Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Linux, Linux! Wherefore Art Thou Linux?

Tux, the Linux penguin
I continue to hear geeks (like me) talk about Linux and how it's going to eventually rule the Operating System (O/S) space eventually.  They say, "Look at Android!" and I say, "Look at Chromebook!"

I agree Linux is a great operating system and has come far from the early days when you had to deal with complicated and inaccessible command lines and customer configurations.  On the other hand though, the thing that continues to hamper Linux both at home and in business is applications.

Yes, you can get some Microsoft Office look-alike programs that do 50-80% of what Microsoft's versions do, but you don't get support for those (community support aside) without paying extra.  You're not going to run a business on something with no support.  When you add support in, it still costs less than Microsoft's Office, but its not nearly such a good deal any more.

Office isn't the only app at issue either... can you run Quickbooks on Linux? (I honestly haven't checked lately, but I'm guessing not.)  Can you run your company's tightly-integrated Windows-based ERP system on Linux?  The number of top-tier software companies that support Linux is expanding, but it's just not there yet.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Until you have good solutions for the app problem, Linux will remain the red-headed stepchild in the O/S space.  Cloud has the potential to even the playing field somewhat, but look at Google Chromebooks... the technology is there but they fell flat on their face with the marketing.  They have the same app problem Linux does too... there's only so much available for the Chromebook and there aren't enough cloud-based services to satisfy people (at least not yet).

Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...
Android is the stand out in the lineup.  And why has Android succeeded while Linux has not?  Because of apps.  Initially, nobody besides geeks (like me again) bought the devices, but as the number of apps exploded so did the platform.  It doesn't matter how good your O/S is, if you can't DO anything with it, nobody will buy.

So, until Linux (and Google's Chromebooks) proves to people (especially businesses) that they are ready for the enterprise they'll remain what they are... cool toys for geeks like us.

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  1. Sure, you can run quickbooks with Wine and buy support with Crossover (from Codeweavers) who also build Wine for Mac. This doesn't require Windows. A lot of games work through Wine as well. Often some additional effort is required for configuration, but if you're doing it for several hundred desktops, that's going to be the case anyway to set it up per corporate standards.

    You can also run any non-game app completely seamlessly on either a local virtual machine using Oracle's free Virtualbox or Vmware.

    (If you're talking about for business, then the cost is not an issue and in fact the license for Windows is probably already included with the machine.) Finally, for the ultimate in good-time fun, throw your windows app on a remote set of VM's and use either RDP(free) or Citrix to access them and dramatically cut your Windows seat and CAL count.

    Linux didn't win on the desktop though because it didn't offer anything COMPELLINGLY better than was already there, except for aficionados like me. You are correct -- apps are a huge deal, but ultimately why switch OS to run the same apps. Just stick with what you already paid for with your hardware. Your choice of desktop matters about as much as your choice of car brands. :)

    (Btw, alluded to but not clearly mentioned.. chromebook and android run on top of Linux, Mac OSX was built on top of the open source BSD, and of course there have been dozens of efforts to make Linux into a commercial desktop.)

  2. You're right... that sounds like an awful lot of work to just run Windows software on Linux. I can't imagine your average user (home or business) going through the extra steps to figure out Wine, Virtualbox or VMware. I can do those things, but average Joe can't.

    Linux can be a good RDP client, but honestly, that's really just putting another O/S on the box... albeit a remote O/S.

    I do believe there is good value in Linux... I just can't figure out how normal users realize it at this point.

    Thanks for the clarification on Chromebook and Android being based on Linux. See? I'm a geek too... I just assumed people would know that


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