Nearly every year for the past half dozen to a dozen years has been labeled The Year of Linux on the Desktop. Does that mean the free operating system will displace Windows and the Mac? Nope. In fact, not much will change despite the declaration.
The reality is this. As of 2019,Linux is almost everywhere already. Android OS is based on Linux. Windows will get a built-in Linux kernel. Chrome OS notebooks will get Linux apps, too; at least, an easier to find and use Linux inside the OS.
That leaves Apple as the lone Linux holdout. Will that change this year?
First, the Mac and already runs nearly any version of Linux you want; Windows, too, of course, and both together at the same time while running macOS if you want. So, in a way Linux is already on the Mac’s Desktop.
Second, for now iOS remains the only holdout of substance and with about a billion iPhone and iPad users, what’s the need for Linux anyway? What would Linux do for iPhone and iPad that iOS doesn’t already provide? For most users, not much.
What Linux brings is a rock solid server class operating system with high security, but for desktop users (and notebook users) not much else. Windows and macOS have far more applications of a higher class of capability than exists for Linux, so other than the privacy and security capabilities, most people have little to no need for anything Linux.
Still, I admit to enjoy the option to show off macOS by running Windows in one window and Linux in another– all at the same time. But for what purpose?
I see two reasons, both simple, and neither one tied to the great unwashed masses of Windows PC users, Mac users, or even Google Chromebook users.
The first is what I call the geekiness factor. Nearly any desktop or notebook Linux version is good for the basics and little else. Browser, email, music, and command line. Yes, there are other applications available but they pale in significance to those available for Windows and Mac users, and even those are substantially less in number to iOS apps.
The second is what I call the special use factor. Some may have a need for a different level of security than offered by Windows or macOS, and perhaps specialized applications made only available for Linux (sorry, can’t think of one offhand), but if you love the command line interface (I cut my computing teeth on CP/M and an Osborne 1 back in the day) then Linux is the way to go, even if something similar exists for Windows PC users and inside the Mac with macOS’s CLI.
So, let’s get this over with. 2019 is The Year of Linux on the Desktop. Finally. Notebooks, too. But it means almost nothing because as good as Linux has become– polished and secure and easier to update– it remains clumsy and cluttered relative to Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s macOS.
Still, you can get your geek on for free.