2010: The year of the Linux Desktop

I started writing a reply to this article based on this simple premise:

In order to determine when ‘the year of the Linux desktop’ arrives, we should look back in history and determine when ‘the year of the Windows desktop’ arrived and under what circumstances.

I started out with a small timeline of Windows releases; the short answer to my question was that it was almost certainly 1995 (When Windows 95 was released), but the more I researched, the more intriguing the situation really is; there was a three-way battle between the Mac OS (classic), Microsoft Windows (DOS-based) and OS/2. The last was exterminated and the first became an endangered species.

After Microsoft won the desktop wars, there was a period of calm, with Microsoft dominating, but a new generation of desktop OSs replacing the older ones: Mac OS X, MS Windows (NT-based) and Linux.

I am now convinced that we are in a second Desktop War (much like the second Browser War we are also in) which started in 2004 when Windows “Longhorn” miscarried and Microsoft had to start from scratch to build the OS that became Vista. 2004 also marked the first Ubuntu release.

By comparison to ‘the year of the Windows desktop’, 2007 is not ‘the year of the Linux desktop’ and I suspect 2008 won’t be either, BUT here’s what to watch for as tell-tale signs:

– rapidly incresing Linux grassroots and corporate popularity (like Firefox; expect Europe to lead here… in fact, I would probably check this one off already)

– Linux establishing itself in the public consciousness as a good desktop OS; expect traditional and viral marketing (2008)

– OEM preloads of Linux, especially Ubuntu, rapidly increasing (all major OEMs currently offering Windows 2008-9)

– major commerical apps designed to run on Linux (e.g. Adobe Photoshop or even Microsoft Word; one might laugh at the thought now, but when Gates and Ballmer both are gone, this is just a matter of time; 2010?)

The Linux year-of-the-desktop version equivalent to Microsoft’s Windows 95 will probably be Ubuntu 10.04 (a LTS release). I predict (and yes, I’m going out on a limb :) that it will surpass the next version of Windows (currently just called “Windows 7”) in terms of adoption (and OEM preloads) and so 2010 will be the year of the Linux Desktop if things continue on the course they seem to be on now. After that, Microsoft will be in serious financial trouble and may well implode or at least engage in serious blood-letting to fix things. Apple will be in very good shape and Linux’ major competitor, though Apple will tend to restrict itself to the mid-to-high-end market while Linux dominates the low-end market and does very well in the mid-range market.

Research notes follow below the fold…


In order to determine when ‘the year of the Linux desktop’ arrives, we should look back in history and determine when ‘the year of the Windows desktop’ arrived and under what circumstances (if I make a mistake in my history please feel to correct me :) AFAIK, the major players then were Apple’s Mac OS (classic), Microsoft’s Windows (DOS-based) and IBM’s OS/2 and this struggle for dominance was known as the “Desktop wars”. A timeline:

1984: Mac OS 1 “it does not use a command line interface; it was one of the first operating systems to use an entirely graphical user interface”

1985: Mac OS 2; Windows 1 “achieved little popularity” it was “not a complete operating system, but rather extends MS-DOS” and “the programs that shipped with this early version are considered “toy” applications with little or limited appeal to business users. Furthermore, legal challenges by Apple limited its functionality.”

1986: Mac OS 3

1987: Mac OS 4; Windows 2 “slightly more popular than its predecessor” “Microsoft Windows received a major boost around this time when Aldus PageMaker appeared in a Windows version, having previously run only on Macintosh. Some computer historians date this, the first appearance of a significant and non-Microsoft application for Windows, as the beginning of the success of Windows.”; OS/2 1 (no GUI) developed via an agreement between Microsoft and IBM.

[note: “[Mac OS] 5 was available for a very short time and only in some countries”]

1988: Mac OS 6 “a consolidation release of the Mac OS, producing a complete, stable, and long-lasting operating system”; OS/2 1.1 “GUI […] was introduced”

1989: The vast majority of Apple’s lawsuit against Microsoft for appropriating their ‘look and feel’ is tossed from court.

1990: Windows 3 “a significant success”, “Much [of which] was due to the fact that Windows 3.0 (along with MS-DOS) was bundled with most new computers.” “The OS/2 collaboration between IBM and Microsoft unravelled”

1991: Mac OS 7 “the second major upgrade to the Mac OS”

1992: Windows 3.1 “a joke from a stability and multitasking point of view”; OS/2 2 “a better Windows than Windows”

1994: OS/2 3 (“Warp”) “generally to freshen the product image”

1995: Windows 95 “PR blitz such as never before seen, which included “convincing” hardware OEMs not to preload “that other OS” [OS/2]”

1996: OS/2 4 “the last widely distributed version of OS/2, and IBM soon announced the end of marketing the operating system to individual users”

1997: Mac OS 8 “mainly released to keep the Mac OS moving forward during a difficult time for Apple. Initially planned as Mac OS 7.7, it was renumbered “8” to exploit a legal loophole to accomplish Jobs’ goal of terminating third-party manufacturers’ licenses to System 7 and shutting down the Macintosh clone market.”

1998: Windows 98

1999: Mac OS 9 “generally a steady evolution from Mac OS 8”; Windows 98 SE

2000: Windows ME

As we know, Microsoft won the Desktop Wars; some lessons to be learned:

– One advantage they had over Apple and IBM was that they were selling software and could see OEMs as partners while Apple and IBM were primarily selling hardware, so OEMs were competitors.

– They succeeded in creating a knock-off of the innovative Mac OS that survived a court challenge.

– They got important 3rd parties to write software for their platform; very important!

– They had a huge ad campaign that hyped their product over a very similar yet technically superior competitor.

– Then of course there were all sorts of dirty tricks involving getting OEMs to do what Microsoft wanted.

– But “IBM’s own marketing problems and lack of support for developers contributed at least as much to the failure.”







*** look up DOS preloading -> OEM strongarming for Windows

*** ME as miserable edition

If we consider the current situation to be “Desktop Wars II” (analogous to the current Browser Wars II) then here are the players:

Apple’s Mac OS X, Microsoft’s Windows (NT-based) and Linux (both KDE and Gnome as both are still important Linux Desktop Environments, though Ubuntu is Gnome and currently leader of the pack)

1993: Windows NT 3.1 (“Microsoft marketing desired to make Windows NT appear to be a continuation of Windows 3.1”)

1994: Linux Kernel 1.0

1995: Linux Kernel 1.2

1996: Windows NT 4; Linux Kernel 2.0; Debian 1.1, 1.2 (“Due to an incident involving a CD vendor who made an unofficial and broken release labeled 1.0, an official 1.0 release was never made.”)

