Promoting Linux as a Desktop OS

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If we as a community want to get more Windows and MacOS desktop users to switch to Linux, then we need to start promoting Linux as a desktop operating system.

I've used Linux as my primary desktop OS for over 20 years. For almost every one of those years, I've heard from the community that "this is the year of the Linux desktop." After every one of those years we realized that it was not. Despite all of Windows failing, and despite the ridiculously high price and specialized hardware required for MacOS, Linux has not made a sizable dent in either of their market shares.

It seem like every time we do a post mortem, no one wants to admit the real reasons why desktop Linux hasn't succeeded. We say that Microsoft played dirty and restricted Linux access or there wasn't enough advertising or desktop Linux is too fragmented. Some of those are partly to blame. However, I believe that the real reasons why desktop Linux hasn't succeeded are that we don't promote Linux primarily (or even secondarily) as a desktop OS and we don't treat new Linux desktop users as desktop users.

What do I mean? Well it seems like every time that there is a conversation about getting a new user to switch to Linux, we talk about server or workstation things and how Linux is a great server or workstation OS. "The up-time is excellent." "It's easy to maintain." "You can set up a file or print server for free." Blah, blah, blah… Yes, Linux is a great server and workstation OS. That is well established. However, what percentage of Windows or MacOS desktop users do you think run file or print servers or use their personal computers as workstations? Not that many.. So why are we going after the scraps? I think it is fairly certain that the few desktop users who do run servers or use their computers as workstations have heard about Linux already via word of mouth or a Google search. Instead of promoting things like SMB, SSH, or tiling windows managers to potential desktop Linux users, how about we mention stuff Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, or Spotify? Believe it or not, a lot of folks don't understand that web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, or Opera work just as well under Linux as they do in Windows or MacOS. They can browse their favorite social media site, check their email, or stream TV shows, movies, and music on Linux too. They also may not know that applications like Spotify, Skype, Telegram, BlueJeans, Matlab, or Steam are available for and work just as well on Linux. Speaking of Steam, how about we mention that games like Doom 2016, Cuphead, Rayman Legends, Metro Last Light, Civilization V, Sparkle, Tekken 7, Injustice – Gods Among Us, and Left 4 Dead 2 (to name a few) work perfectly well under Linux through Steam (Proton). We can also mention that tons of other games work on Linux through Wine or are native to Linux.

After we're done promoting Linux as a desktop OS to these Windows or MacOS desktop users and we get them to switch, how about we treat them (first) as desktop users? Why is it (still) that when new users ask a question in the majority of Linux forums, they are automatically treated as if they've been a system administrator or programmer for many years? Logs are demanded without explaining exactly how to pull them, and answers are given as commands to enter in a terminal when GUI solutions are readily available. Over two decades ago when I first started using Linux, the terminal was the only solution we had for most things. Times have changed, and a lot of developers have spent a ton of time making GUI settings available. Yes, the command line is still faster and sometimes easier, and new users eventually need to be comfortable with it. However, how about we coax them into it first?

I didn't mean for this to be a long, mumbling assault on the community. I love Linux and want to see it succeed. I also have a lot of respect for the community that I am a part of. Recently, we learned that Ubuntu's share of the overall desktop OS market dramatically increased, nearly doubling Linux' share in the same market. I believe the fact that this happened after Valve released Proton for Steam, and gaming on Linux has gotten a ton of positive press coverage, is no coincidence. When people are shown that Linux can be used for the things they normally do on desktop computer, like play high end games, surf their favorite websites, run their favorite desktop apps, or stream content from their favorite services they will be more comfortable with making the switch. Linux on the desktop will succeed if we promote it as a desktop. We can't expect desktop users to switch to Linux if the only things we talk about using Linux for are servers and workstations.

submitted by /u/k4ever07
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