. “Far from it! People in general, however, don’t like change. The vast majority of people simply don’t hate their Windows experiences enough to make a switch to something else.”
Where Linux producers, developers and users should focus is not on market share but on quality, he asserted.
“When you meet a need, the users will follow,” Dean explained. “Linux doesn’t need a killer theme or shiny packages, but it does need to meet a need that can’t be met elsewhere and make people so excited about it that they tell their friends.”
The fundamental thesis that games drive the PC market is flawed, Slashdot blogger yagu told LinuxInsider.
“If games drove acceptance, you’d see mostly gaming computers everywhere, but you don’t,” he said. “Gamers are a niche market and certainly influence the marketplace, but games on Linux (or not) isn’t holding Linux back.”
Rather, what’s holding Linux back is “Microsoft and Microsoft’s stranglehold on where developers choose (for business reasons) where to target their products,” yagu asserted. “Developers, if they want to survive, target the Windows world first, Mac second and Linux if they have some money and/or resources left over.”
‘People Want What They’re Used to’
Even Google — “one of the largest Open Source supporters in the world” — develops for Windows first, yagu noted.
“People want what they’re used to having on Windows,” he explained. “And if Linux is to become mainstream, people have to see things like Office, Photoshop, et al., transparently.
“They don’t want to learn GIMP (much less how to install it), they don’t want to learn OpenOffice (though I still submit there’s not a learning curve — which I suppose only supports my theory they don’t want to relearn at all), and they don’t want to learn an infinitely configurable desktop,” he said.
The Google Linux Desktop
Speaking of Google, another feisty conversation arose recently about a Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols blog titled, “The Google Linux desktop has arrived.”
Pointing to a recent discovery by startup Mobile-facts that Google’s Android can be used on the desktop, Vaughan-Nichols argues that “Google is already thinking about using Android as a desktop operating system.”
More than 1,500 Diggs and 150 comments greeted the topic, so we couldn’t resist taking a closer look.
‘Looks Like a Lot of Hype’
“Looks like a lot of hype coming from a reporter wanting some attention (and page views),” Mack charged. “It’s looking more like Android is going after some larger screened devices, but that doesn’t mean desktops.”
Similarly: “I think this was more one guy’s daydreaming than reality,” Slashdot blogger Mhall119 agreed.
“Yeah, Android will run on a notebook (it is Linux, after all), and yeah, it has a ‘MID’ profile,” he told LinuxInsider. “But I don’t think Google is going to try putting it on a desktop.”
For one thing, “Android’s UI is ideal for small touch screens, not your typical desktop setup,” he noted. “For another, I don’t think Google sees much future in desktops — the potential market for handhelds and appliances is orders of magnitude larger, and that’s where Google is positioning itself with Android.”
‘Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill’
Along similar lines: “It almost seems as if he’s making a mountain out of a molehill here,” Dean said.
For one thing, “He seems to mix up netbook and desktop, when in reality they’re not the same,” Dean explained.
Vaughan-Nichols also “seems to kind of miss a subtle yet critical difference between Microsoft’s business model and that of Google,” Dean added. “Google doesn’t want to be the best, the biggest software company in the world. They want to be the biggest database of information in the world, and directly related, use that information to sell ads.”
The Android platform “is designed for ‘write once, deploy everywhere’ applets that essentially display ads,” Dean said. “Microsoft’s products are about generating content. I think both are valuable services but they’re not competitors, at least not in this one arena.”
‘The Foot in the Door Linux Needs’
On the other hand, in today’s faltering economy, the fact that both Linux and Google desktop applications are free “may be the foot in the door Linux needs,” yagu asserted.
While Microsoft’s Office Suite, for example, “is far and away superior in technical and feature bravado, the subset of functionality MOST people need and use is available today on Google Desktop,” he explained.
“I still think someone has to offer Linux in a pretty package that is price-competitive to make people believe it’s a valuable product,” he added. “But huge savings and the ‘bad boy’ cachet of trying something different could drive enough to try Linux in these trying times, and maybe, just maybe, there will be a viral market and word spreads fast and far enough to get Linux to its tipping point.”