Linux Desktop vs. The Rise of Tablet Computers and Smartphones

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Ever since Steve Jobs announced the ‘revolutionary’ new iPad, the computing world has seen many important changes. First of all, the iPad surpassed the Linux userbase in just one year since its release. As unbelievable as it sounds, Linux users are neither happy nor surprised. The fact remains that despite the community’s best efforts, Linux’s reception still remains poor. And, even though we’ve covered before most of the problems the Linux desktop is facing right now, there is another issue we haven’t really touched upon. That is, the competition Linux has been getting from smartphones and tablets.

There of course, is no problem with competition. However, with the rise in the consumption of smartphones and tablet computers, the importance of desktop is slowly waning. Linux on the other hand, is just starting out on its quest for world domination. Will Linux be able to match these new and ‘viral’ trends in technology? Or, will it go down as an operating system that was never meant for normal users? If you ask me, I think Linux has a fair chance of beating the hell out of these tablets and smartphones. Here’s my side of the argument:

Tablets are secondary devices

Can you expect a tablet to perform every single task that your PC or Mac does right now? No. In fact, there’s a limited amount of things you could do with tablet computers. For example, typing long articles like this one won’t be easy on a touch screen enabled tablet device. Tablets are good for checking emails, reading e-books, and writing short emails and stuff. When it boils down to true ninja-style computing there’s no match for the good old desktop computer.

Smartphones are just phones

These days, smartphones come with a lot of features – GPS, Augmented reality, real-time chat, camera and so much more. Out of those mind-boggling 57-odd features we end up using only 3-4 of them. Remember that Nokia ad which claimed that their smartphone could replace your computer? Well Nokia, I’ve got two words for you --- Utter Rubbish. A smart phone replacing a desktop isn’t possible, at least for the next 5 years. Core 2 Quad processors are soon becoming ‘outdated’ as far as desktop is concerned. Comparing it with your tiny cell phone, well, never mind.

Linux vs. Linux? A battle half won

As far the battle of desktop and smart phone is concerned, it isn’t much of a loss for Linux users even if the latter wins. After all, Android, the current leader in smartphones is Linux-based. Also, once Android 3.0 Honeycomb releases, there’s a great chance that Android tablets might overthrow iPad’s monopoly. Now, when we talk about desktop, Linux foundation and others can cash in on this opportunity by rebooting the ‘Linux is everywhere’ campaign. This will be make people believe that Linux isn’t just for geeks and nerds, it’s for everyone. Moreover, by making people aware that it is in fact Linux that they are using on their phones and tablets, will make people trust Linux more than ever before. Many such marketing strategies, if implemented properly, will give Linux desktop a definite edge in the competition.

Wider Implementation

Step in to any government office, police station, or a supermarket and you’ll see a desktop being used. Desktops cost less than tablets and perform almost ten times better. In places where mobility isn’t a requirement, tablets, smartphones and even laptops are impractical. Thus, why would a company which runs say a supermarket chain want to switch to tablets? No, not at least tablet computers start performing better than desktops. So, in short, tablets won’t get implemented worldwide, well not as fast as Uncle Steve thinks. This, in turn gives Linux enough time to establish a stronghold in this platform.

Ubuntu’s catching up

Ubuntu as of now has 12 million users. Chief-in-command Mark Shuttleworth has a grand plan to take this number to 200 million in just 4 years. The target seems a bit too ambitious but if Canonical takes the right steps, the goal can definitely be reached. In fact, even if the number reaches 100 million, it would be considered as a great achievement. Thus, the Linux desktop market, which was considered fairly stagnated, is now getting ready to prove to the world what it is really worth. And finally, with such tight competition from Windows 8 and Mac OS X Lion, the desktop market is anything but dead. The battle my friends, has only just begun.

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

1 comment

  1. AnonymousMay 24, 2011

    The Linux kernel itself is only a piece of technology, and for the average person (on its own) is a useless technology. Its the idea behind Linux that matters, its the free software ideology that actually matters. For example WebOS is a brilliant OS based on Linux but is propriety, if it becomes dominant it may technically be a success for Linux as a technology but not for Linux as an idea. We shouldn't be promoting Linux itself but free and open source software (FOSS) regardless of the technology e.g. BSD and others. Most people cannot appreciate the technology behind Linux (the kernel) but can identify with the free software ideology and this is what we must push and this is what must win against the propriety, locked down and controlled platforms that corporate America is propping up. Success for Linux doesn't necessarily mean success for free software but success for free software generally means success for Linux. Just my opinion.