Over on his blog Thoughtfix has written about why he thinks Linux on mobile devices is doomed. Having read the post, I can see his points and think the argument is valid for desktop Linux too, but he suggests a few ideas that would be exceedingly hard to implement
“Linux has the opportunity to learn from these competitors and blow them away.”
And yes, it does… but who is “Linux”? Arrange me a meeting with the CEO of “Linux” and its board of directors. That can’t be done, can it? There’s no one person in control, no one single vision or direction keeping things consistent… There’s just millions of individuals running around doing what they (or their own little communities) think is best.
He also says
“I hope some company is strong (or wealthy) enough to provide developers with the tools, distribution channels, and incentives to provide a rich application directory for their devices.”
But then we’ve just got another distribution out there justifying its existance as being “the one”. Every large Linux distro is the result of someone thinking these exact thoughts and saying “God this is a mess, I am going to sort it out and do things properly”.
The OSS community has, for so long, been hell-bent on competing with Microsoft and getting itself noticed. We’ve done that part now – I can buy a multitude of Linux based devices, my mum knows what a Linux is and compared with five years ago she could probably install it with as much difficulty as she’d encounter installing XP. It’s like winning a war and realising you’ve now got to create some law and order, without causing a riot.
Now the community needs to create some standards for what a “Linux” distribution really is. We’ve got to take the spirit of Open Source and apply it not just to the source, but to the whole concept.
Unfortunately none of this will happen since the instant you tell RedHat users that Debian’s package system is good you’ve got a holy war. And if a large company suddenly pops up and tries to do it, they’ll be knocked down instantly since the OSS community is riddled with people that hate any form of large business for no real concrete reason.
And that’s the whole damn problem from where I’m sat – there’s too many frothy mouthed zeolots running around on crazed holy missions to insert their own brand of Linux into as many PCs as possible, rather than people sitting down together and thinking “OK, so when someone sees a software package on the Internet and they click it… what exactly will happen?”, “They plug in a 1TB external HDD, where exactly will it mount?” “Let’s make KDE and Gnome operate in exactly the same way, with the same file manager standards so that when a user bookmarks their favourite locations in Firefox they can also see them in The Gimp”.
You know, basic stuff that Apple, Microsoft and everyone else has had since they first came out over 20 years ago…
Then again, Linux was never designed with any particular goals, so it’s hardly surprising things are chaotic.