1997: Debian 1.3

1998: KDE 1; Debian 2.0

1999: GNOME 1; Linux Kernel 2.2; Debian 2.1

2000: Windows 2000 and 2000 SP1; KDE 2; Debian 2.2

2001: Mac OS X 10.0 and 10.1; Windows 2000 SP2, Windows XP; Linux Kernel 2.4

2002: Mac OS X 10.2; KDE 3; GNOME 2; Debian 3.0; Windows 2000 SP3, Windows XP SP1

2003: Mac OS X 10.3; Windows 2000 SP4, Windows Server 2003; Linux Kernel 2.6; Fedora Core 1

2004: “The original “Longhorn”, based on the Windows XP source code, was scrapped, and Vista development started anew, building on the Windows Server 2003 codebase, and re-incorporating only the features that would be intended for an actual operating system release.”; Windows XP SP2; Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty); Fedora Core 2, 3

2005: Mac OS X 10.4; Ubuntu 5.04 (Hoary) and 5.10 (Breezy); Debian 3.1; Fedora Core 4

2006: Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper; a Long Term Support (LTS) release) and 6.10 (Edgy); Fedora Core 5, 6

2007 so far: Windows Vista; Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty); Debian 4.0; Fedora Core 7

2007 future: Mac OS X 10.5 and Ubutnu 7.10 (Gutsy) expected; KDE 4 expected; Windows Vista SP1 this year or next; Fedora Core 8 expected

2008: Ubuntu 8.04 (LTS) and 8.10 expected; Debian 4.1 possibly this year or next; Windows XP SP3 expected

2009: possibly Mac OS X 10.6?; Ubuntu 9.04, 9.10 expected

2010 Ubuntu 10.04 (LTS) and 10.10 expected; next version of Windows at the earliest




KDE and Gnome moving towards each other

vista as ME II

Original Longhorn miscarried

vista: all eggs in 1 basket until ~vista+1

SUSE/Xandros/Linspire deals

64-bit (Eric Raymond)














The new challenger, Linux, has its own unresolved internal desktop war between distros (Ubuntu appears to be leading the pack currently) and between Gnome and KDE (fortunately they seem to be playing more nicely together than in the past; its fairly trivial to run KDE apps in Gnome and vice versa).

Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, SUSE


Fedora, Debian, Mandrake/Mandriva, SUSE


GNOME vs KDE: no clear winner



semi-proprietary linux circa 2000?

dell 2k linux?

middle passage

Rebooting Windows




IE market share vs windows also, firefox



– — — === — — –

to john@dvorak.org

date Aug 3, 2007 5:17 AM

subject Regarding your article “Microsoft: End of an Era”

I read your article “Microsoft: End of an Era” [http://www.pcmag.com/print_article2/0,1217,a=212618,00.asp] and I thought I’d send an e-mail.

You wrote:

“it is possible—in some perverse dimension—that some people at

Microsoft actually think they are doing things right.”


I direct you to this scary view of the inner workings of Microsoft,

where becoming a “partner” means being a serf and sychophant and where

you drink the Kool-aid without question:


“[Microsoft people] just believe that their products are far superior

to everything else in the market. That culture has permeated every

employee in the company”

You also wrote: “Will any of this change with Bill gone? You tell me.”

Not until Ballmer goes and even then maybe not, due to the deep roots

of their influence.

Paul Thurott described this as “the bad, old Microsoft”


the Windows Division retains, as employees of the software giant have

told me, the last vestiges of the bad, old Microsoft. This is the

Microsoft that ran roughshod over competitors in order to gain market

share at any cost. The Microsoft that forgot about customers in its

blind zeal to harm competitors. The Microsoft, that frankly, all the

Linux and Apple fanatics always imagined was out there, plotting and

planning their termination. The Microsoft that threatens Windows fans

with needless legal threats rather than reaching out and creating

constructive relationships with the very people who prop up the

company the most.

This Bad Microsoft is not all of Microsoft, and it’s not even all of

the Windows Division. But it’s there. And while it was allowed to

continue during the software Glasnost of the past few years because of

the immeasurable benefits of Windows to Microsoft’s bottom line, it

seems that the company is finally, if belatedly, fixing things.

Thurott is wrong about it being the “old” Microsoft going away any

time soon though, as Ballmer is still firmly in charge. The recent

FOSS patent FUD proves that easily, but here are two examples of

blacklisting, then and now:


“RWM: [What is your] Least favorite [memory of covering Microsoft the

last 11 years]?

MJF: I’d have to say being blacklisted by Microsoft for writing a

story based on an internal memo penned by Mark Lucovsky (now with

Google, ironically) that acknowledged 63,000 bugs were still left in

Windows 2000 when the product shipped. I was barred from executive

interviews at the Windows 2000 launch as a result of my story. My

“punishment” lasted for a few years. Certain Windows execs refused to

speak to me or meet with me for ages because of that story. I

believed, and still believe, that I was just doing my job as a



“I’m on Microsoft ‘influencer’ lists, email lists where Microsoft

people try to get me to tow the company line and say great things

about them and their products because it’s perceived that I have an

audience. The times that I’ve deviated from that line though I’ve

found myself well and truly out in the cold. One particular

‘evangelist’ even went completely silent on me after I pulled out of a

speaking engagement due to appendicitis. Nothing was said, but the

sentiment was obvious.”

When you read blogs like http://minimsft.blogspot.com/ you get a sense

of how bloated Microsoft is, thick with layer upon layer of

management, how money is wasted by the billions.

One reads of how the company lacks internal coherency:


“from what I heard during my visit and what other Microsoft employees

and customers have told me at other times, [Microsoft] has degenerated

into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren’t all moving in the

same direction.”

And AFAIK, there are only two things Microsoft does that actually

brings in any net $ and that’s the sale of Windows and Office.

