Is Linux really an alternative on the Desktop?

I just read this article over at PCWorld. Sadly, I have to agree with everything in it. Linux as a Desktop OS is fantastic, if you know how to configure it, and if you can live without all the good content which is available for Windows or Mac OS X. Those are two huge “if”s, though. I personally use Linux for much of my daily work, and basically for everything that’s related to programming in any way. However, I have to go back to Windows much too often to play games, listen to music, watch movies, etc. Sure, I can run most of the programs in Wine, but it just doesn’t feel right.

For Linux to become a good Desktop OS, it would definitely need some love from the big software companies. As an example, a little while ago, there were rumors about Steam coming to Linux. Things like that would really help Linux adoption. Unfortunately, it’s too hard for software developers to support Linux. Sure, the program can probably run on every distribution out there, but the method of installing applications can be completely different from one distribution to another, and this is hell for a developer. After all, if it’s hard to install applications no normal desktop user will choose Linux, and the fewer users Linux has, the less meaningful it is for software companies to develop applications for it.

Free software advocates might not think this is a bad thing. After all, a common way of thinking in the Linux world is that software is supposed to be free, and that the Linux world shouldn’t be polluted by closed, proprietary, software. This is a good philosophy, but the facts cannot be ignored. Many good software products are written by large companies, and these companies want to earn money from it.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind running a couple of proprietary applications in Linux, if that let me do everything I want. I don’t hate Windows; I actually think it’s perfectly OK. However, Linux improves my productivity with its outstanding scripting abilities. unmatched by anything I have seen for Windows. If I could get just one OS which fulfills all my needs I would be happy. Unfortunately, I don’t think Linux will be that OS anytime soon…

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