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Linux on the (consumer) Desktop

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Arriving back from vacation, I read Miguel's thoughts on the state of the Linux Desktop in the race for the consumer market; I happen to mostly agree with his conclusion - that we're still facing a huge up-hill struggle there. While I have huge respect for his experience and insight, I think the causes are larger. My punch-line is that the Linux Desktop faces a huge and multi-factored ecosystem challenge, there is no single simple issue to fix. Over the last decade I've been peripherally involved in trying to tackle many of the problems in this area, here are some of my random thoughts and open questions on the topic, there are no radical new insights:

Our attractiveness to ISVs

Clearly this is a significant factor in our problem. No matter how bad and limited our APIs are, if there is market pressure to port software to the platform - it will come; hacks and all. Yes, the Linux Desktop is a horrifying thing to deal with from an ABI stability / interface perspective. Aside from the diversity of pointlessly different distribution packaging details, the Linux Desktop stack (with existing frozen / back-compatible API/ABIs) is not profoundly different from other operating systems - indeed, arguably it is better for ISVs since we have access to open the lid on the box and work with each other as some are finding out.

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