Open Ballot: Taking over the world

2012 may go down in history as the year Linux conquered the mobile phone market. Could 2013 be the Linux takes over the desktop?

Yes, yes, we know this has been said every year since ... well, pretty much since Linux had a desktop environment. But this time it's different. It really is, because this time we're not talking about Linux as we know it, but in its ChromeOS guise.

Chromebooks have been around for a while, and haven't exactly sold like hot cakes. However, the new offerings from Samsung and Acer seem different. They're more competitively priced, they're being advertised harder (here in the UK at least), and in our humble opinion, a little cooler.

So, let us know if you think:
-They're the bees knees and the shape of computing to come.
-They'll do OK, but not set the world on fire.
-Epic fail.
-Don't care. If it doesn't run KDE/Gnome shell/XFCE/Cinnamon (delete as appropriate) it's not real Linux.

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Your comments


No, Go buy a tablet...

Linux took over my desktop

Linux took over my desktop about six years ago, whether it takes over a significant number of non-industrial desktops is anyone's guess.

Easy and familiar is what most users want...

Over the next few years, you're going to see a huge movement to Linux on mobile devices and computers, but very little is going to change from our perspective...

Most users don't want to play with their tech, they just want it to work. These people are fine with embedded systems, and aside from the shiny surface, couldn't tell the difference between iOS, Android, and Chrome to save their lives. The chilling effect is that there's a third party involved in our devices, a cellular carrier, Google, or Apple, and when you agree to own one of these devices, hacking them is frowned upon and could result a loss of service.

My new computer is going to come with a copy of Windows Ocho installed, which will last all of fifteen seconds before being ripped away and Linux installed. After that, it's whatever I want to use. Experience has shown me, though that very few people want to use Crunchbang linux with an Xfce desktop.

I can see a lots of integration between mobile and desktop, but that doesn't mean there will be a great Linux adoption. Easy and familiar is what most users want...

It is irrelevant

Linux is awesome and we get to enjoy it.
We have enough users and developers to sustain it so why try and broaden the appeal?
Lets just focus on making it even better.
If more people start using it great! If not, well it is their lose.

Don't make me laugh...

With the fractured, fragmented and frequently f**ked features added to the flurry of feeble distributions out there I very much doubt it. And even taking into account the bigger Distros, such as Mint, ubuntu and Fedora its hard to see any consensus on how to present a "linux" environment.

Sure each distro does its best to present its own way of working, and each to their own... their own package manager, their own desktop environment, their own look and feel, even their own definitions for what the bog standard should do.

The net result being a plethora of different things, different distro's, all commonly called "linux".

Before we can take to the desktop in ernest there needs to be some solidification of this fracturing. A common way to do common tasks on what we colloquially call "Linux", so yes ubuntu can use apt-get and yes fedora can use yum and whatever other distro can use what ever else... but each I believe should also support a "common" way to get a package on there...

A common package manager, a common interface, a common GUI setting, a common printer and sound and hardware interface, so Joe Bloggs can come along, learn this single common way of working and pick up any distro and get to work.

Yes, later on, good old Joe might be comfortable enough to learn the dedicated, better, faster more specific ways of doing things on his chosen distro as well. But the key to taking the desktop is going to be the key to getting Joe out there to install a distro in the first place.

And that has got to be simplification, a reduction and consensus on what is the common way to do something on linux... Yes, I'm talking about introducing a "Standard".

There, I said it, the S word. Standards are few and far between once we leave certain parts of the what makes up the GU/linux beast of our distro. With everyone doing pretty much their own thing.

The Linux Foundation do a pretty poor job of asking, or even defining how, to do things in a common fashion. And so we've ended up where we are, arguably better, certainly cheaper, and fashionably available software Operating Systems unable to muscle in on the users who could benefit from it most (at least price-wise) because neither you, nor I, nor the Linux Foundation could tell you how to do everything you might need to do, without getting different replies and confusing double answers from different distro's....