So when one reads about how many dozen people it took (and how it took

them over a year) to create the Vista shutdown menu…


it shouldn’t be a surprise and at the same time should be a warning

that Microsoft’s days are numbered. When some sort of tipping point

or combination of tipping points is reached, when MS can’t coast along

on OEM preload money or ODF actually catches on or Firefox’s market

share approaches majority (as its doing right now in some European

countries; http://www.xitimonitor.com/en-us/browsers-barometer/firefox-july-2007/index-1-2-3-102.html),

or a bunch of the major OEMs start preloading Ubuntu (Dell isn’t sad

right now BTW ;) and eating up the market from the low-end and Macs

eating up the market from the high-end, Windows and Office will cost

more than they make and Microsoft will begin to implode. It will

probably be pretty rapid due to MS’ huge expenditures and the internal

bloodletting to hastily try to fix their financial issues won’t be


– — — === — — –

August 8, 2008 update regarding the above letter. First:

An illustration from the excellent RoughlyDrafted Magazine:

Microsoft Profit Sources

Second: John C. Dvorak was himself blacklisted by Microsoft!

“In the 1980s, the company was notorious for keeping Nixonian lists regarding journalists on a whiteboard showing which were “Okay,” “Sketchy,” or “Needs work.” Some believed that those in the last category would be the target of the company in an effort to get them fired. I myself was on a Microsoft blacklist for some totally unknown reason and was not allowed any information about an early version of Windows, apparently because I was considered uncooperative. I only found out about this because of documents unearthed during the discovery process of the Comes v. Microsoft lawsuit in Iowa. […] threats from the company did manage to get me removed as a licensed columnist in PC Magazine Italy.”

– — — === — — –

to esr@thyrsus.com

date Jul 31, 2007 5:14 AM

subject World Domination 201

Hi there! ^_^

I was skimming over “World Domination 201”


and I note your table “how much memory was sold preinstalled in new

desktop personal computers over the past 30 years”

I strongly suspect that your 2008 prediction is premature. First,

note for example on dell.com that their most expensive system, the XPS

720 H2C ($6900!) only has 4 GB RAM


Their lowest-end model, the Inspiron 530 ($350) only has 512 MB RAM


You can of course upgrade all the way to 4GB, but that adds $420 to

the system 8-)

Switching tracks for a minute, even their high-end Ubuntu system, the

XPS 410 N ($870) only comes with 1GB by default and a max of 4 GB and

I’m fairly certain its 32-bit Ubuntu (in my experience, using 32-bit

Ubuntu with 1 GB RAM, I only exceptionally rarely ever use my swap

partition and then usually only when some program goes haywire :).

Also, I suppose one could also add in the RAM that you get with your

video card, since its a non-trivial amount:

XPS 720 H2C: 768 MB

XPS 410 N: 256 MB

Inspiron 531s: choice of shared or 256 MB

But that’s something of a lateral move that wouldn’t really affect the

32-bit limit, would it?

Also, I note that Windows generally won’t even support 4 GB properly:


(it will only use just over 3 GB max).

Additionally, do you see a transition from desktops to notebooks

underway? Given that the latter often have less RAM, that could be

another slowing factor.

Given that, as per Wikipedia, “Moore’s Law is the empirical

observation made in 1965 that the number of transistors on an

integrated circuit for minimum component cost doubles every 24

months.” couldn’t that alternately mean that computers might drop in

price with the same RAM? That certainly would not be a bad thing for

Linux adoption, given that the Microsoft Tax as a percentage of

low-end systems is quite high now.

And M$ just revised up their XP sales estimates for FY 2008 by half,

from 15 to 22%, it looks like 32-bit computing will be around for a

while. I would say until ~2010… if M$ can manage to stay on its

‘Windows 7’ target (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_7) but even

then they’re planning a 32-bit version of that.

Is it perhaps time to begin writing a new ‘World Domination’ article?

(maybe 202? :)

– — — === — — –

Update November 24, 2007: I note that RoughlyDrafted has an article up that comments: “[Microsoft’s] flagship Windows Vista product is in flames while Apple eats into the profitable end of consumer desktops and Linux increasingly eats into its installed base in low cost desktop sales.” Sounds familiar :) You can see an example of a very low cost desktop system in the $199 gOS PC (w/o monitor) which Wal-Mart is also selling. Decent enough specs and perfect for the casual user.

Update December 8, 2007: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has noticed the same trend in low-end computers in his article “Linux is about to take over the low end of PCs

Sometimes, several unrelated changes come to a head at the same time, with a result no one could have predicted. The PC market is at such a tipping point right now and the result will be millions of Linux-powered PCs in users’ hands. […] Four trends: user-friendly Linux desktops, useful under-$500 laptops and desktops, near-universal broadband, and business-ready Internet office applications. Put them together and you have a revolution. […] by my calculations, all those trends have joined together to make a Linux-based small business using Google applications instead of Exchange and SharePoint cost less than half its Microsoft-based twin. Worse still, if you’re Microsoft, you can’t really defend yourself. Linux desktops run just dandy on low-end, under-$500 PCs. Vista Basic, which comes the closest to being able to run on these systems, is unacceptable since it doesn’t support business networking. Office 2007 also won’t run worth a darn on these systems. And somehow, I can’t see Microsoft optimizing its applications to work with Google Apps instead of Exchange and SharePoint. Put it all together, and here’s what I see happening. In the next few quarters, low-end Linux-based PCs are going to quickly take over the bottom rung of computing. Then, as businesses continue to get comfortable with SAAS (software as a service) and open-source software, the price benefits will start leading them toward switching to the new Linux/SAAS office model. You’ll see this really kick into gear once Vista Service Pack 1 appears and business customers start seriously looking at what it will cost to migrate to Vista. That Tiffany-level price tag will make all but the most Microsoft-centric businesses start considering the Linux/SAAS alternative. Microsoft will fight this trend tooth and nail. It will cut prices to the point where it’ll be bleeding ink on some of its product lines. And Windows XP is going to stick around much longer than Microsoft ever wanted it to. Still, it won’t be enough. By attacking from the bottom, where Microsoft can no longer successfully compete, Linux will finally cut itself a large slice of the desktop market pie.

I also liked this quote:

The first change was the continued maturation of desktop Linux. Today, no one can argue with a straight face that people can’t get their work done on Linux-powered PCs. […] People can argue that Vista or Mac OS X is better, but […] it can’t be said that Linux isn’t a real choice for anyone’s desktop.

Update Nov. 7, 2008:

Dell running ads specifically mentioning Ubuntu on a netbook.

