Let's get right to it: considering the popularity of open source applications and utilities, why hasn’t the open source flagship - the Linux operating system - caught on with mainstream PC users?
With the various incarnations of Linux available at the click of a button, why do the majority of PC users prefer to drop $200 US on a Windows Vista or Mac OS install disk instead of trying the third, free option? According to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet, the lack of understanding between the Linux community and the average computer user can be boiled down to five crucial points:
On the grand scale, Microsoft users are not as dissatisfied with Windows as you think
It makes sense. If Windows users were as unhappy with Windows as some tech outlets like to claim, then more people would already be using Linux or at least Mac OS X.
It's all about the lowest common denominator. Most users will put up with a few blue screens of death before they leave their comfort zone and try a different operating system.
There are too many freaking distributions!
The daunting number of Linux distros available today (well over 100) can prove intimidating to the casual computer user who often finds it difficult enough deciding between Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium.
While users may welcome a variety of choice and the option to experiment with different applications (Firefox vs. Opera for example) on their computers, switching operating systems is a much more involved and painful process than switching virus protection software.
Furthermore, it doesn't help that the notion of the Live CD or the virtual machine is still foreign to most users.
People like to stick with what they are accustomed to, even if it may be flawed. Unless the Linux community can whittle the Linux distro list down to just one or two prominent distros, average users will continue to make the simpler choice of Windows or Mac.
People want to know that their hardware and software will work
The biggest hassle of switching from Windows or Mac OS to Linux is having to find open source programs to replace all of the proprietary software you once took for granted.
There are simply not enough hardware or software vendors that explicitly support Linux, thus making the switch from Windows to Linux a daunting task for the average user.
The command line is outdated; get over it!
Linux users like to boast about the fact that with Linux you can dispense with the GUI and rely on the command line, but these people are a (geeky) minority. What average user is interested in, or capable of, going back to the DOS days?
This techie-elitist attitude can prove alienating for the Windows and Mac-accustomed crowd, which brings us to our last point.
Linux is still too geeky for the average user
Linux is known as the OS geared toward the technologically savvy crowd. The image of pimply kids with pens in their pocket protectors twiddling around in their mom’s basement still comes to mind for many people when the topic of Linux arises.
New distributions like Ubuntu are intended to curb this image and to help give Linux widespread appeal. Updates, for example, are a spotty area that can prove intimidating to the new user even on Ubuntu.
While choice in the marketplace is always a good thing, the reality is that there is a long way to go before we start seeing widespread adoption of Linux amongst the common citizenry.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on this article in the comments section.