So, I say, break out the standards, break 'em out, give them six months to be adopted, give them six more to stop distro's making the standards their own and have some organisation with some balls out there saying "Hey, see this standard, adhere to it"...

THEN 2014 might just be a year we see Linux in the press more... A year my aunts and uncles and cousins pick it up... My Gran already has, but I keep her on Ubuntu just for this very reason, I can answer her questions instantly, without looking up what X is in Y distro.


P.S. I had mailed you this opinion last month, but you printed only my comment about the delete key... GG guys... GG :P

P.P.S. Love you all really...

It will be an unused feature of Android

ChromeOS has not become a selling point for customers yet because there's no reasoning to pay $300-500 when you can buy a "full" laptop for the same price. The ARM based chromebooks are the first ones to make it below the $300 mark which makes them sellable as extra devices but still not a main device for most users. I see two scenarios that will happen in the next 2-5 years that will make ChromeOS capable of being a main PC for many.
1) ChromeOS will be merged into Android. It won't be available for all devices but in the next 1-2 years will be available for at least high end devices. The phones will dock to laptops, desktops, etc. (similar to how the Motorola Atrix did) and boot into ChromeOS instead of Motorola's defunct webtop. This movement can be seen by the fact that a) Google bought Motorola mobility along with all patents to allow this functionality b) Chrome has replaced the default android browser to allow better device syncing c) ChromeOS was ported/compiled to ARM. I would bet that Android 5.x will begin to show off this functionality.
2) ISPs (and 3rd party companies) will begin to rent virtual machines and applications to users as part of their service plans (more storage/apps for more money) This will allow devices like Chromebooks to be portals into your real computer where you store your information and do your work. For people who need more than a tablet but don't know how to manage backups/viruses, these rental programs will make a lot of sense. Eventually I think the Android+ChromeOS+dock combination will win over dedicated chromebooks but I think Linux will only be used as a delivery method to the users true operating system. Which will probably be a web browser or Windows.

No one year is going to be it

Linux's nature is steady, slow, evolutionary advancement. One day most PCs will run it, but you will not be able to put a finger on one year or piece of software that made it happen.

That said, with lightworks, steam&netflix, things are looking bright for the linux desktop(with the "Free" desktop as a casualty) in the very near future.


How do I become verified? (not verified)

The "average user" paradigma

Well, let me put it this way:

A) The "average user" (90% of total users, wild guess) want a computer for 2 things: 1) Play games 2) Watch porn.

B) So, in the end the user do not care if it is Linux, Windows or OSX, as long as A) is assured

C) The "average user" do not want to install an OS, do not want to tweak the OS, do not want to control the OS, do not want to hack the OS. Ideally, the "average user" only wants to power on its computer and have a full functioning system with two options (can you guess ?): 1) Press "G" for "Games" 2) Press "P" for ... you know what

D) When the computer stops working (either hardware or software failure, virus, trojans ...) the "average user" will buy a new one, and everybody is happy (the user with a shiny new PC for gaming and "porning", the retailer, the hardware manufacturer, and of course, Microsoft)

So, lets say, Canonical is successful in selling PCs with pre-installed Ubuntu: The average user wont care. The comments will be: "Oh, this windows is different but it is far better/worse (delete as appropriate) than the other one.".

And will be just a matter of time to see the first virus/trojans/... arriving in Ubuntu, as the "average user" click in every link, opens every file it receives, installs every program that it can ...

From the Linux "geek user" point of view, as long as we are free to do what we want with a PC + Linux we are happy. Of course, if the user base of Linux ("geek users" + "average users") is bigger it will be good for everybody (better hardware support / drivers, better/more games, not to mention more the "P" option.

To sum up, yes I want Linux succeeds in the desktop, but in the end is to have better hardware support.

I still want to be able to install a Ubuntu CLI system and then install the DE+Programs I like more, and, probably next week start it again with a Debian Sid netinstall, and in the next month try a CentOS installation ... Let's be honest, I also like the "geek impact" when I say "I don't use Windows, I use Linux", don't you ?

Thank you LXF and Tuxradar for helping transforming "average users" into "geek users".

