Free software's secret weapon: FOOGL

It's a long-standing joke in the free software world that this will be the year when we see GNU/Linux make its breakthrough on the desktop - just like last year, and the year before that. What's really funny is that all the key GNU/Linux desktop apps are already being widely deployed, but not in the way that people have long assumed.

The indestructible optimism about GNU/Linux appearing on the desktop seems to be the result of a misguided view that since it grew from insignificance in the server sector to become a serious challenger to Microsoft Windows there, the same is bound to happen to GNU/Linux on the client side.

But there are fundamental differences between the server and desktop markets. Free software has traditionally been written by geeks for geeks: this means that it suits well those whose job is tending a company's servers. By contrast, all the things that non-technical users demand – ease-of-use, an engaging user interface and above all continuity with what they are used to – have typically been absent.

Similarly, although it is difficult enough to impose a new server solution on an unwilling IT department, it is trivially easy compared to trying to get end-users to switch to a new desktop. After all, IT staff are paid to deal with IT problems (including their own), whereas general users just want to get their non-IT jobs done; a completely new IT solution is seen as an unnecessary distraction from their “real



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

necessary? you bet if you trade stock in the us.

Anonymous's picture

i am a long time linux user and found turbotax online version works best for a linux user. even then had numerious problems due to some browsers no longer supported. two rush installs of RH just to get my taxes done. each time costing $50. i now use ubuntu and stay current with updates.

Tax programs

Anonymous's picture

Here in the UK, tax programs are much less of an issue, for two reasons. First, typically, the govt. is responsible for working out the taxes it takes from you. Secondly, for those who DO file their own tax returns (self-employed businessmen, for example), Intuit pulled TurboTax for the UK several years ago. So it just isn't an issue here. If UK Linux deployment is or becomes faster than US Linux deployment, the need to interoperate with one of its largest trading partners would imo prove the biggest catalyst yet to Linux adoption in the US.

Hardened gamer?

Phillip Marquez aka l1wulf's picture

Maybe you can point out the Xbox and Playstation versions of World of Warcraft so that those not in the loop can get their daily MMO crack dose.

In other words, I beg to differ. While there are a great many gamers that own at least one if not multiple consoles, I venture to say that the most "hardened" and dedicated gamers (to specific games) still play their favorites on the PC. Ignoring the MMOs, how many people still play Neverwinter Nights (and those that came before it like Baldur's Gate, etc.)? Civilization? Given the choice between starting a new game of the Sims, how many people who have extensively played both the PC and console versions would rather play on their console? The last is mere speculation since I've only ever played the Sims on the PC (yes, just the first one).

Going by my personal experience, PC versions of games tend to be vastly superior to console games the majority of the time. The exception tends to be titles that made their mark first on the console, then ported to the PC (a result of differences in controls possibly?).

Without actual numbers to back me up, but again going by personal experience, here are a couple of examples. Halo on the Xbox--incredibly successful. Halo on the PC--moderate success. Of the former, I know many. The latter, I could count on one hand. Flip to the other side and we have Counter-Strike. On the PC--I would venture to speculate that this is likely still the largest online userbase at any given hour worldwide. On the consoles--I don't even know a single soul who has actually purchased it, and only a couple who have bothered with it as a rental.

For what it is worth, my personal experience entails personal acquaintences which have a healthy dose of both console and PC owners (most with at least one console and a PC). Professionally, I work for a mom 'n pop computer store which does custom builds, primarily for gamers, oh and the owners are both gamers. One owner has a company which deals exclusively with online, competitive gaming--both for the PC and consoles. In other words, I'm surrounded by gamers on a daily basis.

I have both Linux and Windows boxes and I am what I would consider a "hardened" gamer. I do own an Xbox, with a meager collection of games actually purchased (why own when you can rent?) and a Nintendo DS. The DS is great while away from home. The Xbox has seen a fair share of play, but no title keeps me coming back for more after a few months. For my PC, I have a decent collection of "keepers" and I make occasional used purchases and trades at the local GameStop. None of the titles are played on my Linux boxes (even the games with the option for Linux installs, why should be evident two sentences away). Take a wild guess which OS I spend 75%+ of my leisure time on. While you're guessing, which box has the top end components? Which houses my music from "on the go" subscription services?

The article talks about OSS alternatives to Windows proprietary applications (enjoyed the article by the way); being able to transition from Outlook to something on Linux is fine for luring the business user. A good number in this market have either transitioned or at least considered the possibility, if even for a moment. Until quality offerings are on the table for the moms, dads and grandparents out there, Windows will remain the predominant OS. I'm sure you don't expect grandma to do her taxes in a spreadsheet, do you? I don't, and I won't give up my Windows boxes until I can play all my favorite games, natively, in Linux. Then I'll worry about all the utilities and apps I've grown accustomed to in Windows.

Apologies for the long reply, but I would rather explain in more detail, than just say "I game on windows only".


Glyn Moody's picture

Many thanks for your interesting comments - I bow to your superior wisdom in the gaming world, about which I know very little. I suppose the issue is what proportion of PC users are likely to share your view: any idea?


Bert Munger's picture

KDE has an email program integrated with a calendar all integrated with a desktop that runs on Linux. Works great!


Anonymous's picture

Yes, the KDE kontact PIM is excellent, it only have two major problems:

1) It doesn't run on windows. No IT-manager in their right mind is going to accept having two different calendaring programs in their organization. This means that no desktops will switch to Linux, until all software in their organization runs Linux, making it posssible to finally replace outlook.

2) In most Linux distros S/MIME is not installed by default. This is a problem as this is the most common way to do encrypted e-amil in the business world.

Once KDE have moved to QT4, the problem of lacking windows port may be solved, but that probably at least a year away before it happens on the technical level, and then there will need to be some time for marketing.


Hans Leidekker's picture

> The problem is that most people depend on three main software
> categories - browser, office suite and email

There's a fourth category. Most people also depend on a random
handful of Windows-only applications. Out of more than 100,000.

While cross platform open source apps keep the user on the
proprietary OS, Wine could bring her over sooner, by having her
stay with some of those proprietary applications she depends on.

We need both FOOGL and Wine

Dan Kegel's picture

We clearly need FOOGL to make people comfortable
with the most common Linux apps before they switch,
but we also need Wine so people can continue running
their specialized apps after they switch.

It's a huge challenge for Wine to support those 100,000
apps, of course. Wine still can't run most of them.
Heck, it can't even install the latest Photoshop.
But we're working on it, and one of these days people
will wake up and find Wine has become an indispensible
part of Windows-to-Linux migration.

I'll drink to that

Glyn Moody's picture

You're right of course: Wine is free software's *other* secret weapon, that solves all the problems other people here have raised about specialised apps.

Once you've got the main Windows apps sorted out, Wine will be *hugely* important (of course, it's already important). I can't wait.

First we need the Windows port of KDE

Glyn Moody's picture
KDE's email and calendar will be another solution when the Windows port of KDE is complete - otherwise the platform independence approach doesn't work.