Bloomberg News reports that netbooks are becoming “a real threat to Microsoft”  Not only because “It gives users a chance to see and try something new, showing them there is an alternative” but also, “The engineers designing computers understand that if they want to cut costs, the only way to do so is to get rid of Microsoft”

Ubuntu continues to maintain its Desktop Linux distro dominance:

fedora debian ubuntu suse | opensuse

Update December 1, 2008: Here’s an excellent ars technica article describing “30 years of personal computer market share figures” which I found linked via this article which reports that Net Applications’ has found Windows’ market share to currently be at a pre-95 level (sub-90%).


57 Responses to “2010: The year of the Linux Desktop”

  1. The Big Tech Blog » Blog Archive » Make 2010 'The Year of the Linux Desktop' Says:

    […] thought about the current desktop OS situation and blogged about some ideas of what the future my hold. By the time ‘Windows 7′ is currently estimated […]

  2. Kazamx Says:

    Interesting article.

    I have been saying for awhile that Linux will really hit the big time when Microsoft releases its next OS. Every Windows OS is pretty poor to start with and improves alot after the first service pack.

    When Vista launched we saw an increase in people looking at the alternatives. Both Linux and Apple have seen their market grow a little (1 in 6 laptops are now Apple). Sadly, while Linux on the desktop has been developing really fast over the last few years, it just wasn’t ready for the average joe.

    If we compare where Linux desktop was when XP was launched to its state when Vista was launched, we can see that Linux has been developing much much faster than Microsoft has been able to develop its OS.

    If Linux can keep up this rate of development and kep working with the big computer makers such as Dell, I believe that by the time Microsoft release their next OS and people once again start looking around for alternatives Linux will be a really good choice for almost everyone.

    I therefore believe that the year of the Linux desktop will be the year Microsoft release their next OS.

  3. 2010: The year of the Linux Desktop - Overclock.net - Overclocking.net Says:

    […] the thought now, but when Gates and Ballmer both are gone, this is just a matter of time; 2010?) read the rest here it is a good read and i think if you are a fan of linux or open source software you should check […]

  4. lancest Says:

    I see the quality of Linux releases improving at such a fast rate (6 months cycle) that that much greater worldwide adoption is not hard to predict. Truly! For instance now my Ubuntu linux auto installs printers with zero effort by me. I live outside the US and in this country people have many headaches using Windows- and surely won’t adopt Vista when they buy a PC. I personally am teaching many people about how to install, and use Ubuntu. Linux is sure bet to catch on but gradually.
    Adoption outside the US will be surely be faster. Not if just when

  5. JJMacey Says:


    We already run Linux as a Desktop. I thought this was predicated around 2000, and every year since.

    Here come Thin Clients, and the Virtual Server e.g. VMWare.

    Linux is already beyond your level of thinking.

    JJMacey aka Adler

  6. Joseph Smidt Says:

    I agree. Ubuntu 10.4 will finally give the average Joe a reason to switch to Linux and never look back. I think the 8.04 LTS release will pave the way for the 10.4 LTS release to take over the world. :)

  7. JohnMc Says:

    I found your analysis interesting and to to a great extent on the mark. A few quibbles:

    1) You seem to have forgotten Windows for Workgroups. What so significant to that? It marked the first time that the network drivers were part of the OS. Before that one was required to load the appropriate bin files from your card OEM. Or dear God! compile them! It was a major PITA for IT.

    As far as I am concerned that represented M$ ascendancy for corporate IT shops.

    2) The arrival of the Linux desktop will arrive late 2008. Here’s why, all dopple gangers:

    A) M$ is preparing to ship a 1Gb SP1 for Vista. It’s huge. that can only mean that the initial release was full of holes. Fully expect sometime between now and June of 2008 a major attack at the level of the Sober worm. If it occurs Vista dies quickly. Corporate IT will implement a Linux desktop to escape the problem.

    B) Virtualization uber alles. It will be quite common in early ’08 for desktops to have quad cores. Right now Linux seems to have the edge in offering no less than a dozen means — hypervisor, nonhypervisor, scaled, emulated technologies. Linux 2.6.20-x forward come with virtualization built into the kernel. KVM will be the defacto choice for anybody with a VM enabled chipset running linux. M$ is behind the 8 ball on this right now at the native level.

    C) The WGA fiasco is going to cost M$. Right now I bet there are TAMs doing the dance to corporate CIOs why this was not a problem. Tell that to the service manager with a 20k desktop space and they will laugh in their face. The services of Apt-Get, Yum and Red Carpet are going to get a serious looking over by corporate types. Coupled with Unison as an autobackup of critical user data to a SAN and you can nearly toss SMS out on its ear.

    4Q2008 is when I figure you will see a dozen or so Fortune 1000 companies make announcements. Once the dam breaks its going to be a flood.

    Just my opinion.

  8. Gin Genie Says:

    See also, The Penguin and the Hare….


  9. Limulus Says:

    JohnMc: I didn’t forget about WFW so much as just lump it in with Windows 3.1 (Fun Factoid: my first Windows computer ran WFW 3.11 :-) But WFW, as much as it may have taken over at corporations, didn’t represent Windows when it first had the ‘year of the Windows desktop’; that would have to wait for widespread consumer adoption with Windows 95 IMHO.

    What you’re predicting sounds like a corporate year of the Linux Desktop; that would be excellent to see in 2008 and if that happens, that certainly will be a strong indicator that by the time 2010 rolls around, we can look forward to widespread consumer adoption of Linux. I hope you’re right :)

  10. Rich Says:

    You ommitted a very significant windows data point, and one that many along the way have described as the tipping point in windows becoming “the’ desktop os.

    That windows data point was windows 3.11. Yes, stabilitiy was not much better than 3.1, but an age of people spoon fed ms-dos as their only experience with a computer OS had trained (brainwashed?) them into believing that crashes in your OS and applications was normal and to be expected.

    What was it about 3.11 that caused it to be the tipping point? 3.11 was the first windows version that had the magical ability to preemptively multi-task multiple separate msdos programs.

    Prior windows versions could run multiple dos programs, but only the foreground dos program “ran”, all the others slept until the user made them the forground. Not very useful. But, when 3.11 would allow folks to have qmodem or procomm downloading (at 300baud) a 2 hour download from a BBS at the same time that they were typing a document in wordperfect, this was the “draw” that grabbed the attention of the “joe computer user”. Suddenly he wanted windows on his machine, because he could run multiple dos programs at the same time.

