Linux has always been ready to explode, but it has never managed to become a widely used operating system. Here’s why. Dirk Hohndel is today the director of VMware’s Open Source division, but in 1999 he was Intel’s free software expert. That year Hohndel made a prediction that entered the history of computing: 1999 would be the year of Linux. Hohndel was wrong, and not just once: in 2013, he made a very similar prediction, praising Google’s Chromebook Pixel that runs on Chrome OS, derived from Linux.
Such predictions, all disproved, have been made over the years by more than one expert, yet the infamous ” year of Linux ” not only never came, but perhaps it never will. Or, at least, the year of Linux will never arrive on desktop and laptop PCs because, in other sectors, Linux has already dominated for some time. Indeed, it could be said that if Windows and macOS users today have a good experience on the Internet, it is thanks to Linux. But how are things? What are the numbers of Linux?
How Many PCs Are Using Linux
We only estimate the diffusion of Linux in the desktop and laptop sectors. And the reason is easy to understand: there are so many distributions of this open-source operating system that it is almost impossible to track them all. According to an estimate by NetMarketShare updated in September 2019, the penetration of Linux on desktop and laptop PCs in the world stops at about 2.2%, a percentage that also includes Chrome OS and BSD (which is not in all respects Linux).
Since an estimated 2 billion computers are currently in operation, those with Linux would be just 4 million. From the exact estimates, we learn that no less than 200 million users still use Windows 7, and this substantially demonstrates one thing: those who use a computer, on average, do not want to change the operating system and, consequently, the hopes that the infamous ” year will soon arrive. Linux ” are shallow.
Why Linux Is Important
The fact that so few people use a Linux operating system on a desktop or laptop PC doesn’t mean that Linux is irrelevant in the world. On the contrary, Linux is the reference system in areas other than the consumer one: about 92% of the servers on which the Amazon EC2 platform runs, for example, use Linux.
About 70% of all online websites are hosted on a Linux server. All 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world use Linux. Finally, both iOS and Android are two operating systems derived from Linux (to be precise, iOS derives from Free-BSD, which is a ” Unix-like ” system like Linux). To put it another way: if Linux stops, the mobile world we take for granted today stops.
Why Linux Doesn’t Get Through On The Desktop
If online businesses worth billions and billions of dollars rely on Linux, it is because it is a robust and reliable operating system. But why don’t users like its features? We have already described the first reason: the fear of change. If a user doesn’t want to switch from Windows 7 to Windows 10, let alone if they’ll ever switch from Windows to Linux. Then there is the fear of the command line: many operations on Linux are still performed (even) from the command line. Also, but not only that, it is almost always possible to do it with a graphic tool.
But since Linux is very popular among the most advanced users, who use the command line a lot, when we talk about Linux, we always talk about some commands to be sent with the keyboard. And that terrifies the average user. Also not to be underestimated is the lack of compatibility with Linux for the most popular professional applications: Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk AutoCAD, Microsoft Office, and much other popular software that do not run natively on Linux. It is possible to run them via Wine or various emulators, but the average user wants to double-click and use the program. Finally, among the youngest, the lack of good gaming support in practically all Linux distributions weighs heavily.