Why Linux Desktop Does Not Spread – the Curse of Being Free

This is a philosophical post on why Linux hasn’t grown to challenge Windows as the most popular operating system. From the blog post:

Linux isn’t very popular on the desktop. It’s a far third behind OS X, which is a very far second behind Windows. Most people cite pre-installed operating systems as the reason. But as a student of psychology, I see something most people don’t. There’s one big factor in why Linux isn’t popular on the desktop. Linux is free. I know this sounds like complete dog’s bollocks, but hear me out before judging my sanity.

My personal experience suggests that people don’t use GNU/Linux on desktop because :

  1. Steep learning curve
  2. Software incompatibility or doesn’t run the software they want
  3. Installing and obtaining drivers may be issue for average joe
  4. Finally, human psyche is complex subject. There are people who buy expensive apple hardware and install Linux on it. You just can’t predicate human behavior.

I use Linux on desktop because I work with a Linux / UNIX server all day and I find that using it on the desktop as well actually makes my life easier. You know one-size-fits-all approach may be unrealistic in a real life. I see my workplace desktops fully loaded with mix of Linux, OS X and dominated by Windows XP pro.

=> Why Linux Doesn’t Spread – the Curse of Being Free (via slashdot)

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🐧 8 comments so far... add one

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8 comments… add one
  • dustin Feb 18, 2008 @ 5:54

    This is really funny. One only has to look at the very post right before this one to see why it doesn’t spread…

    Ok, Mom, now just type:
    “$ sudo vi /etc/network/interfaces”

    Right. Not in a million years.

  • Raj Feb 18, 2008 @ 6:25


    Ditto. Average user will not touch it as long as user interfaces (CLI) require active participation to get work done. Hell many windows admin find it difficult to use vi and command line. Linux is very powerful OS and I can just tweak it the way I want it. That’s the part of problem. Most users don’t want to deal with command line, they just want to use bloody computer (PC/Mac) for surfing the web, chatting with buddied, download music and other stuff. Another issue limited application options (don’t tell me about wine). Linux is perfect for people like vivek and geeks but not for my mom and noob friends.

    — Raj

  • Sweta Feb 18, 2008 @ 6:31

    Mac OS X is simply *the best* operating system available. Tell me why Linux users, IT pepople geeks etc all; only prefers to use MacBook – I’ve seen more MacBooks at conferences ever… Linux is good for server, period.

  • Ronald Wielink Feb 18, 2008 @ 9:20

    I think there is a very simple reason average pc users don’t switch to gnu/linux: no need. for 95% they buy pcs with windows pre-installed and are satisfied with it for what they do. Buying a pc with no pre-installed wundows is nontrivial and does not yield any substantial financial benefits.. no incentive to do that.

  • hakinchen Feb 18, 2008 @ 23:52

    I see it different.

    The most poeple don’t use Linux because, Windows is all ready installed on the most buying Systems.
    It is easy to crack Software and things like this.
    When i need Software for a Windows PC i go to my neighbor or my neighbor of the other side of the road.
    The most people use Windows will it is easy to become cracked Software.
    And they are thinking: “Windows running out of the Box” 😉 LOL

    That’s the important think for me.

  • ezeze5000 May 23, 2008 @ 11:38

    It took me 2 years to talk my dad into letting me build him a PC. I loaded Ubuntu Linux on it and he just loves it. He has never used the command line or vi. He watches videos, does research for his hobby, and checks and sends e-mail everyday.
    He says that he likes not having to worry about virus like A lot of his friends is A plus in his book.
    I hope this will help some people in deciding if they want to try Linux as A desktop option.

  • hushang May 29, 2009 @ 15:48

    that is ‘cs linus does not want it to be so. he writes software for his own fun. he do not care if nobody use it (at least he started so).

  • Yves Legault Dec 14, 2012 @ 19:40

    Why is Linux not spreading?

    Simple! Because people have windows already installed in their head!

    Has anyone calculated the amount of money micro$oft is spending in marketing? In sponsoring schools? in flooding the web with supporting studies unsuprosingly financed by them?

    Micro$oft is the single most important cause of stagnation in the computer industry, worldwide.


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