    The result, a greater interest in windows. What did that cause, notice by the software developers. What did they do, write more windows programs. And the snowball began to grow from it’s own movement downhill.

    So there are many who think that the true tipping point to windows taking over the desktop from dos was just that, 3.11 and it’s ability to finally multi-task dos programs for the masses.

    What does this mean for Linux and it’s tipping point. I don’t know, because there is not an exact equivalent situation and fact pattern for Linux. However, wine is a possibility. When wine becomes good enough, maybe the scrouge of viruses/worms/trojans/etc. in the windows world will finally be enough to push people over to Linux. Because they can then keep their favorite programs while missing out on the whole virus/worm/trojan world.

  11. JohnMc Says:


    The Penguin and the hare story hit on another factor that will favor the Penguin in the dominance of the desktop — programmer efficiency. Not that a programmer can crank more lines of code using Linux. just that their skiils are more transportable.

    For example, Someone doing WxPython on a core duo box can very quickly move over to uClimax on a embedded linux platform and be productive in less than a week. All the /dev, /proc, /etc are where they should be. They only need learn the foibles of the particular complier being used. Or better yet, there is already a python or perl port to the platform. If the port is there, that desktop coder is dishing code the same day.

    On the Windows environment? Whoa! All those MFC classes you learned for an ia32 platform? Sorry but we have to send you to training to hack on a CE platform now. See ya in a month. Oh hell! Your next project is on .Net? I dunno we might have to let you go, can’t afford the training budget you know. For a portability of a developer’s time the current state of MS platforms is a mess.

    This is a factor not usually touted as a Linux strength but never the less it is there to consider.

  12. Karl O. Pinc Says:

    You completely omitted Novell Netware, which was a major player on the desktop.

  13. JohnMc Says:

    Limulus, keep in mind that when the corporate desktop goes Linux that’s not one seat but two or three —

    Desktop at work
    Desktop at home

  14. Limulus Says:

    Rich: you are contradicted by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Windows#Hybrid_16.2F32-bit_operating_environments

    “Windows/386 [in 1988] introduced a 32-bit protected mode kernel and virtual machine monitor. […] The user-visible consequence was that it became possible to preemptively multitask multiple MS-DOS environments in separate Windows […] Windows 3.0 (1990) and Windows 3.1 (1992) improved the design”

    Karl O. Pinc: You have a good point about NNW, but as it was restricted computers on networks (which basically ruled out home computers from that era), its beyond the scope of what I was considering.

  15. 2007 - ∞: Year of the Linux Desktop « Sleepy Root Says:

    […] – ∞: Year of the Linux Desktop Yet another article tries to estimate the Holy Grail of Linux users everywhere (fanfare please): “The year of the […]

  16. michel cheong Says:

    I used dos 1.0 to win vista in 32 years since 1975. I can tell you Ms is doomed . According to my calculations it will be in 2013. Linux will be the leading OS.

  17. Limulus Says:

    michel cheong: please share your calculations here; I would love to see them! :)

  18. Malcolm Says:

    You make a common error by ignoring desktop applications. The war is not won by OS quality, as Microsoft repeatedly demonstrates. It is won when Joe Customer visits a computer store and notices that the applications he needs are mainly on this or that OS. Beyond the assurances of his friends, Joe Customer doesn’t give a fig about the hardware or OS, as long as he gets his work done and he’s keeping up with the Joneses (as Apple has repeatedly demonstrated).

    Your history begins AFTER two generations of desktops, and does not credit DOS for its role in this drama. At its peak, DOS had many great applications which, even today, after all these years of GUI nonsense, would be competitive and productive. There were great graphics applications (yes, there were), great programming environments for the average business user (such as FrameWork, Magic, and Clarion), great word processors (Word for DOS 3.1, WordPerfect, XyWrite). There were innovative spreadsheets, groupware, and many useful utilities. DOS was on its way to becoming a multi-tasking, networking, multi-user environment requiring very little hardware (ah-hah… it’s tragic mistake).

    So the year of Linux will be when we see many similar, innovative, and powerful desktop applications available, and no sooner. What do we have today? We have kinda-functional office suites, almost no application generators for *average* desktop users, and a kinda-functional ability to run legacy applications, such as listed above. We have TONS of programming languages, nerdy utilities, and everything to satisfy programmers and administrators. And a great deal of bellyaching about how wonderful it all is, and why doesn’t Joe Customer understand how good UNIX is for the world, possibly even the galaxy.

    Desktop Linux will “arrive” when the Linux community stops dreaming and gets serious about end-users.

  19. Limulus Says:

    Malcolm wrote:

    “You make a common error by ignoring desktop applications. The war is not won by OS quality, as Microsoft repeatedly demonstrates. It is won when Joe Customer visits a computer store and notices that the applications he needs are mainly on this or that OS.”

    Actually, I wrote:

    “here’s what to watch for as tell-tale signs [of ‘the year of the Linux desktop’] […] major commerical apps designed to run on Linux (e.g. Adobe Photoshop or even Microsoft Word”

    and in the notes section:

    “As we know, Microsoft won the Desktop Wars; some lessons to be learned […] They got important 3rd parties to write software for their platform; very important!”

    Malcolm also wrote:

    “Your history begins AFTER two generations of desktops, and does not credit DOS for its role in this drama.”

    My post was not intended to be an all-inclusive history of OS wars :) I wanted to start by identifying ‘the year of the Windows desktop’ and drawing lessons from that. My history is basically starts with the PC/Mac GUI OSs.

