Why 2008 Will Be The Year Of The GNU/Linux Desktop – seriously. I mean it. Really.
Don’t take this article too serious. I had a lot of fun writing it. I do believe that GNU/Linux is coming to the desktop in 2008, however.
When I first started to work with GNU/Linux, now almost eleven years ago, I’d never would have guessed that it would become such a large part of my life one day. I liked the idea; communal developed software. Collaboration on a whole new level. Software not developed by a company, but by enthusiasts. It had something rebellious and subversive. I just fell in love with it.
Back than, GNU/Linux (and the BSDs also) was merely a toy for me. Something fresh, something new. Something completely different. But after I had set up my first servers, had started using October Gnome as my desktop environment, I started digging deeper. Into the internals of the system. Into the Source.
I always considered myself to be a fairly good coder. Not excelling, but competent. And because of that I recognised the quality of that code. I realized that that those little pieces of code were the works of mad genious artists. Pure, elegant C, honed to perfection.
I was convinced that it would – one time – rule the world.
Yet I always fooled myself about GNU/Linux’ problems. Back then, getting X to run was a task of days, at least on the hardware at my disposal. The desktop environments were clumsy and counter-intuitive, the applications limited and ugly, for they were written with either CDE or Tcl/Tk. Most didn’t even have a graphical user interface and were limited to the console. XMMS was okay for playing MP3 files, but even watching a move was a daunting task. Those were the dark ages, when the Knights of the Light only had started their quest for freedom and equality.
Even back then there have always been Prophets of The Dawn. Reiterating the old prophecy that this, yes, this very year would come to be known as the Year Of The Linux Desktop. I always used to simile at them and give ’em cookies. They were cute, somehow. Breaking the Mighty Power of the Forces Of Evil would be the task of a generations. The desktop market was fixed in the hands of Microsoft, a convicted monopolist. An unpleasant necessity. Breaking that power would be a task for giants.
While I was promoting GNU/Linux in my surroundings, providing installation setup, first private, than commercial, the Amazing Power Coders were out there. Doing good wherever they could. And one by one, Linux’ weaknesses were being addressed, scrutinized, judged and attacked with the fury befitting a wildcat.
Things have changed. GNU/Linux has changed. X.org, KDE, GNOME, Linux and all the other pieces of software composing the free software desktop have ripen well. It’s functional software, mostly slim and elegant, sometimes even beautiful.
Today I saw an advertisement for the Asus EEE PC, printed by a large consumer electronic store (Mediamarkt). This is the first time, that a GNU/Linux product has been advertised by that company. A company that has no ideology whatsoever. Besides making money. In the last few month no week passed by without the announcement of yet another GNU/Linux desktop/consumer product. Mostly ultra-lowcost ultraportable. Because these are the areas where GNU/Linux shines like a twinkling star.
And there is more. In two weeks there will be an anniversary. The anniversary of “GNU/Linux preinstalled on the desktop machines of a major hardware vendor”. It’s almost been a year since Dell announced to ship desktop and consumer products with Ubuntu pre-installed. HP followed shortly thereafter. And although neither Dell nor HP are making huge profits by selling GNU/Linux machines, both still provide the option. Even after a year.
With the rise of those consumer machines GNU/Linux got a lot of advertisement. And suddenly people I never talked to before about GNU/Linux start asking questions. They ask for support, for guidance and help. Some even offer to pay. Finally.
And the disbeliever, the skeptic inside, is falling silent.
So, now hear my prophecy, as I am joining the ranks of the Enlightened; The GNU/Linux desktop is coming. 2007 saw the end of the beginning. 2008 will feel the torrent.