Thank you Linus and all open-source fantastic community.

PS: Sorry for my bad English


My friend bought one of the new Samsung Chromebooks recently and I excitedly investigated it at the weekend. I have to say overall I was very impressed with it's speed, elegance and the way they've taken a fresh look at what is needed in a laptop.

However despite calls from my missus that she wants one having seen it, I don't think she would be able to comprehend the solely online nature of it. It would work if you had a NAS at home, or more ideally some sort of personal cloud, but for non-teccy types I don't think it would work too well. I don't think 'normal' people use the cloud in the same way as many of us, and not being able to store and use her photos and music locally would blow her mind. Or more likely would need me there to help.

No, for now she needs to stick with the install of Lubuntu I put on her Vista laptop, while I go out and buy myself a Chromebook...!

Well ARMed?

I suggest that the killer feature will be the support for ARM that M$ has got into too late. Android has already sneaked its way into this market, okay it's not the desktop, but as has been said most users don't care - they just want it to work out of the box.
There's also the Pi effect, the idea of light and efficient devices that run on Linux can do things previously only thought possible of full fat devices.
Linux is out there already, but hiding in your set-top box, router and media storage device.

perambulating penguinoids

It's in the shops with the OS installed which is what counts. Even so I'd prefer just to have the hardware and put a proper distro on it.

Confused Linux newbie

Having read the post from Xelous, I must agree. I joined the Linux userbase primarily because I was sick & tired of the useless, broken Microshite offerings. Having done a minimum of research, I chose Mint, having read it was closest in "feel" to Windoze. Only after hands on with Linux did I realise that the different distros worked so differently to each other. As a not too techie user, I must fully agree with what Xelous has to say about common interface. Absolutely nothing against anyone being allowed to "play" with the OS's, but I agree that we - Linux community - should at least agree to push a common "Linux Starter Edition" to the general public to enable Linux to gain a much larger user base at ground level. On a more positive note: I am absolutely delighted with the way my laptop works after junking Windoze Vista. No more crashing, lost data, freezing etc. (Running Mint13Lisa).

Copy & Paste

-Don't care. If it doesn't run KDE it's not real Linux.

I'm just a traditionalist, and I like using the familiar desktop setup. I like to install my applications and store my own data on the same machine. I also like cables and never use wi-fi. KDE rules. There. I've said it.

Ah yes, the chromebook...

Can run Ubuntu beautifully, for $250. Whats not to love?
ht*tp://lili***ml (remove the stars)

No, but it might help

I don't think Chromebooks will conquer the world, but it might open peoples eyes about alternatives to Windows and Mac. ChromeOS might be the gateway drug to other Linux OSs.

Not really...

The desktop as we know it, laptops, PCs, will never have a significant Linux marketshare. Linux great, has been on my desktops for ages, but simply can't compete against the likes of Microsoft or Apple because they're huge companies. However, I think there is some room for optimism, because the desktop as we know it isn't going to stay around forever. Even now, end-user consumers are starting to move toward tablets and tabletish-netbookish gadgets, where Android and ChromeOS are perfectly suited. While not the YOLD, I think 2013 will be a good year for Linux.

As others have said, every year is the YOLD for me.

Either way we're moving ahead

I highly doubt that this is the year, but I won't be heartbroken. The beauty of Linux is that it's constantly evolving, and every year we don't "win" the desktop market is another year we're making things better.

So provided the devs don't up and leave Linux in mass I'm not worried. Though I think Pi and other affordable computer initiatives is a great idea. Those Pi's will be the first computer for many kids, especially one's who don't have the means for a regular one. Growing up with Linux means that Windows will be the alien OS they won't want to tinker with.

And on the common interface: Ubuntu was my first OS and Unity was a marvelous first DE as it was rather easy to use and got me comfortable enough to explore if I wanted it. I see the same for the average user. There are several Linux DE's that make a wonderful first user experience, and if we give them that who cares if they never make it another.

epic fail

Sorry. I'd love them to succeed, but I don't think they will. I think they'll not take off and be just another nail in the linux-as-a-viable-alternative coffin. Pity.