  20. Hemanth Says:

    Studied this article and noticed the “key” for Desktop year calculations.
    It is the year of the preload + 3 to 4 years. So here are the contenders…

    1. Windows – preloads PC with Vista in 2007
    2. Dell preloads with Ubuntu in 2007
    3. HP preloads SuSe in 2007
    4. Lenovo preloads RedHat in 2007
    5. Haier preloads Ubuntu in 2007

    Guess who the winner is in 2010

  21. Top Unix News » 2010: Year of the Desktop Linux? :-) Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]

  22. Four months closer to 2010… « Limulus Says:

    […] months closer to 2010… Four months ago I blogged “2010 will be the year of the Linux Desktop if things continue on the course they seem to be […]

  23. Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo (teehee) « Limulus Says:

    […] Now you might find that curious, since I am clearly in the death-to-Microsoft crowd, but all you have to do is think about this for a little bit. First, Yahoo is something Microsoft wants really badly to fight off their nemesis Google, so they’re willing to pay a huge premium for it: 62% more than its stock value. So right there, some $17 Billion of Microsoft’s giant cash hoard goes poof. But Yahoo may demand (and get) even more. That Microsoft has a huge reserve of available funds has concerned me, but if they’re going to spend money like this, bad things are going to happen there if the revenue stream begins to dry up a bit down the road. […]

  24. S Pierce Says:

    This is making it so everyone can be part of the soultion, along with lots of great desktop applications are coming out every day and new ideas are being developed at a blazing rate of speed… The process of research is the most important part of the plan, because this when all the options are uncovered that were just experiments, until the real solution is found…


    S Pierce

  25. Razor Says:

    Microsoft just emphasizes the desktop so windows have a very good desktop but are very unstable and slow unlike Linux.Linux emphasizes both the desktop and stability

  26. Breaking the Camel’s Back « Limulus Says:

    […] reading my 2010 post, “John” added a comment to to Ubuntu’s Bug #1: “all we need to do in […]

  27. The march to 2010 « Limulus Says:

    […] march to 2010 Today I read an article that reiterated a point I made in my original 2010 post. Quoting “Redmond Channel Partner Online” […]

  28. Towards a “Microsoft-free world” « Limulus Says:

    […] choices with Lotus Notes and Lotus Symphony in the one billion-unit desktop market worldwide by 2009. Citing shifting market forces and the growing demand for economical alternatives to costly Windows […]

  29. jarrhed Says:

    Microsoft will be around awhile longer but, I dont think Linux is even close to the point where people who don’t know much about computers will be switching over, even in the next 3 years I doubt that that will change much. It will most likely be Apple that has the most marketshare soon.

    Once Apple is the main computer supplier, if they dont allow oem manufacterers then a LOT of buisness’s will go out of buisness. All the big motherboard manufacters (That Apple doesn’t use), all the AMD processors and in general the computer industry will crash into the floor

  30. Chris Jenkins Says:

    Sorry guys I doubt Linux will ever get a real foothold in the Desktop market. It just doesn’t have the advertising revenue required to play with the big boys and with the community model it never will. Most US users don’t know what it is and many who do can’t pronounce it. A key point for Linux and something that has been completely omitted in this post is the mobile market. Apple opened the door for a real mobile computing environment, Google has taken the leap of faith, and MS has failed in this area for 10+ years. I’d look for Linux to bypass the desktop and jump directly to next generation devices after all in a thin client world the desktop becomes a ball and chain.

  31. Lenny Says:

    You know what its actually happening this very moment… I mean google Dell etc the netbook craze its all leading up to it maybe this guy does have a point I mean linux is beginning to storm. just like hamsters, you know you have one introduce another one and then BOOM its crazy. But now that google has shown us some insight…(thats just like google sneaky) maybe it;ll will happen

  32. hamood Says:

    Greatest prediction and i agree 2010 will be the linux desktop year

    writing from ubuntu 9.04

  33. lol apple Says:

    lol Apple/mac. it takes 30 mins tops to bring down a apple computer. atleast it takes few days to down full protected xp issue. Apple security level is way to low to ever succeed as a desktop.

  34. Limulus Says:

    lol apple: you’re kind of doing an apples-to-oranges comparison, aren’t you? ;)

    Most people (namely ‘average users’) don’t run “full protected xp” and you can armor the Mac OS too… Really, all Apple needs to do to succeed is make the out-of-box Mac experience at least somewhat better than out-of-box XP in terms of security and usability and they’ll do fine.

    But note that Apple really isn’t interested in taking over the world, they just want to take over the high-end market…

  35. Torchwood Says:

    OK, we have Sept 2009 now.

    I’m sure if I ask average Joe on the street about what OS to use Linux will be his first answer – after all Linux established itself in public consciousness last year already.

    Can you give me names of major OEMs that are selling linux desktops? In theory I should now be able to go into any major store to buy my new linux machine (all OEMs are selling those after all) but I want the best.

    Also I must have missed Adobe broadcast about releasing Photoshop for Linux next year, not to mention Microsoft broadcast about Office for Linux – can someone give me the URLs to those?

  36. Limulus Says:

    Torchwood: Your sarcasm aside, let me try to summarize what’s been happening since I posted this two years ago:

    First, “Desktop Linux” is a reference to the fact that it has a GUI and is intended to be used in the same manner as (non-server editions of) Windows and Mac OS X; it does not mean it only gets put on ‘desktop tower machines’ (which are now shipping less than notebooks BTW). The reason that terms gets used is because Linux traditionally has been taken to mean “Server Linux”; Ubuntu makes both, but its Desktop variant is the famous one.

    The prediction about the low-cost Linux Desktop machines came true much sooner than I thought; the Eee PC was released at the end of 2007 and was a big hit and the current explosion of netbook popularity is the result. Microsoft was obviously unhappy about that and their reaction was to start selling XP again (which is still in fairly high demand), but note that it was ONLY for netbooks (as they didn’t want to hurt Vista sales on machines that would run it well), and at a very VERY low price to OEMs (to counter the very VERY low price of Linux). In as much as Linux netbooks still outsell Vista netbooks (a rare beast indeed! ;), that’s a step in the right direction. I am greatly looking forward to when Microsoft stops offering XP on netbooks (circa late 2010 as per http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28627170 “netbooks can come with Windows XP until at least June 30, 2010 or one year after the availability of the next operating system [Windows 7], whichever is later, Microsoft said last year.”) because that will mean that Windows 7 will have to compete directly with Linux. And while Windows 7 will be an improvement over Vista, it will be more like Win98SE compared to Win98 (maybe a better comparison would be if they released a Win ME SE with new branding instead of XP).

    As far as big OEMs go, Dell and HP are currently manufacturing 10″ Linux models (Dell with Ubuntu and HP with a rebranded Ubuntu). Acer made a lovely 8.9″ model (the one I own) and there are various articles online saying that they were planning a 10″ model with Linux (e.g. http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/29/acer-confirms-plans-for-linux-ssd-equipped-10-inch-aspire-one-n/ ) but I can’t seem to find it on their site, so I don’t know if it’s still planned or not. Between the two, I would go for the HP (because it uses the graphics chip with better Linux support) and just put plain Ubuntu on it :) Here in Canada the Linux models sometimes are available for sale at FutureShop.

