Why Linux didn't win in 2007 and why it won't in 2008 either
I wrote about how 2006 was a year of big gains for Linux and that was true; I also wrote that second article about the gains made in Q1 2007 and how it was a promising start. It looked like Linux was taking the mainstream market with Ubuntu being picked up by Dell and offered as an alternative to Windows systems.
Weren't Ubuntu machines selling well with Dell?
Apparently things are going okay for the major vendor who took the bold step of offering Linux to the masses. See below for an extract from the LXER interview with John Hull - the manager of the Dell Linux engineering team:
The original sales estimates for Ubuntu computers was around 1% of the total sales, or about 20,000 systems annually. Have the expectations been met so far? Will Dell ever release sales figures for Ubuntu systems?
The program so far is meeting expectations. Customers are certainly showing their interest and buying systems preloaded with Ubuntu, but it certainly won't overtake Microsoft Windows anytime soon. Dell has a policy not to release sales numbers, so I don't expect us to make Ubuntu sales figures available publicly.
Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, OpenSUSE, Fedora 7... Lots of good releases
And that's leaving out things like Sabayon, Mint, Gentoo and Knoppix (to name a few). 2007 had a lot of great releases that reached eagerly for my coveted title of Most Usable Linux 2007, many aiming for intuitive user experiences. Ubuntu 7.10 was a great step in the right direction but it clearly wasn't enough.
Everyone was looking to Ubuntu to set the world on fire and it didn't. It made excellent progress but we're not where we thought we would be.
It was another textbook case of "this will be the year" without anything firm to base that on. True we knew Linux would be doing a lot of good things this year and I never predicted that Dell would start selling them.
Why 2007 didn't become "year of mainstream Linux"
We started the year with good promise, but we still weren't in a position to release "normal" people onto the distros. Ubuntu was always the best bet and even 7.04 (which Dell were shipping with) had some big usability flaws. I wouldn't have been comfortable selling machines to the mainstream market with something that wasn't bombproof.
I've used Ubuntu since Breezy Badger so I've seen things progress an awful lot, so I know how far things can go over the course of 12-18 months. Gutsy Gibbon was a great release but not quite mainstream worthy; yet it was another massive step in the right direction.
I'd be surprised if Ubuntu was in a mainstream worthy position before October 2008. It's moving in the right direction but there's a lot left to be done.
Ultimately 2007 was a good year for Linux but it wasn't "the" year. 2008 won't be the year either unfortunately. I hoped Vista would be the catalyst for the mass conversion but the climate wasn't quite right, and until the leading releases (Ubuntu, PCLOS, etc) make something so painfully simple that you don't need to be a computer scientist to understand what you're doing.
I'm yet to announce who wins my most usable Linux 2007 but there are a few key candidates. As far as Linux in 2008 is concerned I'm thinking it'll be similar to 2007 - a few massive wins that come too early. I think Ubuntu 8.10 is going to be the one that makes the waves, but it's up to everyone else to prove me wrong.
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