The first time I even heard of Chromebooks was like two weeks ago, so while they do seem pretty nifty (though I prefer "full" OSs myself) I think they've still got a ways to go before they can claim to be the supreme overlord of computing.

This is coming from someone living in Finland, I suppose Chromebooks might have gotten more exposure elsewhere.


Don't care. The desktop is not worth winning.people will use phones/tablets to access files/music etc. Which are stored on basic storage boxes sat at home ( e.g.nas) this storage device will most probably be running linux or ios.but it doesn't really matter there is very little added value . If required the file can be converted during transmission from storage to mobile device . It is the interface used on the device which is where the battle will be.this looks like it will be ios or android.

Follow-up question

On the topic of mobile platforms; with all this integration (like mobile docking), is it plausible that the lines between mobiles and laptops/computers is starting to blur?

Watchout for their potential to tarnish the reputation of Linux

The economy is bad nowadays, $300 & up is too pricey, I think.. If they price it cheap, like $100 or less, then that might have more significance...

Are they going to charge for storage space? if so, that means i have to continue to pay to just be able to get to my data, and if i can't afford to pay, i lose access to my own data. That's evil. And looking at it from this angle, Linux, which used to stand for freedom, is now turning into the complete opposite..

Then all the Joe Averages will blame their "blood sucking Linux device" that had turned them into digital slaves...

I hope this will never happen., I hope the Chromebooks do NOT succeed.


I dont mind/care if that business model (pay for storage) is associated with Microsoft or Apple, but please, NOT Linux..

Listen to Michael Meeks

In a recent comment for your fine magazine, Michael Meeks suggested the Linux desktop could succeed in the enterprise. I think this applies with ChromeOS too. Bigger companies especially may like the idea of lots of cheap laptops with their files in the cloud.

When they first came out, I thought Chromebooks might have a chance with consumers if they were provided free with Broadband/Mobile contracts. This never happened and now the Tablet has taken that opportunity.

Merging with Android may be the last, greatest hope for the Linux desktop (but I'm sticking with the traditional desktop)


Linux is'nt going ot rule the desktop, yet

I think Chrome OS will be very soon replaced by tablets.
It has almost as restricted functionality as a tablet has, but it's not very comfortable to use.(because of the tuchpad and keyboard instead of a touch screen.

Ubuntu 12.04 is nice, but quite confusing for a beginner. I wouldn't trust in it.

Ubuntu 12.10 is not good at all, it has "ads" in it. I think it's better use a commercial operating system without ads than a free one with them.
+ same weak parts of 12.04

Linux Mint is very nice. It has a familiar UI for Windows (and Mac) users and it has NO ADS!!! I think Mint will not be competiting against Windows and OS X yet, it has no company behind it...

Future releases of Ubuntu will be very nice and they have a company backing them.

Conclusion: My hope will be in future Ubuntu releases. 13.10 maybe? That will be GREAT.

The best opportunity yet

There is an enormous backlash against Microsoft's new split personality interface by long term users. No matter how many tablets come and go the keyboard, laptop, and even desktop will be with us for a long long time to come. Not everyone will rebel, but this may be the last time that Microsoft can "force march" users to upgrade. A huge opportunity for Linux, its up to Ubuntu, Suse, Mint, Redhat and everyone else to take advantage of. Use it or lose it. Microsoft "fumbled the ball".

Be careful what you wish for...

I genuinely wish Linux success in the desktop market but I do not want it to come in the form of Chrome OS. Having many devices with practically no local storage is not the path we want to go down. If you have to pay for online storage (and you would do since Google Drive is only free for one year) and then suddenly you're not be able to pay for it, you'll lose access to YOUR data.

I very much hope that this doesn't happen. I'd much prefer advancement from the likes of openSUSE, Mint, Ubuntu, etc.

You can take my local storage from my cold dead hands!!!

Not really sure

I'm not really sure that bees have knees..?

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