    Regarding “major commercial apps”, there aren’t any yet AFAIK. Microsoft will never release Office for Linux so long as Ballmer works there… and he’s still there ;)

    The wild card right now is Google’s planned Chrome OS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Chrome_OS), which is Linux-based, scheduled for release in 2010 and has lots of OEM backing.

    Because Ubuntu has Firefox installed by default, we should expect netbooks (which are primarily designed to go online) with Ubuntu to do the best in countries with the highest Firefox usage; this is to say in Europe (likely Germany).

    After Windows 7 actually ships we’ll get a better idea of what consumers really think of it; my suspicion is that it won’t live up to the hype Microsoft’s been making over it…

  37. Jan Ekbom Says:

    You forgot OpenSolaris…

  38. Happy Penguin Says:

    After happily using Ubuntu for several years, I did a clean install of 9.10 today on my desktop (64-bit) and my netbook. One of the things I notice increasingly with each upgrade is the need to apply all my customizations manually after installing. Change desktop background, change theme, re-define hot-keys (about 20 if them), reinstall firefox add-ons, re-define OOo toolbars and preferences, search for and remove all the fonts I do not need or want, reinstall the panel apps, etc., etc., etc.

    The glass-half-full part of Ubuntu is that it works so well and installs so cleanly. I also appreciate that new versions are evolutionary and do not try to be paradigm-changers. (That’s actually a big plus!) However, the glass-half-empty part is all the manual stuff I need to do after each upgrade. Yes, I could have kept my up-to-date beta, but I figured a clean install would be, well, cleaner.

    Thanks to Canonical for such a nice product that is free in several senses. But please try to find a way to save the time and hassle of the updating that must be done AFTER the Ubuntu update.

    • wertigon Says:

      Well, you can usually fix most of that simply by setting up a script which does said things for you. Most if not all of these can be done on commandline, drasticly reducing the setup hassle.

      To be fair though, one has to do almost the same procedure with Windows, and usually re-install windows every 6th month to rid the machine of all viruses/quirkyness.

    • jdawg Says:

      If you have a separate /home partition, most of that stuff will stay put when you do a fresh install on the / partition. Very easy to do with the liveCD partitioner.

  39. Erick Says:

    So, what you think about it now?

    Microsoft has managed to launch a pretty good OS, for people who like Windows OSes.

    If 7 was the second coming of Vista, I would really consider going back to Ubuntu sometime in the near future in my main gaming rig, but now I would go Ubuntu only in one scenario: which is Wine/Cedega becoming as fast/stable as running a game on native Windows OS.

    Or perhaps when game developers start making Linux versions…

    Anyway, Ubuntu is really a great OS, taking gaming aside. I am really considering put it on my netbook, which now is running 7 smoothly enought for me to keep it that way, but if Ubuntu give me a smoother experience on my netbook, I may make the switch on it.

    I’m also a network administrator. In server enviroments, I really like Debian, it really make your hardware worth the money, but in our institution there’s one big concern that won’t allow us to migrate our thousand clients to linux: Windows heritage.

    We got a in-house system that our users run that need a windows enviroment, the rest of their tasks are just plain doc editing/web surfing.

    Asa our dev team make our system work on a web interface, there will be very little need for us to keep a Windows OS on the client side.

    So, my institution problem and my home problem are the same… people must start making programs that work also on Linux, then we will break free from Windows.

    • Limulus Says:

      RE Win7, ‘better than Vista’ doesn’t take much… one of the more interesting things I’ve noticed is that security (esp. anti-virus) is still going to be an issue. Vista users will almost certainly be happy with 7, but XP users (and there are a LOT of them, ne?) can be tempted by the Mac OS or Ubuntu…

      RE Netbooks, try out both regular Ubuntu 9.10 and the Ubuntu Netbook Remix of it; I haven’t decided which I like better.

      RE Games, that’s a total chicken-and-egg problem; I really think that will only get better as market share increases.

      RE Windows Legacy Apps, have you tried virtualization? (though web-based, as you indicated is in development, would be better)

  40. Linux on the cusp of 2010 « Limulus Says:

    […] the cusp of 2010 By Limulus We’re almost at 2010 and so I thought I’d revisit my 2010: The year of the Linux Desktop post. But rather than start with Linux, I want to start with […]

  41. AnonymousBit Says:

    2010 and more predictions of …. wait for it …. Year of the Linux Desktop! LOL. Seriously though, it’s not going to happen. Linux has had several years to capture a broader audience and has failed miserably. Until FOSStards stop promoting the ideal that the corporate world is evil, then Loonix is destined to be nothing more than a half of a percent of a half of a percent of the world population who uses Loonix on the desktop.

  42. Marie Says:

    AnonymousBit…you say, “Loonix” and I counter with Winblows! Linux desktop operating systems may never be as popular as Windows, but they have been around for years and are not going away. I migrated from XP to Ubuntu and have been happy with my choice. I bought a $200 refurbished Dell and loaded a free CD from Ubuntu and haven’t looked back. I get thousands of applications and a free operating system that I use for college, home, and work. I downloaded Puppy Linux for free and use it as a USB flash portable OS on the run and for backup. Why pay Windoze hundreds of dollars when I can do everything I want, all for free? And Ubuntu is customizable and easily pimped with eye candy apps. And I don’t get the viruses that come with Winblows!

  43. TwoTwenty Says:

    its 2010, I feel like the last couple posts I read are from robots. However I am human and quite strange enough to prove it .. Maybe?? anyhow I have been waiting for the year of the linux desktop, I believe its inevitable, but most likely not this year.

    Could it be this year, the strangeness of reality seems to happen in blundering ways but linux and its development has been one of the best thought out and stable growths I have seen …. I think the original article was well articulated he maybe wrong but he was very accurate none the less. the year of the linux desktop could come in 2015 for all I know.. The growth as scary as it is to M$, constituents, kahooters, and mindless loyals is stable(and stable for world use) !! its organic, non cancerous and its looking fairly impervious to FUD, unless some really odd disasters happen to it ( ones that the tin foil heads cant explain ) its not going anywhere but up. I hope it teaches intellectuals that get to greedy that thoughts are still in a unknown realm even with the best of AI.

