General Discussion Opinion

Why is Linux Not More Widely Used Than It Is?

Why Linux Is Not Popular
Written by Martins D. Okoi

The answer to this question can only truly be answered after a variety of statistical data has been gathered. Other than that, it is anybody’s guess.

Nevertheless, we can make educated guesses from the information we have from history, user feedback, demographic influence, business agendas, etc regarding desktop and laptop workstations so let me get right to it.

Windows Came First + a Different Philosophy

Windows was first released on November 20, 1985, and Linux on August 1993. Both OSes have back stories that give insights into their creation, development, and how they changed the ecosystem. However, since Windows had a long enough head start coupled with a continuous run even after Linux became a thing, its fan base seems to have grown at an exponential rate while that of Linux, relatively linear.

The fact that Windows was first doesn’t mean that Linux couldn’t have outrun it, but both platforms have different philosophies with the former being business-minded and publicizing proprietary software, and the latter being mostly free-minded and publicizing open-source software.

This factored into making the biggest businesses and service providers see Windows as more reliable and accountable than the new kid on the block that was on popular within the “tech community“.

Aesthetics & Applications

Before KDE, GNOME, and other desktop environments came around Linux (specifically Interim Linux) was entirely CLI driven. By this time Macintosh and Windows had fully functional GUI software and those were more appealing to the average user. On this note, Linux got off on the wrong foot and this has come a long way to tarnish its image.

Applications like the ones in Microsoft’s Office Suite and Adobe’s collection are still not available on the Linux platform without some type of hack and since most of mankind cannot be bothered but to try, they go for what they can easily work with.

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And although there are close to perfect alternatives in the market, the user needs to have already made up his mind to stick with the distro he’s running. A Linux newbie might get discouraged.

Drivers & Video Games

Driver support is a lot better and gaming is almost as good as it is on Windows platforms with special thanks to Steam, but the idea that one can’t play his favorite game on Linux is already ingrained in the minds of former Linux testers.

Imagine trying out the supposedly latest and coolest OS on the block on releasing you cannot play any games – or that some of the software you need to run for work or personal use cannot because the drivers are not available. This was also the case with printers, scanners, SD cards, cameras, etc.

Like in the case of aesthetics and GUI software, Linux was streamlining its user base. And although this wasn’t the fault of Linux, it has played a major role in its market share.

Standardization

Linux distros are doing a lot better than before when it comes to standardization. Developers were (and still are) free to package and distribute their apps any way they want and it was left to the users to keep track of all the software distribution methods.

I imagine that back then, most computer users couldn’t be bothered and rather used platforms with a single source for getting software. Of course, this isn’t the case any longer thanks to a variety of software including snap and flatpak, but till this day there are open source apps that are easy to install on macOS and Windows while its Linux version needs to be built from source.

I’m guessing this is based on the assumption that Linux users are command line experts and it’s a double-edged sword.

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Marketing & Advertising

Windows and macOS haven’t stayed on top of things by just chilling in the same spot. The companies spend millions of dollars on marketing and advertising – even engaging each other in friendly competition. This is more difficult to do with Linux because it is not a single company.

GNU/Linux is free and accessible to anyone with a computer and internet access. Even if Ubuntu, for example, begins to run expensive campaigns to recruit more users, that will be only Ubuntu’s market share. Granted, it’s still GNU/Linux but they will have a long way to go. Plus how will they generate the fund for such campaigns? Their OS is free. Their software is free. Even when laptops come preinstalled with Linux distros they don’t pay for the OS.

Computers come with Windows or MacOS Preinstalled

When you buy a Mac it comes with Apple’s OS. For HP, ASUS, and other computer brands, they usually come with Windows preinstalled. Clearly, this means that the odds of coming across a new PC with a GNU/Linux installation are already low.

This is changing, though, as companies like Dell now ship with either Windows or Ubuntu installed depending on the user’s choice. They might not be getting as many buys as the Windows versions but at least they’re getting somewhere.

So, whenever you see a Linux user, odds are s/he bought a laptop with Windows preinstalled and then s/he chose a Linux distro to run. From the look of things, the odds are in the favor of Windows by default.

There are definitely more reasons than those listed above so I will let you share your opinion with me on that note. Why is Linux not more widely used than it is? Drop your two cents in the comments section below.

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About the author

Martins D. Okoi

Martins Divine Okoi is a graduate of Computer Science with a passion for Linux and the Open Source community. He works as a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and programmer.