Death of the Desktop Take II
I wrote a rather long response to a posting I saw on Fedora Planet entitled, "Death of the Year of the Linux Desktop". I'm sharing it here as well.
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The desktop is dead? Some disagree. See this very compressed video on the "Death of the Desktop":
What makes someone a winner and what makes someone a loser? Linux on the desktop has tens of millions of users. While that might not be double-digit market share it is still a significant number of users. Anyone who looks at those numbers and calls them losing must have thought the game was winnable to begin with. It wasn't. FOSS does not spend hundreds of millions on advertising and billions on under-the-table deals with hardware makers... FOSS simply does not operate on the same playing field. The free hand of the market happens to be attached to a twisted arm.
In reality there aren't any winners and losers because it isn't a race. While those who are in it for money have certain ways to measure success, in FOSS you just make the best software you can and hope users will appreciate it. Of course the squeaky wheels always make the most noise and there are lots of complainers out there (see discussions on KDE 3.x vs. 4.x as an example) but that doesn't mean that vast majority of us FOSS users aren't very happy.
There seem to have been quite a few "if you can't beat them, join them" type posts on Fedora Planet lately. It all depends on if joining them means I have more freedom or less... and if I can tell the difference. The mobile device world is still a proprietary nightmare full of lock-in. Are they selling well? Yes. Does that mean we should just give up and join them? Definitely not. Same goes for Facebook. Just because Facebook is the new-AOL (a members-only castle of content) with 500M users doesn't mean it is the ideal way. Does that mean the new battle ground should be in FOSS social-networking? Everyone assumes that eyeballs means money so Facebook and Twitter will eventually find a way to make money... in a way that doesn't anger their userbase and make them go somewhere else.
If the Internet has proven anything, it is that it is hard to predict the future... and predicting the future now isn't any easier than it was 10 years ago. Who thought AOL would fall? Backing up a few more years, who thought Netscape would fall? Or Word Perfect? My point is that while the Internet has proven to not to be a fad there are a lot of companies, products and services that seem to have been. Facebook might be in a completely different position 5 years from now. Google could turn into a "has-been"... as well as Microsoft... and Apple too. I know those things are hard to imagine but if the past has shown us anything, it is that the future is hard to get right.
The *ONLY WAY* we lose is to give up or to "join them". Diversity is good... and the FOSS folks have really been a bastion of innovation even if many don't think they have been. Microsoft and Apple definitely need the competition or we'd still be using something close to Windows 98 and Mac OS 9. If we decide to give in and/or join them then not only do we lose but so does everyone else.
Perhaps you think I've ignored your argument about HTML 5 being the backbone of all future app development. If that is true, FOSS can move in that direction. That is natural and to be expected. The analogy that Mr. Torvalds used to give was that Linux is like a liquid that flows with the pull of gravity... to everywhere getting into every nook and cranny and become an endless broadly deployed thing lacking any real direction or intelligible strategy. That is the way it is now with FOSS, the way it has always beenand I'm guessing he way it will always be with FOSS. That isn't a bad thing. It has worked well for the evolution of life on earth.
We are way behind in HTML 5, huh? How did Richard Stallman feel when he started the GNU Project? What chances did Linus Torvalds have with his private little project started with a Usenet post? How far behind were they?
If you are frustrated / unhappy in FOSS perhaps it is time for a change. That isn't directed at anyone in particular... just a general statement. Don't worry, someone will fill in your spot.