Linux users, particularly those on the desktop constantly lament the languishing of their favorite OS well behind Windows and even MacOS. This is true despite the fact that a)Microsoft has badly botched Windows Reborn as Vista even while b) Linux has some very good distributions for free desktop usage. One can name at least 10 top notch Linux versions that are easy to install, feature GUI interfaces, have loads of Microsoft Office compatible software that is free and add major functionality as a bonus, etc. Here are my top 3 Linux desktop versions:
Canonicals Ubuntu – performs well as desktop OS with lots of games, media support and Internet connectivity
Fedora 12 Desktop – has strong link to Red Hat Enterprise Linux for business processing plus large community
Open Suse 11.2 – has very strong desktop and web development features and capabilities with great GUI IDEs
And Linux on the Servers continues to flourish, outpacing Microsoft and most other distributions as seen below
However, on embedded apps [RTOS and others dominate] and mobile phone/devices others OS like Nokia’s Symbian, Apple’s iPhone OS, RIM’s Blackberry OS and Palm webOS have superior market share.
But Google, almost single handedly is changing all that.
First on the server side, Google’s Linux based search servers are capturing significant market share [see chart above]. On the mobile phone side Google’s Android and ChromeOS [both Linux based and Open Source]are making more than ripples. Android phones are are currently the fastest growing mobile phone OS. Note at nearly 6% of a very fast growing market, Android has more smartphone market share than Linux has ever had in its lifetime on the desktop. And there are slew of new Android phones coming to market in the next few months. The one damper is Apple’s patent attack on HTC for use of the Android OS in some of its latest [and highly rated] smartphones.
ChromeOS meanwhile is targeted for Netbooks and is scheduled to appear in the second half of this year on a number of machines. Chrome OS is quite different – it will run on devices that have solid state disk drives, the Chrome browser as its master interface and also exclusively in Cloud. Yes users can set up a localhost operation; but the intention is to have Chrome OS run like … like a Sun Java Desktop Client machine. Yes there is local storage; but no there is not a conspicuous file system nor many stand alone utilities and apps. Everything is done through the Chrome browser. Its another kick at the thin client cat with Web enablement and SaaS-Software as a Service to carry the day. And of course, Google will be supplying some of those key services with Google Apps, Maps, Voice, Wave etc. Chrome OS could get major traction or just duplicate the many misses that abound around the concept of thin clients.
But regardless of the speed and direction of Chrome and Android OS success, it appears that Mountain View’s Google will be leading the way to Linux emergence from running as a terrible fifth fiddle in the desktop and mobile OS markets. But all bets are off in the embedded market place unless the apps and OS a) have a Web connection and b)support more than one task and c)have a robust GUI interface as part of those requirements. In sum, Google will likely lead Linux into the Promised Land of being a major commercial OS tool on the desktop and mobile devices – something that only the server side Linux distributions have succeeded in doing in the past 20 years.