  44. Chris Says:

    Interesting reading this article and the posts going back to 2007. It seems that despite linux being increasingly known in the public eye, it is still viewed as something just for experts by many. I’m running Fedora 12 at home and it is an absolute pleasure to use, compared to XP at work, or the Linux experience of even 2-3 years ago. I don’t consider it difficult to use, and the sw selection is amazing, but I can’t see the average user leaving all their familar applications behind to make the switch. Also, they face a struggle with any proprietary hw they wish to use (of course, hw conforming to relevant standards works flawlessly these days).

    If you try to be the one to introduce your non-technical friend to Linux, well some people seem to adapt, but others can’t cope with anything different. They have learnt how to use Windows, and seem to just accept the limitations of Windows as part of life. If you try to give them Linux, they will not like having their familiar environment taken away.

    My thoughts are that the best chance Linux is in devices the user doesn’t perceive as a ‘PC’ and hence doesn’t have the preconceived notions of how it should behave. Consider mobile phones, where people are happy to upgrade regularly, often having to learn an entirely new interface. Appliance-style netbooks, which contain a in-built applications (browser, media player, chat client etc) might still regain this category.

  45. Freakzoid Says:

    Great reading! Having tried various flavours of Linux and trying to get them to work on various legacy pc’s I have returned to my faithful Xp.It requires minimum ram and runs on a Pentium 1 happily!I would urge the Great MS to deregulate the source code so that rapid software development can take place a la’ Android! Exciting times we live in!

  46. Mahesh R.Patil Says:

    Namaskar Sir,

  47. lavezarez Says:

    I beg to differ. Linux popular distros can’t make it even easy as Windows to make a simple USB modem to work.

    First make Linux as user-friendly as Windows when it comes to installing hardware devices such as usb modems, scanners, printers, and all those that are simply plug-n-play on Windows. Then make it easier to fix a broken system – I lost sound in my laptop and had to google my way into a maze of information just to find a fix. And until now, still no fix in sight.

    Until then, Linux will still remain limited to the minority of devotees having the patience, and skills to install using the community forums, chat rooms, etc.

    • Limulus Says:

      The interesting thing is that I have seen quite a bit of hardware that runs flawlessly ‘out of the box’ in Ubuntu but requires hunting for drivers on websites with Windows. So really the issue is not ‘Linux can’t make (or hasn’t made) it easy’ but rather that there exists a significant portion of hardware out there that is not ‘Linux-friendly’. An example: I once was given a scanner. It was nice and various websites claimed that it had good Linux support. But it wouldn’t run. The reason? A stupidly small (as in a few KB) firmware that did NOT allow redistribution. I would have to manually download, unpack and install this small file for it to scan. So I passed the printer on and got one that I could just plug in and it would work.

      I suggest that the majority of the time that hardware doesn’t run with distros that are libre (e.g. Ubuntu) it is because of issues like proprietary firmware and such. Consider the long-running issue of 3D on Nvidia hardware; you NEED the proprietary drivers to make it work. I have literally bought new cards for machines I was fixing up, not because the hardware was bad, but because they would not work as I wanted them to directly from an Ubuntu Live CD (all libre apps and drivers).

      The only way to get this fixed is to only buy products that are actually compatible in the first place; if I bought a USB modem that had a big ‘Designed for Windows XP’ (or Vista or 7) notice on the back and plugged it into a Mac and it didn’t work, is that really the fault of the Mac? No.

      Your notebook almost certainly has a ‘Designed for Windows [version]’ sticker on it; that should be a clue as to why you’re having issues. My netbook was one of the few that never had Windows on it and it works *perfectly* with Ubuntu (even though that is not what it was shipped with) because the hardware had good libre drivers. My suggestion to you is to run the most current Ubuntu Live CD and if you are getting sound from it, backup your data, do a clean install and things should work then.

  48. Comentarios aleatorios, semana 5-11/julio « Soy porque nosotros somos Says:

    […] linux en 3D (que se basen en q3) no funcionan. Tenemos tan pocos de esos y no funcionan. Venga el año de linux en el escritorio… #ubuntu-bugs: < micromix> hey guys i an wondering how would we find […]

  49. Tux Sux Says:

    there was a three-way battle between the Mac OS (classic), Microsoft Windows (DOS-based) and OS/2.

    No there wasn’t. Apple was deep into its dark years and was losing business even to 16 bit Windows, which no one pretended was a stellar product. OS/2 was nowhere near the home market and didn’t pretend to be. The other big competitors, Amiga and Atari, were even deeper into their dark years than Apple. All this time Microsoft and IBM compatibles were the big joke with their primitive DOS console interface and beep-bloop PC speaker while all the rest had more advanced processors, GUIs, and synthesized sound. Those other guys failed (or were near mortally wounded) because they transitioned poorly into the 90s and left a gaping hole for someone to fill.

    After Microsoft won the desktop wars, there was a period of calm, with Microsoft dominating, but a new generation of desktop OSs replacing the older ones: Mac OS X, MS Windows (NT-based) and Linux.

    What? We’ve been hearing about how Linux is going to take over any time now since the early 90s. There’s even a blog dedicated toward recording these predictions:


    Hell, Linux even predates NT, which didn’t come around until 1993. Saying Linux wasn’t around until desktop NT (XP) and MacOS X is rewriting history. In 1998, Red Hat was readily available for purchase in box stores, and thugs ESR, RMS, Perens and got nationwide news coverage picketing software stores and pushing “Gahnew Lynnucks”. Also by ’98, Linux was big enough to have a “For Dummies” book published, and it was also large enough to attract more proprietary/commercial software than is available today, including a variety of Corel software, Netscape, and video game ports provided by Loki Software.

  50. Joel Says:

    Looks like yet another random Ubuntu release didn’t won the war after all :P

    Wanna bet 2020 now?

    • Limulus Says:

      Goodness no :) Ten years is a long time from now, but what are the trends so far? Decidedly not in Microsoft’s favor, even if not in favor of Linux market-share either…

  51. Bob Bigras Says:

    Following globalstats


    2010 is about to be windows 7 years

    windows 7 – 19,43% (1,32% 1 years ago)
    Linux (all distro) 0,79% (0,69% 1 years ago)

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